Note: This interview first ran back in ’07
PEZ: How old were you and how many times had you ridden the race before you won in ’87?
Eric: I was 25 and it was my fourth attempt. In 1985 though, I should have won it with two fingers stuck up my nose! I had won Flanders that year and felt very strong so I attacked from a long way out. Unfortunately I met the man with the hammer at 30 kilometres to go and I blew-up.
The dominant Panasonic team, headed by Peter Post, was always a team to be reckoned with – particularly with the likes of Vanderaerden taking care of business in the Northern Classics.
PEZ: Was course reconnaissance a big part of your preparation?
Eric: I know that a lot of guys place great store in that, but it’s a thing I never did. I seemed to have an instinct that reminded me what was coming-up; if I had ridden a race once before, it all came back to me on race-day. I never once did a course try-out at Flanders.
Eric leading Sean Kelly at Flanders
PEZ: What was Peter Post’s (Panasonic manager) plan for the day?
Eric: Win! That was always the plan with Post.
PEZ: Was it “all for Eric” that day?
Eric: Yes, I had some very good guys working for me, especially De Keulenaer and Lammerts, they stayed with me as long as they could and they were a big help.
PEZ: Was there a special set-up for the bikes?
Eric: Bigger tyres at lower pressure, that was it.
Bigger tyres, bigger hair…
PEZ: It was very bad weather that year, wasn’t it?
Eric: Yes and that suited me very well, I was three times cyclo-cross champion of Belgian as a youngster, so the wet and mud was good for me.
PEZ: What did you eat during the race?
Eric: There were no sophisticated solid or liquid foods back then, so it was small sandwiches with banana, jam or honey.
PEZ: Who were the men to worry-about?
Eric: Kelly! I was watching him all day, he crashed with 25 kilometres to go, that was my signal, I went in that moment. There were four survivors from an early break still ahead; I caught them in Roubaix and out-sprinted them, despite having chased on my own to get up to them; Versluys was second and Dhaenens third. The finish wasn’t on the velodrome back then, it finished outside the La Redoute factory in Roubaix.
PEZ: Was that your greatest win?
Eric: I had equal emotions when I won Flanders in ’85, but Roubaix was a marvellous day.
PEZ: Was Peter happy?
Eric: Yes, he even smiled – a little!
PEZ: Do you still have the cobble stone first prize?
Eric: That year there was no cobble stone awarded. First prize was a small golden cobble; I still have it, at home. (At the time the media reported this prize as being valued at 10,000 pounds sterling)
Vanderaerden was the director of the DFL-CyclingNews team back in ’07 when we caught up with him at the Three Days of De Panne.
PEZ: And are the showers as bad as they look?
Eric: They are just another part of Paris-Roubaix.