We all experienced that Kuiper was a born cyclist in his 22-year career from 1966 to 1988. His first great achievement was in 1972, when he became Olympic Champion in Munich among the amateurs with an impressive lead throughout the race. In 1973 his cycling career took off and he won two stages: the second stage of the Tour de l'Aude and the cyclocross in Enschede. This was only the beginning, because later on Hennie even became World Champion, won a number of stages in the Tour de France and several major cycling classics including Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Lombardy. In the winter months, Kuiper continued his passion for cycling and took up cyclocross, where he also won the national championship of the Netherlands twice!
Kuiper the cycling jersey of DAF
There was one stumbling block that Kuiper often had trouble with: he stuttered. Now you might think what difference does that make as a cyclist? Well, as a cyclist you often have to do interviews for television or radio. This was always a difficult task for Kuiper. That is why he decided to go to a speech therapist, and this turned out to be a very good idea! Not only did he get the stuttering under control, but he also got better breathing. This made him an even stronger cyclist with great durability. When Kuiper managed to find a gap in the last 50 kilometres before the end of a race, the other riders knew immediately that it would be very difficult to catch up with him.
However, sprinting was not his greatest talent, which meant he had fewer victories to his name than other great riders. But with the list of honours that Kuiper eventually managed to achieve, he is still in a very select company of big names. It all started in 1981, when Hennie rode for DAF. That year he won both the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy, an impressive achievement! He continued this trend in 1983 with an unforgettable victory at Paris-Roubaix, where he had a big lead when his wheel broke. He had to wait a long time for a new wheel, but he still managed to win the gold medal! He completed this series of victories in the classics in 1985 by winning Milan-San Remo.
Hennie Kuiper in 1979 at Paris-Roubaix in the Peugeot jersey
THE 1975 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
In 1975 Hennie had prepared the World Championship down to the smallest detail, nothing stood in the way of his victory. Trembling with nerves and adrenaline, he stood at the starting line and he started off like a rocket. It certainly couldn't have been for his self-confidence either, because the day before he told a journalist that he would find him on the podium the next day. Kuiper lived up to this prediction and so he became World Champion in Yvoir!
However, it was exciting because a few kilometres before the finish line, Hennie was still riding at the side of great riders Joop Zoetemelk, Bert Pronk, Bas Hordijk and his teammates Nidi den Hertog and Harm Ottenbros. Hennie attacked three times and the third time he succeeded, he had a 50 metres lead and finished 30 metres ahead of Joop Zoetemelk who took silver. Zoetemelk and Pronk stated later that day that Kuiper's win was well deserved, passing him was quickly impossible, he was simply too strong.
Kuiper wins the 1975 World Championship
Tour de France
The Tour de France, the great classic in which Hennie Kuiper failed to win. Many say he should have won twice.
1977 - Kuiper finished second, 48 seconds behind Bernard Thevenet, who later admitted he had used doping that day. Yet Kuiper remained in the books as second. Kuiper did win Alpe d'Heuz that year and was crowned Sportsman of the Year, so it certainly wasn't a bad performance!
1978 - Everything pointed to Hennie winning the Tour. He put in his strongest performance ever at the Tour de France. But that year there was a mountain stage with eight cols. Kuiper soon escaped with Hinault and Pollentier and by the third climb Hennie had also released these two riders. They were able to catch up for a while, but the riders simply could not keep up with his pace. A little later, Hennie became overconfident and crashed on a descent, losing consciousness and breaking his collarbone. That was the end of the Tour for him. So no Tour de France win for Hennie.
A FEW FUN FACTS
- Only Ercole Baldini and Paolo Bettini could win the Olympic Games and become World Champion on the road like Kuiper.
- Kuiper is one of the few cyclists who became national champion in the field, on the road and world champion in one year.
- Hennie Kuiper's very first race was the Tour of Wierden in 1964 and on 6 November 1988 he rode his very last race: a cyclocross race in Oldenzaal.
- Since 2017, you can visit the Hennie Kuiper museum, which was set up by his nephew. It shows Hennie's cycling career with bikes, jerseys, prizes, etcetera.
Do you want to cycle just like Hennie Kuiper in the clothing of these great cycling teams? Then it's your lucky day! You can get the replica cycling clothes here with a modern wearing comfort, so you too can race like a rocket in these outfits!
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