Rik Van Steenbergen

Rik Van Steenbergen

Van Steenbergen and Peter Post in 1967
Personal information
Full name Rik Van Steenbergen
Nickname Rik I (Rik II is Rik Van Looy)
Born (1924-09-09)9 September 1924
Died 15 May 2003(2003-05-15) (aged 78)
Team information
Discipline Road/Track
Role Rider
Rider type Classics specialist, Sprinter
Major wins
World Champion (1949, 1956, 1957)
Tour of Flanders (1944, 1946)
Paris–Roubaix (1948, 1952)
La Flèche Wallonne (1949, 1958)
Paris–Brussels (1950)
Milan–San Remo (1954)

Rik Van Steenbergen (Arendonk, 9 September 1924 Antwerp, 15 May 2003) was a Belgian racing cyclist, considered to be one of the best among the great number of successful Belgian cyclists.

Early life

Van Steenbergen was born in Arendonk in a poor family. He worked as an errand boy and a cigar-roller.[1] He began racing at 16 and became one of Belgium's best juniors from 1940 to 1942.


He started cycling as a professional during World War II in 1942, after being an amateur since he was 14. The next year, he won his first important races, and became Belgian road cycling champion. In 1944, he won the Tour of Flanders Classic, which he won again two years later.

During his career, which lasted until 1966, Van Steenbergen won several more classics: Paris–Roubaix, Paris–Brussels and Milan–San Remo. He also won the World Road Cycling Championships three times (1949 Copenhagen, 1956 Copenhagen and 1957 Waregem), equalling the (still standing) record of Alfredo Binda. His last world title, a year after his second, was won in front of a home crowd. In addition, he placed third in the first post-war championships in 1946. He held the Ruban Jaune for seven years for winning the 1948 Paris-Roubaix in a record average speed for a professional race, covering the 246 km at an average of 43.612 km per hour.

Van Steenbergen also excelled on the track, and won 40 Six-day events, and improved two world records. His track capabilities made him an excellent road sprinter. However, he usually had difficulty climbing, which prevented him from winning major stage races. He nevertheless placed 2nd in the 1951 Giro d'Italia. Some suggest he could have competed for victory in stage races had he concentrated on them, instead of racing almost every race he could enter. It is estimated Van Steenbergen won slightly fewer than 1000 races, though accounts differ widely.

Career highlights

Major Road Results


1st National Road Race Championships
1st Tour of Flanders
1st National Road Race Championships
1st Tour of Flanders
1st Paris–Roubaix
1st UCI World Road Race Championships
Tour de France
1st Stages 12 & 21
1st La Flèche Wallonne
1st Paris–Brussels
2nd Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Stages 1 & 15
Held for 7 days
Giro d'Italia
1st Stages 6, 9 & 10
1st Stage 1 Tour de France
Held for 2 days
1st Paris–Roubaix
1st Stage 9 Giro d'Italia
1st National Road Race Championships
Giro d'Italia
1st Stages 5, 16, 17 & 22
1st Milan–San Remo
1st Stage 16 Tour de France
1st UCI World Road Race Championships
5th Overall Vuelta a España
6 stages
1st UCI World Road Race Championships
Giro d'Italia
1st Stages 1, 11, 17b, 20 & 21
1st La Flèche Wallonne


After his cycling career he entered a dark period. He was named in connection with many unsavory practices. He had a gambling addiction and was suspected of drug trafficking, conspiracy and incitement to debauchery.[3]

During this period, in 1968, he also starred in the Belgian adult movie Pandore as the character Dimitri. The movie tells the story of an industrialist who neglects his young wife. The couple are looking for solace in extramarital relationships. They make a trip to Greece to save their relationship, but over there the woman pays more attention to Dimitri, a local fisherman. In the context of that era the movie was a sensational, provocative, scandal movie.[3][4][5][6]

Van Steenbergen also ended up in jail for a while. But his marriage with the British Doreen Hewitt saved him from ruin and he got his life back on track.[3][4]

Death and commemoration

Statue of Rik Van Steenbergen

Rik Van Steenbergen died in Antwerp after a prolonged sickness at the age of 78. The funeral was in the Sint Pauluskerk of Westmalle, attended by about 2000 people, including Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, Roger De Vlaeminck, Walter Godefroot, Johan De Muynck, Lucien Van Impe, Freddy Maertens and Briek Schotte. The UCI president Hein Verbruggen and Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt also attended.

In 2004 a statue was erected in his honour on the Wampenberg in Arendonk.

See also


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