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Retro PEZ: Roy Schuiten – Mr. Style!
The recent London Six Day got us thinking back to those ‘golden 70’s’ of six day racing and pursuiting; when to have the reigning World Professional Pursuit Champion on a six day bill was a big deal – and all the pursuiters didn’t ‘look the same’ and 5,000 meters was the blue riband distance. One name sticks out from that time - Roy Schuiten.


The now defunct Cycle Sport magazine ran an article a year or so ago, ‘The 25 Most Stylish Riders of all Time’ – Giovanni Battaglin, Roger De Vlaeminck, Francesco Moser, all fair enough. But to include Tafi? Lizzie Armitstead? Cancellara? And there were some glaring omissions, Tom Simpson, Ferdi Bracke, Ole Ritter and - Roy Schuiten.

Hoogvliet - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Archief - archive - stock - Roy Schuiten  - foto Cor Vos ©2008Poetry in motion

In 1971 the big blond Dutchman took silver in The Netherlands amateur pursuit championships, a year later it was gold and there was a third place in the amateur Grand Prix des Nations. He retained his Netherlands amateur title in 1973 and took bronze at The Worlds in the same discipline. But in 1974 he truly exploded on to the scene, winning the Olympia Tour in Holland and the Milk Race as an amateur before turning pro for the mighty TI-Raleigh team.



He won the World Professional Pursuit Championship, the Grand Prix des Nations and the Baracchi Trophy with Francesco Moser – a fabulous debut. The following season his meteoric progress continued with another world pro pursuit title, the GP Frankfurt, the GP des Nations, the GP Lugano. . .

The world was at his feet and we held our breath as Schuiten boarded a plane for Mexico to attack Merck’s Hour Record. And things were never the same again. . .

The record attempt was a disaster; despite great form going into the attempt and Raleigh’s ace mechanic Jan Le Grand having built him a super light gem of a machine. He got up on the track three times in pursuit of the record but at no time did he manage to match Merckx’s pace – albeit the Belgian did start at a prodigious rate.

Roy Schuiten tijdens zijn recordpoging op de wielerbaan van Mexico. Op de achtergrond Peter Post, foto Cor Vos©Peter Post looks on

TI Raleigh manager, Peter Post was a man who abhorred failure and his already deteriorating relationship with Schuiten was over. Schuiten headed off to France to Lejeune – who bought out the last year of his contract – then to Italy and SCiC and whilst there were other big wins, he was never quite the same rider again.

He was second in the Worlds pro pursuit, Nations and Baracchi in ’76 with a win in the Tour of the Med the hi-lite. In his second year with the French team there was a win in the TT stage at Dunkerque, beating Thurau but only fourth in The Baracchi. With SCiC in ’78 he was again second in the Worlds pursuit, this time behind Braun and won the Baracchi with Norwegian powerhouse, Knut Knudsen. In ’79 he won the GP Forli TT and was fourth in the Nations, but his best was behind him. The name on the jersey was Inoxpran for 1980, Kotter in ’81; his last pro year was with the Spanish Kelme team in 1982.

Hoogvliet - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Archief - archive - stock - Roy Schuiten - Gregor Braun - Jean Luc Vandenbroucke - foto Cor Vos ©20081979 World pursuit championships. 2nd to Gregor Braun, 3rd Jean Luc Vandenbroucke

He had a brief tenure as DS with PDM in 1986 and then opened a restaurant in Portugal, where lived until September 2006 when he died tragically young at just 55 years-old from a stomach haemorrhage in Praia de Carvoeiro.

Pulheim - Germany  - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Roy Schuiten   pictured during  cyclingrace in Pulheim, Germany  1975  - photo Cor Vos © 2014A win for Schuiten in Germany 1975

We caught up with Schuiten’s son, Rob to ask about his father, surely one of the most elegant men ever to grace a bicycle.

Rob was born as his father’s career wound down so never got the chance to see him at his brilliant best on the track or against the watch but he collects memorabilia from his father’s career and is always on the lookout for trophies, equipment and photos from his father’s ‘golden years.’

"Two years ago I met an old friend of my father’s; he had a box of treasure – trophies, ribbons, medals, sashes from my father’s career. My father wasn’t a man to collect stuff like that; when he was an amateur he didn’t pay much attention to that side of things and it was my late grandfather who used to look after the trophies. He’s the only rider ever to win the Olympia Tour and Milk Race in the same season."

Schuiten wins the Milk Race

But Schuiten’s pro career nearly didn’t happen; his father was involved in a fatal car accident in 1973 and young track star quit racing to help his mother look after the family off license. Rob explains "Yes, he took a year out to help run the family liquor store with my grandmother after my grandfather died but the national coaches, Harry Jansen and Frans Maan talked him back into getting on his bike."

Schuiten’s 1974 pro debut was stunning, as Rob says; "His first year was his best - there were The Worlds, The Nations, The Baracchi on top of his amateur successes."

His success against the watch and mano-a-mano on the track give a clue to his character, a man who could be fiercely independent; Rob relates an anecdote which illustrates this part of his nature;

"He rode the big criterium at Chaam but became so fed up with being told who would do what and when in the race - and who would win that he decided to show them and just rode his own race. But the promoters had the last laugh and they stopped giving him contracts for the criteriums – that cost him a lot of money."

schuiten-acht-van-chaam81-920That win in the Acht van Chaam

Any article about Schuiten has to mention The Hour Record, those 60 minutes which can launch a career, cement greatness - or break a man. The Cycling press of the day was abuzz with details of the bike, the schedule and Schuiten’s glittering palmarès to date. But there’s little doubt that Schuiten and Post underestimated the enormity of leaping a bar which had been calibrated by Eddy Merckx. And there was none of the special training which Merckx did to simulate riding at altitude. The impression was that taking the record was a formality, Rob elaborates; "There’s no doubt that his material was top of the bill for the era – the bike, the clothing, it was all perfect. But things between my father and Post weren’t the best any more, in 1974 he’d been ‘his boy’ but now he had more stars on the team and my father felt that Post wasn’t so supportive any more, he felt abandoned even? And there were commercial interest in play; Post had sold the TV rights to a Dutch broadcaster and to get the satellite link he had to start at THIS time."

"Merckx didn’t have that handicap, his start time wasn’t set for him – the wind is a factor on an outdoor track like in Mexico and you should ride to suit the weather conditions not just for maximum publicity or satellite link. People talked as if it was going to be easy but it was a Merckx record; my dad was only 23/24 years-old, a rookie and if you look at the guys who took the record in that era, mostly it was towards the end of their career."


Legendary soigneur, Gus Naesens who accompanied Schuiten on the trip to Mexico said that once Schuiten had a Grand Tour or two under his belt and had learned how to really suffer then it would be a different story. But Schuiten would never again attempt the record.

The 'Hour Record'

Many felt that the planning for the bid could have been better, when Merckx rode, he flew in and went for the record within a couple of days, before the reduced oxygen content in the air had a negative impact upon his mental and physical state. Schuiten would appear to have left it too long and fallen victim to the thin air – if the rider doesn’t attack the record quickly, as Merckx did, then he must stay for an extended period to acclimatize as both Ritter and Moser did.

Belgian star Ferdi Bracke attacked Ritter’s record in Mexico several years prior to Merck’s bid, astride a super light bike and with a full entourage in attendance, the ‘chronoman’ from Charleroi left it too long in going for the record and succumbed to the physical and mental torpor which drags an athlete down, failing miserably to dent Ritter’s record.

Hoogvliet - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Archief - archive - stock -  Roy Schuiten - Fons van Katwijk - Andre Gevers  - foto Cor Vos ©2008Schuiten tows Lejeune teammates Fons van Katwijk and Andre Gevers

Schuiten’s move to Lejeune was big news at the time but the Dutchman was never really the same rider again - Rob explains; "Lejeune were talking to him before The Hour due to the deterioration in his relationship with Post; so were SCiC but my father still had a year of his contract to run so his new team had to buy him out of the contract with Raleigh. SCiC wouldn’t pay to buy him out but Lejeune did, they wanted a leader and someone to look after Van Impe in the Tour."

"Anglade was the Lejeune manager but wasn’t as professional as Post; at TI-Raleigh everything was as it should be. After Lejeune he went to SCiC, as I said, they wanted him from Raleigh but couldn’t afford to buy him out of the contract. He had good years with Saronni in a mentor’s role; my father enjoyed the culture, the program. SCiC was his favorite team, the team strip, the ambiance was good and in Italy it’s the ‘Cycling Life’ – the life you only find in Italy and in Belgium."


schuiten-moser-920Schuiten/Moser

Schuiten won the Baracchi Trophy with Moser and with Knudsen, it’s tempting to ask who was stronger. . .

"Knudsen; my father rated his first winning ride with Moser one of his best, they started with equal spells but by the end Moser’s relays were short. They were second to Maertens and Pollentier in ’76; my father rode with Baronchelli in ’77 before winning it again with Knudsen in ’78 – he said the Norwegian was a good partner, very strong."

schuiten-knutsen-920Knutsen/Schuiten

After his career as a rider finished, Schuiten served briefly as a DS with PDM in 1986 but it wasn’t a success, as Rob relates. "Steven Rooks and Co. at PDM wanted him out so the team bought him out of contract and he used the money to buy the restaurant in Portugal. He was never really rooted in one place, when he was a boy my grandfather was in the merchant marine and the family spent time in Curacao in the Caribbean. Then when he was with Lejeune he was in France then Italy with SCiC so Portugal wasn’t a wrench for him."

Hoogvliet - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - archief - stock - archive - Roy Schuiten en Pedro Delgado Tour de France - foto Cor Vos ©2008PDM manager Roy Schuiten with Pedro Delgado

The final question – did he talk to you about any regrets? "When I was young I didn’t realize how good a rider he was; it’s only when I got into You Tube and Google videos that I realized what a great time trial rider he was. When he won the GP Lugano TT in 1975 he was the first Dutch rider to do so; although Zoetemelk won it in 1978. That was a big race with Anquetil, Merckx, Ritter and Ocaña all winning it."

"He won the GP des Nations twice, the only Dutch rider ever to win it – and back then it was the unofficial world time trial championship. He won the Baracchi twice; Tom Cordes is the only other Dutch guy ever to win – with Rolf Golz in 1990."

"On those results he’s the best time trial rider The Netherlands ever produced – none of the other stars of that era, Zoetemelk, Kuiper, Knetemann won the Nations or Baracchi. I think that if things had been different with Raleigh and he’d been able to stay then he would have won a lot more. Anglade at Lejeune wasn’t Post at Raleigh."

"I think The Hour broke him a bit; he felt like a marionette, he wasn’t given time to acclimatize to the altitude and thin air. For Post it was all about the money; my father had a sponsorship deal with Adidas for his shoes and Post demanded a cut of that because he set up the record attempt. They were talking about his leaving the team even before The Hour and those big fights about money can’t have helped his motivation. I think if he’d been in Mexico for two months and been allowed to prepare properly for it, he’d probably have taken the record."


Roy Schuiten, ace pursuiter, chronoman and stylist may you rest in peace – you’ll always be one of the coolest for us at PEZ.

schuiten-pijnen-75-920'6 Day' stars Schuiten and René Pijnen

Thanks to all the photographers, original owners could not be found for some.




It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,200 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

 

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