With the London Track Worlds fading into the distance as the classics season gets underway, we thought we’d run a few pieces which harp back to the ‘golden days’ of pursuiting – when all the participants didn’t ‘look the same’ and 5,000 metres was the blue riband distance for the professional greats.
Cycle Sport magazine run an article a few months ago, ‘The 25 Most Stylish Riders of all Time’ – Giovanni Battaglin, Roger De Vlaeminck, Francesco Moser, all fair enough.
But Tafi? Lizzie Armitstead? Cancellara?
And there were some glaring omissions, Tom Simpson, Ferdi Bracke, Ole Ritter and – Roy Schuiten.
In 1971 the big blond Dutchman took silver in The Netherlands amateur pursuit championships, a year later it was gold and there was a third place in the amateur Grand Prix des Nations.
He retained his Netherlands amateur title in 1973 and took bronze at The Worlds in the same discipline.
But it was 1974 when he truly exploded onto the scene, winning the Olympia Tour in Holland and the Milk Race as an amateur before turning pro for the mighty TI-Raleigh team.
He won the World Professional Pursuit Championship, the Grand Prix des Nations and the Baracchi Trophy with Francesco Moser – a fabulous debut.
The following season his meteoric progress continued with another world pro pursuit title, the GP Frankfurt, the GP des Nations, the GP Lugano TT. The world was at his feet and we held our breath as Schuiten boarded a plane for Mexico to attack Merck’s Hour Record.
And things were never the same again…
The record attempt was a disaster; despite great form going into the attempt and Raleigh’s ace mechanic Jan Le Grand having built him a super light gem of a machine.
He got up on the track three times in pursuit of the record but at no time did he manage to match Merckx’s pace – albeit the Belgian did start at a prodigious rate.
TI Raleigh manager, Peter Post was a man who abhorred failure and his already deteriorating relationship with Schuiten was over.
Schuiten headed off to France to Lejeune – the team who bought out the last year of his TI Raleigh contract – then to Italy and SCiC and whilst there were other big wins, he was never quite the same rider again.
He was second in the Worlds pro pursuit, Nations and Baracchi in 1976 with a win in the Tour of the Med the highlight.
In his second year with the French team there was a win in the TT stage at Dunkerque, beating Thurau but only fourth in The Baracchi.
With SCiC in 1978 he was again second in the Worlds pursuit, this time behind Braun and won the Baracchi with Norwegian powerhouse, Knut Knudsen.
In 1979 he won the GP Forli TT and was fourth in the Nations, but his best was behind him.
The name on the jersey was Inoxpran for 1980, Kotler in ’81; his last pro year was with the Spanish Kelme team in 1982.
He had a brief tenure as DS with PDM in 1986 and then opened a restaurant in Portugal, where lived until September 2006 when he died tragically young at just 55 years old from a stomach haemorrhage in Praia de Carvoeiro.
We caught up with Schuiten’s son, Rob to ask about his father, surely one of the most elegant men ever to grace a bicycle.
Rob was born as his father’s career wound down so never got the chance to see him at his brilliant best on the track or against the watch but he collects memorabilia from his father’s career and is always on the lookout for trophies, equipment and photos from his father’s ‘golden years.’
“Two years ago I met an old friend of my father’s; he had a box of treasure – trophies, ribbons, medals, sashes from my father’s career.
“My father wasn’t a man to collect stuff like that; when he was an amateur he didn’t pay much attention to that side of things and it was my late grandfather who used to look after the trophies.
“He’s the only rider ever to win the Olympia Tour and Milk Race in the same season.”