It was 1966 when Eric De Vlaeminck became the first Belgian ever to win the cyclocross world championship in Beasain, Spain. That victory immediately earned him the National Trophy for Sports Merit. It was truly a legendary achievement, because the cyclocross world championships had been dominated by French riders for years. First Roger Rondeaux won four times (1920-1999) and this was followed by the five victories of André Dufraisse. After that, the German Rolf Wolfshohl (three victories) and the Italian Renato Longo (five victories) also put in strong performances. Following this long period, the Belgians were able to take over the trophy for the first time with Eric De Vlaeminck. In 1967 Eric didn't manage to win, but in the following six years he could always wear the rainbow jersey. With these seven fantastic victories, Eric is still the record holder to this day.
1966 - Beasain
Finally, it was the turn of the Belgians in the cyclocross world championships. The race was held in the Spanish town of Beasain, where former champions Wolfshohl and Longo immediately made a banging start. De Vlaeminck was able to overtake them on the typical Basque roads where some 20,000 fans had gathered. Later in the race, the Swiss Herman Gretener made another attempt, but De Vlaeminck was able to shake him off. By the last lap, he was certain of his victory and crossed the finish line in triumph.
1968 - Luxemburg
In 1967, it was the Italian Longo who won the cyclocross world championship for the last time. The following year De Vlaeminck could wear the gold medal around his neck again. Wolfshohl made it difficult for De Vlaeminck despite his fast start. But Wolfshohl suffered some bad luck on two occasions and wasted a lot of time. De Vlaeminck, on the other hand, went flat out and was able to crown himself world cyclo-cross champion for the second time.
In '68 it was a double celebration, because his younger brother and up-and-coming talent Roger De Vlaeminck also won the world title in the Under-23 category.
1969 - Magstadt
De Vlaeminck won his third title in Magstadt, near Stuttgart. The race was fairly slow due to the muddy course, but De Vlaeminck flew through it at a monstrous pace. By the halfway point, he was able to triumph because it was already clear that he would be the winner. This title was his easiest victory so far.
1970 - Zolder
One year later the victory, in his own country, didn't go so smoothly. A knee injury prevented Eric from preparing as well as he would have liked. Nevertheless, he was in a breakaway with three other riders, including his brother Roger, Albert Van Damme and Rolf Wolfshohl. In the final lap things went completely wrong when Eric crashed into a rider they had doubled up on. In his fall, he also pulled Van Damme and Wolfshohl along. But they quickly got back on their feet and in the end it was a sprint between the two Belgians. It was a matter of millimetres, but again De Vlaeminck was able to put on the rainbow jersey.
Eric De Vlaeminck (right) during the 1970 World Cup
1971 - Apeldoorn
Eric was in top form and completely ready to take his fifth victory in the Netherlands. Swiss rider Peter Frischknecht was forced to drop out of the race, making it another duel between Van Damme and Eric. Eric was able to shake Albert off early on, but struggling with the slippery road surface, he eventually won from his compatriot with just 10 seconds to spare.
1972 - Praag
In Prague's Riegerparkc he already ran away solo in the second lap. On the very steepest slope, De Vlaeminck was the only rider able to stay on his bike, which made his fans euphoric. He won his sixth world title and beat the records of André Dufraisse and Renato Longo.
1973 - Londen
The world cyclocross championships took place in London for the first time. That year Albert Van Damme was regarded as the top favourite and consequently he took off very quickly. During the exciting course of this edition, De Vlaeminck was able to get away from Van Damme during lap six, but Wolfshohl and André Wilhem caught up again. It was only in the last bend that Eric could get out of the wheel of the riders and cross the finish line first. He was barely 28 years old, but his seventh and last cyclo-cross world title was secured!
After Eric's series of victories, Van Damme and his brother Roger also managed to win the rainbow jersey. Later on there was another series of Belgians who achieved strong performances, such as Roland Liboton (4 victories), Danny De Bie, Mario De Clercq (3 victories), and others.
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