Joop Zoetemelk

Joop Zoetemelk

Zoetemelk in 1971
Personal information
Full name Hendrik Gerardus Jozef Zoetemelk
Nickname Joop
Born (1946-12-03) 3 December 1946
The Hague, Netherlands
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight 68 kg (150 lb; 10.7 st)
Team information
Current team Retired
Discipline Road
Role Rider
Rider type All-round
Professional team(s)
1970–1972 Mars-Flandria
1973–1974 Gitane-Frigecreme
1975–1979 Gan-Mercier
1980–1981 TI-Raleigh
1982–1983 Coop-Mercier
1984–1986 Kwantum
1987 Superconfex
Major wins

Grand Tours

Tour de France
General classification (1980)
Combination classification (1973)
10 individual stages
Vuelta a España
General classification (1979)
Mountains classification (1971)
3 individual stages

Stage Races

Paris–Nice (1974, 1975, 1979)
Tour de Romandie (1973)
Tirreno–Adriatico (1985)
Critérium International (1979)

Single-Day Races and Classics

National Road Race Championships (1971, 1973)
Amstel Gold Race (1987)
La Flèche Wallonne (1976)
Paris–Tours (1977, 1979)

Hendrik Gerardus Jozef "Joop" Zoetemelk (pronounced [ˈjoːp ˈsutəmɛlk];[1] born 3 December 1946) is a retired professional racing cyclist from the Netherlands who has emigrated to France. He started, and finished, the Tour de France 16 times – a record. Three other riders have had more than 16 starts, but none has yet matched Zoetemelk's record of completing the event. He won the race in 1980 and also came eighth, fifth, fourth (three times) and second (six times).[2] He won the world professional road championship in 1985 at 38. He retired from the sport to run a hotel at Meaux, near Paris, France.[3]

Early life and career

Zoetemelk was raised in Rijpwetering,[4] the son of Maria and Gerard Zoetemelk.[5] He started working as a carpenter. He became a speed-skater[6] and a regional champion before turning to cycling in 1964.[6] He joined the Swift club in Leiden and made a fast impression, winning youth races in his first season. He rode particularly well as a senior in multi-day races. He won the Tour of Yugoslavia, the Circuit des Mines, three stages and the mountains prize in the Tour of Austria, and the 1969 Tour de l'Avenir.[7] He also won a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City in the 100 km team time-trial with Fedor den Hertog, Jan Krekels and René Pijnen.[8]

Professional career

Zoetemelk turned professional for Briek Schotte's Belgian Mars-Flandria team in 1970.[7][9] He came second to Eddy Merckx in that year's Tour de France.

Zoetemelk won Paris–Nice, the Semana Catalana and the Tour de Romandie in 1974 and then crashed heavily into a car left unattended at the finish of the Midi-Libre in Valras-Plage, France. He cracked his skull and came close to dying.[10] He returned next season to win Paris–Nice again and then caught meningitis. He never fully recovered and the head injury reduced his sense of taste. He nevertheless won 20 races that season, including Paris–Nice, the Tour of Holland and the Dwars door Lausanne and a stage of the Tour de France. He also came fourth in the Tour de France.

Of one-day races, in 1976 he won the Flèche Wallonne, in 1977 and 1979 the Grand Prix d'Automne, and came fourth in the world championships of 1976 and 1982 before winning in 1985, the oldest man to win the professional title.[6]

Zoetemelk in 1979

Peter Post, manager of the TI-Raleigh team in the Netherlands, approached Zoetemelk through his wife, Françoise, after the world championship in 1979.[11] Zoetemelk had long lived in France and ridden for French teams. His sponsor, the bicycle company Mercier, ended its sponsorship and Zoetemelk was looking for a new team. The following year Zoetemelk won his – and TI-Raleigh's – only Tour de France. The pre-race favourite, Bernard Hinault had retired halfway due to knee-problems. Zoetemelk objected to claims that he had won only because Hinault had dropped out, saying: "Surely winning the Tour de France is a question of health and robustness. If Hinault doesn't have that health and robustness and I have, that makes me a valid winner."

Gerald O'Donovan, the TI-Raleigh director behind sponsorship of the team, said:

"We needed a winner and for 1980 signed Joop Zoetemelk, who had an outstanding record of places but had probably enjoyed less support than we could give him. We cleaned up the Tours of Belgium, Holland and Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in preparation and waited for the big day. The big plan to control Bernard Hinault, who had won for the previous two years, came to fruition. The team attacked his every move; this was Panzer Group Post[12] at its most formidable. About halfway through the race he abandoned the lead to Zoetemelk and pulled out of the race. We arrived in Paris with the overall lead, 12 stage wins and the team prize, to say nothing of a whole bundle of francs. We had pounded away winning the battles for the previous four years; at last we had won the war."

In 18 years as a professional (1969–1987), Zoetemelk won the Tour de France in 1980, and the Vuelta a España in 1979. He came second in the Tour de France six times.


Zoetemelk was caught in drug tests during the Tour de France in 1977 and 1979. He also tested positive in 1983. At the time, blood doping was not considered a huge deal in road cycling and he mostly escaped punishment. He was not implicated during his Tour win in 1980.[13][14][15]


Zoetemelk is one of the most successful Tour riders of all time;[16] he finished second a record six times and won once. His career coincided with the rise and dominance of Eddy Merckx and Zoetemelk was often criticised for following rather than attacking the Belgian. Zoetemelk had naturally fair skin and a popular joke said that he never acquired a tan during the Tour because he was always in Merckx's shadow. A fellow Tour rider, Rini Wagtmans, said: "Joop Zoetemelk is the best rider that the Netherlands has ever known. There has never been a better one. But he could not give instructions. He was treated and helped with respect. But when Zoetemelk won the Tour, the instructions had to come from Gerrie Knetemann and Jan Raas."[17]

Peter Post said: "Joop would fit in any team. I've known only a few riders who were so easy. He followed the rules, he got on with people. That's the way he is. He never asked for domestiques. Joop never demanded anything."[18]

Personal life and retirement

Zoetemelk in 2008

After retiring, Zoetemelk became a directeur sportif with Superconfex, which became Rabobank in 1996. Zoetemelk stayed with Rabobank for 10 years, retiring as a directeur sportif and from the sport after the 2006 Vuelta a España.

Zoetemelk married Françoise Duchaussoy, daughter of the Tour de France executive, Jacques Duchaussoy. They owned and ran the Richemont hotel in Meaux, near Paris. Their son, Karl,[19] was a French mountain bike rider and champion.


Joop Zoetemelk was the second Dutch winner of the Tour de France after Jan Janssen. The Dutch cycling federation, the KNWU, named Zoetemelk the best Dutch rider of all time at a gala to mark its 75th anniversary. A statue of him at Rijpwetering, where he was born and grew up, was unveiled on 31 May 2005. He was named sportsman of the year in the Netherlands in 1980 and 1985. Between 1972 and 1985, he won the Gerrit Schulte Trophy nine times as best rider of the year, more than anybody else in Dutch professional racing.[20] The Joop Zoetemelk Classic, a cyclo-sportive over 45, 75 or 150 km, is held every March, organised by the Swift club of which Zoetemelk is a member. The course passes his statue.

Career achievements

Major results

1st Overall Ronde van Midden-Zeeland
1st Stage 1
1st Olympic Team's Time Trial
1st Overall Circuit de Lorraine
1st Stage 1a
1st Overall Tour de l'Avenir
3rd Overall Tour of Austria
1st Stage 2b, 3 & 6
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 2b Paris–Luxembourg
1st National Road Race Championships
2nd Overall Tour de France
6th Overall Vuelta a España
1st Mountains classification
1st Stage 16
1st Stage 4b Tour de Luxembourg
5th Overall Tour de France
1st Trophée des Grimpeurs
1st National Road Race Championships
4th Overall Tour de France
1st Combination classification
1st Prologue & Stage 4
3rd Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stage 7b
3rd Overall Critérium du Dauphiné
1st Stage 2b
1st Overall Tour du Haut Var
2nd Overall Grand Prix du Midi Libre
1st Stage 1a & 2
1st Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stage 2, 6a & 7b
1st Overall Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 4
1st Overall Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo
1st Stage 5
1st Stage 2 Étoile de Bessèges
4th Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 11
1st Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stage 6a & 7b
1st Overall Ronde van Nederland
1st Stage 4
1st Overall A Travers Lausanne
1st Stage 1
1st Grand Prix d'Isbergues
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 9, 10 & 20
1st La Flèche Wallonne
1st Stage 3 Critérium du Dauphiné
1st Boucles de l'Aulne
1st Overall A Travers Lausanne
1st Stage 1 & 2
1st Paris–Tours
3rd Overall Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
1st Stage 4a
1st Grand Prix d'Isbergues
1st Stage 2a Tour de l'Aude
1st Overall A Travers Lausanne
1st Stage 1 & 2
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 14
3rd Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stage 1 (victory shared with Gerrie Knetemann)
1st Paris–Camembert
1st Stage 2 Critérium International
1st Overall A Travers Lausanne
1st Stage 1 & 2
1st Overall Vuelta a España
1st Prologue & Stage 8b
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 18
1st Overall Paris–Nice
1st Stage 7b
1st Overall Critérium International
1st Stage 2
1st Paris–Tours
1st Overall Tour du Haut Var
1st Prologue Critérium du Dauphiné
1st Stage 3 Étoile de Bessèges
1st Overall A Travers Lausanne
1st Stage 1 & 2
1st Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 1b (TTT), 7a (TTT), 11 & 20
1st Prologue Critérium du Dauphiné
1st Stage 5 Tour de Romandie
1st Grand Prix Pino Cerami
4th Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 1b (TTT) & 4 (TTT)
1st Escalada a Montjuich
1st Grand Prix Pino Cerami
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Escalada a Montjuich
1st Stage 2 (TTT) Tour de France
1st Overall Tour du Haut Var
1st UCI World Road Race Championships
1st Overall Tirreno–Adriatico
1st Stage 5
1st Veenendaal-Veenendaal
2nd Amstel Gold Race
1st Amstel Gold Race

Grand Tour results timeline

1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986
Tour 2 2 5 4 DNE 4 2 8 2 2 1 4 2 23 30 12 24
Stages won 0 0 0 2 1 3 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mountains classification NR 2 5 6 3 3 5 3 4 5 NR NR NR NR NR NR
Points classification NR 5 3 2 9 8 NR 9 3 10 NR NR NR NR NR NR
Stages won
Mountains classification
Points classification
Stages won 1 2
Mountains classification 1 3
Points classification NR 3
1 Winner
2–3 Top three-finish
4–10 Top ten-finish
11– Other finish
DNE Did Not Enter
DNF-x Did Not Finish (retired on stage x)
DNS-x Did Not Start (no started on stage x)
DSQ Disqualified
N/A Race/classification not held
NR Not Ranked in this classification

See also


  1. Surname in isolation: [ˈzutəmɛlk].
  2. "Joop Zoetemelk dans le Tour de France". Archived from the original on 25 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25..
  3. Siebelink, Jan (2006) 'Pijn is genot, Thomas Rap (Netherlands), ISBN 90-6005-632-9, p. 93
  4. "Joop Zoetemelk Classic 2009 (1)". Archived from the original on 24 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-24..
  5. Joop Zoetemelk. (1946-12-03). Retrieved on 2012-12-24.
  6. 1 2 3 '1980: Joop Zoetemelk' – [Alle Tourwinnaars]. Retrieved on 2012-12-24.
  7. 1 2
  8. "Joop Zoetemelk Olympic Results". Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  9. "Joop Zoetemelk". Archived from the original on 19 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-19..
  10. Opgescheept met een veteraan, Trouw, Netherlands (2005-06-28)
  11. A reference to the strict management and team discipline imposed on the team by its manager, Peter Post.
  12. anabo. Retrieved on 2012-12-24.
  13. Le dopage dans le tour de France. (1977-07-24). Retrieved on 2012-12-24.
  14. "Magazine Sport & Vie : Sport & vie n° 79 (July 2003) – Tombés au champs d'honneur". Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 2015-12-07..
  15. "Econometricians calculate 'Universal Tour Ranking'". University of Groningen. October 23, 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
  16. Cycling, UK, interview with Rini Wagtmans, undated cutting
  17. Opgescheept met een veteraan, Trouw (Netherlands), 28 June 2005
  18. Joop Zoetemelk profile at Cycling Archives
  19. Velo-Club du Net: Coureurs Hollandais, Joop Zoetemelk. Retrieved on 2012-12-24.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joop Zoetemelk.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Peter Kisner
Dutch National Road Race Champion
Succeeded by
Tino Tabak
Preceded by
Tino Tabak
Dutch National Road Race Champion
Succeeded by
Cees Priem
Preceded by
Jan Raas
Dutch Sportsman of the Year
Succeeded by
Hennie Stamsnijder
Preceded by
Stephan van den Berg
Dutch Sportsman of the Year
Succeeded by
Hein Vergeer
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