Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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Rudy Pevenage – “They should have sent half of the peloton home”

"The Biological Passport should have been in place between 1998 and 2006 - if it had been I'd still have a job."

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Rudy Pevenage was the man behind Jan Ulrich and guided him to a Tour de France win and many other successes, but let’s not forget he was a top rider in his own Pro career. 

Not much has been heard of the man from Moerbeke in Flanders recently, so we looked him up on one of our visits to Belgium for the Omloop…

Rudy Pevenage
Rudy (r) with prodigy Jan Ulrich. Photo©supplied

Yes, that Rudy Pevenage, the guy who was involved in the Jan Ulrich controversies a few years ago. 

But surely there’s more to the man than that?

He rode in the pro peloton for 14 seasons; Ijsboerke, Capri Sonne, Del Tongo and Superconfex – some of the 70’s and 80’s best squads. 

Rudy Pevenage
Rudy lining up for Ijsboerke in 1976. Photo©supplied

He held the yellow jersey in le Tour for nine days, he won the green jersey in le Tour, he stood on the second step of the podium in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Tour de Suisse – and the Tour of Scotland, the ‘Scottish Milk Race’.

And he managed some of the biggest names in the sport with teams like Histor and Telekom. 

We caught up with him at the Restaurant Hemelrijk atop the legendary Muur in his home town of Geraardsbergen, the day after Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Rudy Pevenage
Rudy battles through the snow at the 1978 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Photo©supplied

I opened by asking him about how he got his first contract, with Ijsboerke:

I knew the DS, Wily Jossaert well and I had good results as an amateur. 

“I was second in the amateur Tour of Flanders and of the five big amateur classics in Belgium, I was second in three and third in one.”

Being Scottish I had to ask Rudy about what he remembers of our homeland; after a pause for thought he told us…

We had to drink milk on the podium.”

Rudy Pevenage
Rudy at the Scottish Milk Race. Photo©ICS

Next question…

In 1980 Pevenage won the first stage of the Tour de France and came out of it having held the yellow jersey for nine days and as final winner of the green jersey in Paris. 

Relive a little of that Tour for us, Rudy.

“I was a good sprinter and won Stage One – I chased points in the intermediate sprints and when Jan Raas pulled out it was a fight between me and Sean Kelly for green.

“I also held the yellow jersey for nine days.

“That was the highlight of my racing career and people have never forgotten it, still they speak to me about that.”

How much difference did his successes make to your contract?

There was a small adjustment to my contract but the money wasn’t like it is now. 

“I did get a lot of criterium contracts but rode too many that year after the Tour, it’s not just the racing but all the traveling between.

“That had a negative effect upon my next season because I was so tired.

“Remember that in those days we were racing 140 days.

“With Del Tongo we rode the classics then five days after Liège-Bastogne-Liège we started the Vuelta – it was in April back then – to prepare for the Giro.

“That’s why I was never interested in the Six Days or too much cyclo-cross – we needed the winter to recover.”

The GP Paul Borremans is a race which appears on your palmarès – three times…

Yes, I liked that race, it’s in Viane, not far from here so that is my home race and I knew every cobble stone of the parcours!

What about second in de Ronde to Rene Martens, he wasn’t a man with a lot of wins?

No, but he was a very strong rider – stronger than me on that day! 

“I don’t like the new parcours for Flanders now, it doesn’t seem complete without the Muur – but the new route is about politics, nothing else.

“I used to host a big party on the Muur when the Ronde came over here – think the last couple of Rondes are not as spectacular because everyone now waits for the last climb of the Koppenberg

And you had four seasons in Italy…

It wasn’t a good time for Belgian teams, Ijsboerke was gone and Capri Sonne and Safir also finished so it was hard to get a ride. 

“It was a big difference to ride for an Italian team but I enjoyed the experience.

“It was all change for me because I became Guiseppe Saronni’s gregario; but we rode a very good program and Saronni produced results – he won Milan-Sanremo and the Giro.

“I was the time when the Polis