Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rik Van Steenbergen

Rik Van Steenbergen was born September 9, 1924 in Arendonk  to a poor family. He worked as an errand boy and a cigar-roller. He began racing at 16 and became one of Belgium's best juniors from 1940 to 1942.

He started cycling as a professional during World War II in 1942. The next year he won his first important races, and became Belgian road cycling champion. In 1944, he won the Ronde van Vlaanderen Classic, which he won again two years later.

During his career, which lasted until 1966, Van Steenbergen won several more classics: Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Brussels and Milan-San Remo. He also won the World Road Cycling Championships three times, equaling the (still standing) record of Alfredo Binda. His last world title, a year after his second, was won in front of a home crowd. In addition, he placed third in the first post-war championships in 1946. 

Van Steenbergen also excelled on the track, and won 40 Six-day events. His track capabilities made him an excellant road sprinter. However, he usually had difficulty climbing, which prevented him from winning major stage races. He nevertheless placed 2nd in the 1951 Giro d'Italia. Some suggest he could have competed for victory in stage races had he concentrated on them, instead of racing almost every race he could enter. It is estimated Van Steenbergen won slightly fewer than 1,000 races, though accounts differ widely.

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