Here Stands a Man: Johan Van Summeren

Working man Van Summeren wins in Roubaix. Photo: Fotoreporter Sirotti

Here stands a man. A quiet man. A hard working man. A Belgian man. A man from a life of grit, cold, and rain.

Here stands a man who has chosen a life of hard work and sacrifice; a hard life even within the context of Cycling. A man who spends long hours in the wind and in the rain, in the service of his team. A man who despite those long hours in the wind and in the rain, typically tastes victory only upon the tongue of others.

Here stands a man who even today, spent the day in the service of another. A man who’s loyalty lay elsewhere, for another man’s glory. But he is also a man who was given an opportunity. A man who more so than any other today, wanted that opportunity and grabbed hold with both hands, resolving only to let go if the very air within his lungs abandoned him.

Here stands a man who only required air in his lungs – not his tires – in order to reach the velodrome alone. A man who even as the air escaped his tire five kilometers from the finish refused to let up on the pedals.

Here stands a man who despite a half minute lead entering the final two kilometers had me biting my nails since the man chasing at 30 seconds happened to be the fastest man in the world, known for making the impossible possible. A man for whom my legs twitched in sympathy as he circled the velodrome and as I continued to wonder if a Swiss gentleman aboard a brommer wouldn’t appear out of nowhere to steal his glory.

Here stands a man who’s name is forever changed by the words, “Vainqueur de Paris-Roubaix.”

Here stands a man. A quiet man. A hard working man. A Belgian man. A man from a life of grit, cold, and rain. No other man stands today who better represents the wondrous power of this sport in general, and the magic of Paris-Roubaix in particular.


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93 Replies to “Here Stands a Man: Johan Van Summeren”

  1. Here stands a post that spoiled the coverage that I was going to watch later today. Despite my best efforts to avoid anything cycling related up until then, this popped up in my rss reader.

  2. Ah, bummer. Sorry mate. Stupid interwebs. I guess you’ll have to play like the rest of us and watch the live feed at 5am on the west coast.

  3. I saw no live feed available otherwise I think I would have watched it before that post came up or at least have been afk for it.

  4. Nice post. What a great guy to get the win. And what a great race. I enjoyed it as much second time around as I did the first. (In addition to the racing, which was just as fantastic second time around, there were two other reasons for this: (i) every time I spoke to Brett I could see the fear flash over his face that I was going to tell him the result and that he would therefore have to risk spilling his Leffe Blonde as he attacked me with his mini-pump; (ii) our watching was regularly punctuated by paunchy chaps wondering into the pub expecting / hoping to watch some golf with their breakfast and finding themselves trumped by a far better sport. And you think Spartacus looked grumpy …

  5. Here stands a man that also got the girl. He proposed to his girlfriend after winning. @bigringriding posted “I hope she has a big finger cause he sure has a big ring.”

  6. To avoid surprises one must endure rising at an early hour, 5a.m. Pacicfic, to watch this monument live (cyclingfans,Steephill). Live the V. Don’t whine if you find out the result before your early evening VS. broadcast.

  7. It was great to see an outsider, a non favourite, a non BIG name get a win an be so roundly congratulated and respected by everyone.

    Generally when a non favourite or non team leader takes a win like this they play it off as a mistake by the peleton or a lucky day by the winner, but not Vansummeren every article I have read today describes him as a deserving and worthy winner. Fantastic race and another great Roubaix to inspire me for the rest of the season.

    Bit of bad luck for spartacus although he came agonisingly close in the end. Still had him in my tips (as did every other tipster)

  8. Great race, great post frank.
    Like you I was watching, waiting to see if Faboo could do it. If his group hadn’t fucked around so much earlier as to who was going to do the work, he just may well have.

  9. Dear fellow Velominati,
    Please allow me some late sunday evening musings as to why we are practiotioners/adherents of the finest sport. Today, two sports celebrated (arguably) their finest events. We had Paris-Roubaix, golf had the masters. Both were won by journeymen who may never again achieve what they did today. Both were rewarded with covered trophies: a plinth-mounted cobblestone, a green jacket. There the similarity ends. Some freakishly warm to hot weather here in Wisconsin saw me do a couple of stellar rides: 131 kms yesterday and 88kms today (full disclosure, today’s last 16kms were into a bastard of a wind. Severe storms are expected tonight). Anyway, one both rides I say golfers out – no doubt inspired, as we are, by the of their heroes. What appalled me was that everybody was using a cart. Really? you can’t stroll a few miles AND carry your bag? FFS. Not only that, imagine subscribing to a game (not sport) where you have a limited number of places to play and even then, after you’ve paid for your equipment, you still have to pay to play! Not us. We are free to ride wherever we want, whenever we want. We don’t have to wait for courses to open. No sir. Even the few good-weather riders were having fun in the sun and could go where they pleased for free. Both sports have hallowed colors: the yellow or pink jersies, but have you ever seen such a vile green as the masters jacket? Not only that, the one they gave the winner was WAY too large. What? you don’t have a closet full of various sizes to get something that doesn’t look like it was tailored for John Daly? A couple of other differences: the masters of played on perfectly manicured grass, P-R is on conserved pave. Both saw late surges by established champions. I saw footage of Cancellara being gracious to JvS. Woods gave an all-too common surly and brief interview. Who has the class? Nuff said.
    Anyhoo, just thought I’d share my thoughts. For golf, read most other sports and games: at someone else’s place on their times and their schedule.
    It’s going to be a good year for riding wherever and whenever we want for as long as we want. Perfect!

  10. @Xponti

    Here stands a man that also got the girl. He proposed to his girlfriend after winning. @bigringriding posted “I hope she has a big finger cause he sure has a big ring.”

    The Flemish interviewer asked her if she’s pregnant and if that’s why he asked her to marry her. “PREGNANT??”, she hollered at him. Classic stuff. Seriously, these guys are top drawer.

  11. Nice one Frank.
    JvS just earned his shower stall plaque! What a race. I’m very pleased he won. I was sure he had it won a long ways out. Fabooo is fast but not the beast he was last year. The beer will be flowing in Flanders tonight.

  12. @G’phant
    Dude I am gonna have to send you a doctors bill for my burned out eyes.

    back to this race, awesome. as much as I wanted Spartacus to win this is almost as good. JV had an awesome day, Spartacus put in another amazing race and did you see how pumped the rabo rider was to be up there. it was awesome.

  13. wiscot :
    imagine subscribing to a game (not sport) !

    Anybody who doesn’t think golf is a sport has clearly never played golf well. Competition golf is as “hard” a sport as there can be in terms of competitiveness, thinking and skill.

    Suggest you not be too one-eyed in your love of one sport to the exclusion of all others. Love ’em all man.

    BTW, today’s final 9 holes were as good a finish to a major as you will ever see. Save for McIlroy (whose implosion brought back bad Shark memories for all Australians), the rest of the field made massive shots all the to the finish. Just a shame a South African denied two Aussies a chance in a playoff. But a deserving winner given he birdied the last 4 holes. What a champ!

    Combine P-R with that and you have a very exciting evening of sport – interrupted by not enough sleep.

  14. I watched P-R, with my daughter, live via the intertubes. She was sooo pumped. She calls Cancellara “Enchilada”. He’s dreamy.

    This made me one proud papa: When P-R was over, she ran to my Graham Watson 2011 calendar, then ran back to tell me Liege-Bastogne-Liege will be on her birthday this year (she’ll be nine). Then she asked me to look up my standings for VSP. She was so proud her dad was quietly moving up the board. Then she asked if I could get her a Graham Watson calendar for her room.

    How awesome is this child?!

  15. Was just reading a quote from Boonen who said his first mechanical was due to his chain getting stuck between his frame and crankset. Does anyone (am looking at you Oli) know whether the mechanics consider using chain catchers for P-R?

    And special mention to one of the Europcar riders (not sure if it was the Canuck Veilleux) who let fly a quality Millar-esque bike throw after one of the gazillion crashes on the day. Don’t know why but it just warms the cockles of my heart to see the pros throw their bikes in anger…

  16. @Marcus: Lots of the bikes did have chain catchers on, and I think that Boonen’s bike did too (can’t be arsed trawling to find out for sure though…). Even with a K-Edge it’s possible to drop your chain, just much harder to do and almost impossible to sort out if you do!

  17. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    Outstanding. The day cyclists start wearing tutus and make-up and jiving to the beat of Justin Bieber is the day my daughter takes an interest in it. But she is only 7. There’s time, yet. Dare I ask your secret?

  18. There are chain catchers that catch a chain when the derailleur knocks it off the inner ring, then there is chain suck, I’m guessing it was chain suck.

  19. G’phant:
    @Jeff in PetroMetro
    Outstanding. The day cyclists start wearing tutus and make-up and jiving to the beat of Justin Bieber ……

    So what one does in the privacy of one’s own home doesn’t count? I’m disappointed :(

  20. @G’phant
    I second G’phant’s question. Hopefully it is something in the Texas water that gets kids excited about pro cycling!

  21. Lovely post, frank. You do JVS justice. Any time one of the lunch pail guys in the peloton pulls one off (especially with so much panache) is a happy day.

  22. What would make this post perfect is a video of the Old Spice guy reading this verbatim.

  23. @G’phant
    First, she’s a sensitive kid who gets in tune with people’s hardcore interests. Then, I think, she starts to internalize those interests if the person is someone she is close to. For example, her mom is an equestrian, so the daughter is an equestrian (and a damn good one–she’s very competitive). Dad’s into cycling, so she’s interested in cycling to the extent that she wants me to make time to ride everyday, asks what’s going on with the VSP, and wants to watch pro bike racing on the internet with me if it fits her weekend schedule. However, full disclosure, she doesn’t ride the road because she’s either on a horse, going to dance class, or doing homework. Her bike, a mountain bike, is for bombing around the neighborhood and camping.

  24. @Buck Rogers
    A cycling bacteria, or may be a virus, is probably in the water here. There are a lot of cyclists.

    But, fair warning, there are a lot more really angry drivers. So be careful. Lots of Texans like to think they still live under the law west of the Pecos and can take out a cyclist for the betterment of mankind.

    Just sayin’.

  25. let me wipe the tear from my eye Frank. I couldn’t have said it better, thanks. Spot on buddy!

    i was watching the last k’s tick off, and as he broke and went it was obvious that he had a hard row to tow, but as each k ticked over, it seemed meter by meter it became a reality. I noticed the gear he was pushing, looked like a 14t, the rear tyre, the jaw hanging….and spartacus was strong

    a best P-R in my opinion! So glad he clinched it, and JV was a bit happier today!

  26. Ah, what an awesome race. It was nice seeing someone besides the big names win. The Versus coverage leaves a bit to be desired, as I don’t really like how the “cut” the race, but they have a time slot they need to fit it into, so they have no choice. I’m just lucky to live near a bar that serves all sorts of good beer, including Belgian, and had it on the TV. They even had a framed photo of The Cannibal on the wall, which was cool.

    Don’t know why but it just warms the cockles of my heart to see the pros throw their bikes in anger…

    Ha, I get a kick out of that as well. Just imagining someone so frustrated that they throw around a bike that costs upwards of $8 or $10k like it’s a piece of garbage. Love it. At least they have passion…

  27. A-freakin’ Merckx, Frank. A fabuolous bit of poetry. Really, really inspiring!

    @wiscot: spot on!

  28. Hey, has anyone else seen THIS?

    The Cipo stuff is old, but I liked the De Vlaeminck quotes, and particularly enjoyed reading about Hennie Kuiper coming out of retirement at age 63, along with a team of riders who “are old enough to know how to suffer properly”. Can’t find a link to the actual news story, but good stuff nonetheless.

    PS Great race, great post, great mullet (too bad it’s gone).

  29. @sgt
    No, thanks for the link. It is really the case or is it a case of “back in my day we walked to school barefooted uphill, both ways.” I think it’s probably true. At least in terms of team buses, hotels, millions of euros, and so on it is. And Cipo’s comments about Bertie still slay me. “accountant, surveyor”? Too good.

  30. @Marko

    I think it’s both. The old guard definitely laid down a higher caliber of V than the current crop. That said, although conditions have improved for modern bike racers, conditions have improved overall for most of us in the “developed” world, and for a significant portion of the “developing” world as well. (I’m happy to back up this statement with hard data, BTW)

    I ride a better bike than most Tour contenders rode even 10 years ago, and it cost comparatively less than an equivalent grade (i.e., upper range but not top of the line) bike would’ve at that time.

    I think we should all acknowledge that our forbearers had it a lot tougher than we do, while still celebrating exceptional efforts like we saw from JVS and a lot of others yesterday (Chavanel flatted twice, hit the deck hard, and still finished only 4:46 back, fercrissakes?)

    I atrongly agree that the old guard had more fire in the belly, tho, and I’d like to see more machismo, elan, what have you.

  31. @Marko @sgt

    It seems like every generation thinks this about the next generation to come after them. Just imagine what the hard fucks who road the first Tour thought, when the younger folks in subsequent years didn’t have to stop and repair their own bikes. What a bunch of soft pansies!


    Great pick, I miss seeing Felt bikes in the peloton.

  32. @Marko, @mcsqueak

    Not to mention shifting.

    Excellent point. It’s all part of what we call “progress”, but I’m dreading the inevitable loss of the the cable’s role in shifting…

  33. Couple of things:

    It wasn’t chain suck, saw a photo where they couldn’t get it up past the guard.

    Van Summeren definitely won the race, but Cancellara beat all the rest.

  34. Wow, it’s Tuesday and I’m still pumped up from watching the race. Still haven’t gotten through all the photos on cyclingnews yet either.

    Some of the crashes looked really bad. When Chavanel went out sliding (the 2nd crash on the day?)and was rolling on the road, ouch.

    Also, what are others thinking on JvS’s gal? Not bad, but is she pro-cyclist hotness? Maybe working man pro cyclist hot?

    Anyway, not to be too shallow. She is a good looking woman and congratulations to Johan for snagging her.

  35. @Ron
    She must be from near Luxemburg or Germany; she kept lapsing into German during her interview, which I’ve never heard a Belgian do before.

    (In Road to Paris, you can catch a glimpse of how conflicted Belgians are with language; a lady is being interviewed and she switches between English, Dutch, and French about 4 times per sentence.)

    Anyhow, for my money, I thought she was adorable and they seem happy, so that’s good enough for me. Perhaps the more notable feat was the 100 meter scratch-sprint she did in high heels across the center of the Velodrome?

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