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Theo de Rooij – One of the World’s Best Pro Riders and Directeur Sportifs

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He had a stellar amateur career in a Golden Era for Netherlands Cycling; rode for four of the sport’s most famous teams – IJsboerke, Capri Sonne, Raleigh and Panasonic; was a highly successful team manager and is still deeply involved with the sport he loves.

VeloVeritas is delighted to be able to bring you the thoughts of Mr. Theo de Rooij.

Theo De Rooij
Theo de Rooij.

Many thanks for speaking to us, Theo – was it winning the Tour of North Holland in 1979 which gained you your contract with IJsboerke?

“In fact 1978 was my best amateur season ever and I had several offers from top pro teams. In 1979 however, I had to finish my business school and get my degree so it was not until 1980 I could pass to being pro.

“In 1979 I won 12 races; I won the Tour of North Holland (three day stage race), the first stage and three days yellow in the Tour of East Germany (DDR) and was 2nd in the National road championship.

“The interest of Pro Teams was less massive than the year before but I got my degree!

“Then I signed for IJsboerke but in fact the Dutch bicycle brand KOGA Miyata, and co-sponsor of the IJsboerke Team, was my employer.

“In August that year Peter Winnen also signed for KOGA/IJsboerke.”

Theo de Rooij
The IJsboerke class of ’80.

You rode for four of the most famous cycling teams ever, this must be a source of pride?

“Yes, I am proud of my career; I was always part of major big battles in the world’s foremost bicycle races.

“I am also proud of the fact that in 27 years of Pro cycling (11 as a rider, 16 in team management) I only had three ‘chiefs’: ‘Walter Godefroot from 1980-1982, Peter Post 1983-1994 and Jan Raas (later Rabobank) 1995-2007.

“Loyalty, confidence, long term commitment and working with the right people have always been very important for me.”

Theo de Rooij
Theo spent two seasons with Capri-Sonne, 1981 – 82.

You were winning as a neo pro – Koolskamp and second in the Baracchi; you took to the pro life easily.

“I sure did.

“My first win was a stage in the Tour de Romandie in May 1980.

“I was 3rd in the National Road Championship and I finished 4th in the Tour of Lombardy (only 17 finishers because of the terrible weather).”

Theo de Rooij
Theo was a classy rider – here in the 1981 Tour of Germany – and moved into management easily. Photo©CorVos

The Trofeo Laigueglia in ’82; a hard race to win – all the Italians want it.

“Taking into consideration that I broke my left collarbone six weeks before and the extremely poor weather conditions, it sure was a stunt.

“One of my best memories…”

Theo de Rooij
Theo winning the Trophy Laigueglia in 1982 for Capri-Sonne.
Theo de Rooij
The powerhouse 1983 Raleigh team.

Were you nervous about signing for Peter Post in ’83?

“No, in fact Peter was my ‘second choice’. If it were up to me, I would have signed for the legendary Italian team Bianchi of Giancarlo Ferretti.

“I am always in for a challenge and riding in an ambitious Italian top team, as the only Dutch rider seemed very appealing. I loved the Italian (cycling) culture.

“I also negotiated with Miguel Echavarri of the Spanish Reynolds Team. However, my first wife did not want to move to Italy (or Spain) and leave her native area, nor did she want to miss me for periods of weeks when I would be living, racing and training in Italy.

“So in the end I signed with Peter Post-TI Raleigh – which was not a bad choice either…”