Awesome Dutch Dudes: Hennie Kuiper

Hennie Kuiper surprising himself in Trouée

We’re an under-appreciated people, the Dutch. As a society, we have led the European standard of civilization. Always ahead of our time in terms of accepting new ways of doing things, we have long paved the way in areas such as social and economic reasoning, or in how long you can reasonably expect to resist an invading army before surrendering (not very long).

The list of gifts we’ve given the world is endless: the stock market is our invention, as is its corruption. Almost in tandem to inventing money, we invented New York City before happily handing it over to the English on the strict condition that they not kill us in exchange.

Linguistically, the term “Yankee” is Dutch in origin; people coming to visit New York City found a “Jan Kees” on every street corner. “Jan Kees” is a typical Dutch name pronounced, “yan-kay-se”. Give a few Americans room to breathe in the space of Dutch Pronunciation and you end up with a word like “Yankees” before long. We also gave America the term “boss”, which originated from the Dutch word for manager, baas. Not to mention Santa Claus.

The Dutch are a tough and ingenious people, out of necessity. This is a windy, highly populated land which lies largely at or below Sea Level. In the States, when you live at elevation, we generally think of people who live at two or three thousand meters. I have family in Dutchland who also live “at elevation”. They live at four meters. If you’re thinking “Civil Engineering”, then you’re right; this is a country for which keeping the sea out figures significantly in both Political and Social Science. In about 1100 A.D., the Dutch came up with the idea of building dikes to block off the sea and to leverage the abundant power of the wind to keep the water out. Since then, the principle that keeps The Netherlands dry has been largely unchanged.

A country this Awesome is bound to produce some seriously badass cyclists, and this new series is devoted to them. I also don’t really expect the other Keepers to contribute many articles to it, though I have occasionally been wrong before, so it’s possible I’m wrong now.

As a Sport, I think we’ve lost sight of the versatility of a cyclist. These days, we seem preoccupied with what we’re not. Classics riders aren’t climbers; climbers aren’t for the classics. Sprinteurs can’t climb, and rouleurs can’t sprint.

Hennie Kuiper disagreed. He believed that riding a bike involved pushing on his pedals and making his go faster than the others could make theirs go. Over cobbles, up hills, in sprints, or Grand Tours. Kuiper took Olympic Gold in the 1972 Road Race. He became World Champion in 1975. He claimed the most prized of mountain-top finishes by winning l’Alpe d’Huez in 1977 and 1978 (after the disqualification of Michel Pollentier).He won sprint finishes, and he finished in the top five in the Tour de France four times, including second twice behind admitted dopers (one of them a Dutch guy, the other French).

For me, his greatest example of being an Awesome Dutch Dude came in his 1983 win at Paris-Roubaix. Here we have a rider who is in the lead of the Queen of the Classics, within arm’s reach of the finish when he destroyed his back wheel to avoid a spectator. For anyone not paying attention, we call that kind of thing “a massive bummer”.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6C52LNMbOo[/youtube]

My best effort at a translation of the video:

It wasn’t such a bad sector, actually; it laid in there quite nicely. It’s nice and smooth, when you look at it from down low. It actually rides well. And what I did…actually, every bit of 500m, I zig-zag a bit and criss-cross from the asphalt to here, there, and back until I got to the turn and I get to a supporter – who wants to make a photo of the leader in the race – and I think, ‘well, he’ll step aside or he’ll let me through’, but he’s looking through his camera, so he stood still…and so I had to make a very unusual movement.

Kuiper collides with the rider and destroys his back wheel. Leading Paris-Roubaix, he has to wait for a new bike or a new wheel at least. There’s no going on with what he’s got.

It was 30 seconds, but it felt like hours. Hours, seconds, minutes, hours. Its all the same. {indecipherable} But still I won. It was my eleventh Paris-Roubaix and I really wanted to win it eventually, so I trained very, very hard and then it still almost goes awry, but yet you win. Only afterwards do you understand what meaning that holds for you.

It is something that radiates from me and from Cycling: that with hard, hard work, you can win Paris-Roubaix and you can achieve something in Cycling. And if you look at it like that, mine is one of the nicest victories.

I can’t think of many other riders from the post-war era who won a mountaintop finish in the Tour as well as a cobbled classic; let alone the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubiax. Awesome Dutch Dude, indeed.

More shots of Kuiper, in General Badassedness.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Kuiper/”/]

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68 Replies to “Awesome Dutch Dudes: Hennie Kuiper”

  1. Nice article Fronk! The Dutch. Fluent in 4 languages and can out drink most of Europe. ( And an incredibly high tolerance for the weed or so it is said ).

    I used to love to ski in Austria as a much younger Paolo. (still do) Because it was full of Dutch people (something like 10% of the population ski) A hard days skiing would always end in a night of endless beers and standing on tables with groups of Brits and Dutch trying to out sing each other.

  2. Thanks for the write up on another badass hardman rider I might not have ever heard of Frank. Can’t help wondering if the spectator (not rider as in 4th from last paragraph) got a good photo. I’ve always been impressed by the dutch no nonsense way of looking at things. Their coffee shops are one example and Hoogerland’s post crash interview another, “it was an accident, the driver didn’t mean for that to happen” (I paraphrase, not exactly what he said).

  3. @paolo
    To our shame, they probably can’t drink many Scots under the table, I think most mainland Europeans know when they’ve had enough while my compatriots don’t realise till they wake up while their stomach is being pumped.

  4. “I can’t think of an other rider from the post-war era who won a mountaintop finish in the Tour as well as a cobbled classic; let alone the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubiax.”

    Bernard Hinault:
    – Paris-Roubaix (1981)
    – Alpe d’Huez (and Mountain classification) (1986)

  5. @The Tashkent Error

    “I can’t think of an other rider from the post-war era who won a mountaintop finish in the Tour as well as a cobbled classic; let alone the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubiax.”
    Bernard Hinault:
    – Paris-Roubaix (1981)
    – Alpe d’Huez (and Mountain classification) (1986)

    Indeed. Obviously I didn’t think very hard! Edited to be less wrong. Thanks!

  6. @snoov
    My Wife is from Paisley. All her family is there and she went to Uni in Ebinburgh. Awesome people, awesome place. I’ve spent many happy night in Glasgow, Paisley, Edinburgh etc.

    But my money would still be on the Dutch.

  7. Frahnk, you forgot to mention the bikes that no one appreciates: I’ve been happily married to my orange 91 gazelle for four years; big windowed buildings with comically narrow and steep stairs; they speak as though there’s something stuck in their teeth; horsemeat sausages and absolutely mental for tulips…

  8. @frank

    @The Tashkent Error

    “I can’t think of an other rider from the post-war era who won a mountaintop finish in the Tour as well as a cobbled classic; let alone the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubiax.”Bernard Hinault:– Paris-Roubaix (1981)- Alpe d’Huez (and Mountain classification) (1986)

    Indeed. Obviously I didn’t think very hard! Edited to be less wrong. Thanks!

    Yean, but LeMan gifted him the stage so it doesn’t count. :)

  9. what about Wim van Est?
    while he was descending Col d Aubisque, he slipped due to a flat tyre, he fell 70m down in a ravine, and they got him out using a chain of tyres. pontiac watches, his sponsor, made a commercial: “Seventy meters deep I dropped, my heart stood still but my Pontiac never stopped”

  10. We have great cyclists currently riding in the pro peloton, but I’d say that I still miss rider like him.
    That could be something related to my youth but, hey! That’s ok!

  11. Great stuff! I’ve always had a soft spot for HK. A true all-rounder and clean too. Mixed it up with the best of his era and often bested them.

    I remember seeing the 83 P-R on telly. He was so lucky the mechanic didn’t ram him into the back of the motorbike at the side of the road. If HK had been looking down to get his feet into the clips and straps, he likely would have. Luckily, he was looking where he was going. His salute at Roubaix was also beautiful – one of happy, restrained joy and relief.

    The only Monument he didn’t win was L-B-L, his best finish being 2nd in 1980 and we all know who won that one – Hinault in the worst-ever conditions by almost 10 minutes.

    What’s great is that many of his wins didn’t come in sprints but from solo attacks. Check out his 1985 M-SR win on youtube for evidence. All in all, a class guy and classy rider.

  12. @paolo

    @snoov
    My Wife is from Paisley. All her family is there and she went to Uni in Ebinburgh. Awesome people, awesome place. I’ve spent many happy night in Glasgow, Paisley, Edinburgh etc.
    But my money would still be on the Dutch.

    Really? I spent a lot of time in Paisley growing up as I was born in Bishopton. I’d NEVER get into a drinking contest with a Paisley Buddy. They could just stare you under the table . . .

  13. The first time I watched A Sunday in Hell, and didn’t know the finish, I was rooting for him. Seems easy to like to me.

  14. I’d like to also mention another rider who defied classification, although he isn’t Dutch.

    A personal hero of mine and my favorite rider of all time, Jaja not only won two Green Jerseys in theTour, but two KOM Jerseys as well. When you add his multiple Classics victories and his spectacular Vuelta 95, in which he took home all three jerseys(!), his versatility is hard to deny.

    He also possessed an incredible Magnificent Stroke, perfect on-bike form, and elegant poise out-of-the-saddle.

  15. Nice one, Frank.

    Just for the reader’s information, the clavicle photo is of Kuiper’s crash on the descent of the Col de Granier in the 1978 Tour, which put him out of the race with a broken collarbone.

  16. “A country this Awesome is bound to produce some seriously badass cyclists, and this new series is devoted to them.”

    Ha, nice!

    Cool write-up, Frank!

  17. Great article Frank. Watching the video and seeing how smooth and how widely spaced those cobbles are made my hands sweat! Add a bit of rain and that’s gotta be like riding on a bumpy roller skating rink! Hardman indeed!

  18. Tiny, but significant, correction for the translation of the last sentence from Hennie: “that’s one of my nicest victories”. ;)

  19. @zalamanda

    Frahnk, you forgot to mention the bikes that no one appreciates: I’ve been happily married to my orange 91 gazelle for four years; big windowed buildings with comically narrow and steep stairs; they speak as though there’s something stuck in their teeth; horsemeat sausages and absolutely mental for tulips…

    Yes, I also forgot to mention that we’re all dashingly good-looking, smart, witty, and funny as shit. Gazelle bikes are awesome – they’ve been been discusses elsewhere, and the top-end ones are really great machines. I think De Vlaeminck rode one at some point.

    Yet another gift we gave the world…

  20. @Pedale.Forchetta

    We have great cyclists currently riding in the pro peloton, but I’d say that I still miss rider like him.
    That could be something related to my youth but, hey! That’s ok!

    Yeah, I’ve been getting very riled up about modern riding and tactics. I’ll get over it as soon as the real racing starts up again, but I think my new favorite rider is Nibali – I love that he makes gutsy moves and he keeps it classy with another big name in the team with Basso. Lots of promise there.

  21. @JC Belgium
    That video is FANTASTIC. Ah, the Pontiac joke…ask any Dutchman from that era about cycling and the first thing they’ll tell is about is Van Est’s fall into the ravine and that his watch still worked. Love it!

    You guys have already given me a few more ideas on the next editions of this series!

  22. @wiscot
    Wow, I wish I’d have seen it live! I can’t believe how calm he is really, given the situation. I’ve seen another clip where he says that he really wasn’t that freaked. He felt good and had complete confidence in himself despite the trouble. Amazing.

  23. @Chris

    More Dutch awesomeness…
    Great article, the cobbles in the main photo look malevolent.

    Are those guys Brits? Because if they are, they have NAILED the Dutch accent.

  24. @Buck Rogers

    @frank

    @The Tashkent Error

    “I can’t think of an other rider from the post-war era who won a mountaintop finish in the Tour as well as a cobbled classic; let alone the stage to l’Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubiax.”Bernard Hinault:– Paris-Roubaix (1981)- Alpe d’Huez (and Mountain classification) (1986)

    Indeed. Obviously I didn’t think very hard! Edited to be less wrong. Thanks!

    Yean, but LeMan gifted him the stage so it doesn’t count. :)

    I agree, he was totally gifted that win. LeMan should have pounded his ass into the ground!

    @theChaz

    I thought the “boss” came from the French “Bosh” meaning cow?

    Nope, but that might have been more accurate!

    @Ron
    We’re nothing if not modest!

  25. @Calmante

    I’d like to also mention another rider who defied classification, although he isn’t Dutch.
    A personal hero of mine and my favorite rider of all time, Jaja not only won two Green Jerseys in theTour, but two KOM Jerseys as well. When you add his multiple Classics victories and his spectacular Vuelta 95, in which he took home all three jerseys(!), his versatility is hard to deny.
    He also possessed an incredible Magnificent Stroke, perfect on-bike form, and elegant poise out-of-the-saddle.

    Oh…JaJa. My Merckx. What an awesome dude. What suplesse! What class! What a rider!

    To be fair, though, his KOM didn’t involve any successful mountaintop assults – in fact, I think it might have been him who inspired the organizers to weight the final climbs more heavily to keep people like JaJa who weren’t really good enough climbers to go on long attacks to gather up points before the real racing started.

    That said, I was nearly in tears when Pharmy blew by him in the last few kms up Plateau de Beille.

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2012.01.25.22.10.51/”/]

  26. @frank

    @Chris

    More Dutch awesomeness…
    Great article, the cobbles in the main photo look malevolent.

    Are those guys Brits? Because if they are, they have NAILED the Dutch accent.

    I thought you were describing that exact clip before I clicked on it. Spooky.

  27. @Paul Jakma

    Tiny, but significant, correction for the translation of the last sentence from Hennie: “that’s one of my nicest victories”. ;)

    Funny you mention that. Last night I wondered about if he was saying “my” on “the”…I went with “the” but I think you’re right – he’s saying “my”. Thanks!

  28. Like my Grandfather always says “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much”.
    Always like HK. Great article!

  29. @Chris

    @frank
    Britain’s finest, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse in The Fast Show.

    Harry Enfield wasn’t in the Fast Show. Paul Whitehouse was, and also in Harry Enfield and Chums… just sayin’.

  30. @brett

    @Chris

    @frank
    Britain’s finest, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse in The Fast Show.

    Harry Enfield wasn’t in the Fast Show. Paul Whitehouse was, and also in Harry Enfield and Chums… just sayin’.

    Bugger me, you’re quite right. The awesome Dutch rozzers were indeed from Harry Enfield and Chums.

    I need to up my game, the bar is set high in here.

  31. Hennie Kuiper was really undervalued in the Netherlands. You only read about him sometimes if the subject is Joop Zoetemelk.

    Also Jan Janssen, another Dutch allrounder who won the Tour AND Paris-Roubaix.

  32. @Netraam

    Hennie Kuiper was really undervalued in the Netherlands. You only read about him sometimes if the subject is Joop Zoetemelk.
    Also Jan Janssen, another Dutch allrounder who won the Tour AND Paris-Roubaix.

    Interesting – I haven’t studied Jan enough to have realized that he won both races. There are more riders who won the Tour and Roubaix – the significance is winning a mountaintop stage and Roubaix – by today’s reasoning, thats not possible. We see the big, heavy guys winning Roubaix, and the whispy waifs winning up high.

    Joopie is, of course, a class act, but he’s one of those riders that I’ve never been able to get thrilled about. Seemed he lacked a certain edginess; not sure what. But a great rider for sure. And an amazingly long career.

    Here are Joop and Jansen, still looking mean.

  33. And who can forget the Joop/Hinault showdown on the Champs-Elysees in ’79?? And his great ride in ’80 when finally all his competitors didn’t show up?

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2012.01.26.17.58.56/”/]

  34. very good work Fronk:

    this stuff really is getting me ready for the classics, and I’m stuffing cash in my pocket getting ready for the second cogal (i hope) for the P-R Vride, a lifetime achievement for anyone

  35. @frank

    And who can forget the Joop/Hinault showdown on the Champs-Elysees in ’79?? And his great ride in ’80 when finally all his competitors didn’t show up?

    Not to be uncharitable to Joop, but I think had Hinault not retired with serious knee problems after a very wet stage, he would have won the 1980 tour. Look at Hinault’s form in 1980. He won L-B-L, the Giro and won the prologue and states 4 and 5 of the tour. Barring the injury, there can be little doubt he’d have won.

    Still I was glad Joop got a Tour as he deserved it (11 top 10 placings!), unlike chancers like Pereiro. (Ok, I know he won because Floyd was disqualified for doping, but it was still a lucky win.) However, Joop did have a point though that he stayed healthy and Hinault did not. You can only compete against the competition who show up, the rest is conjecture.

    Also, you’re right. RdV did ride Gazelles. In that pic of him wearing those goddamn awful knee/leg covers he’s riding a Gazelle. They were the team bike for Daf Trucks team in 1981-82.

  36. @frank
    Absolutely love Jaja’s career right up to the point he became a massive triathlete.

    Talk about going over to the Dark Side!

  37. @Pedale.Forchetta

    @frankI do really hope you are right on Nibali, we (Italians) are in absolute need of some positive figure,and not only in cycling.

    What’s your opinion of Giovanni Visconti getting another Pro Tour chance with Movistar? Is he in the team solely for the Giro?

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