THE cyclocross world is in shock today (December 4th) from the news that arguably the sport's greatest-ever rider Erik De Vlaeminck has passed away, aged 70, in his hometown of Eeklo in Belgium. De Vlaeminck won seven World 'cross titles between 1966 and 1973 and four Belgian National titles and also had a spell as Belgian national team manager.
His younger brother Roger, who of course became known as Mister Paris-Roubaix, often competed alongside Erik in cyclocross throughout the late '60s and early 1970s. At the 1968 World Championships Erik won the professional crown whilst Roger captured the amateur World title.
Everything that I learned from Erik De Vlaeminck, I still use in my racing today - Sven Nys
Nys and Albert
Another Belgian legend Sven Nys reflected on the influence that Erik De Vlaeminck had on him whilst Belgian team manager: "Everything that I learned from De Vlaeminck, I still use today."
De Vlaeminck also helped with the guidance of another Belgian World champion of recent years – Niels Albert. The partnership came about in 2008 and Albert's team manager Christophe Roodhooft told Sporza at the time, "It's important that Erik's knowledge is not lost. We've brought in Erik to tackle the details which are often decisive in a race - I know how strong Erik is in those aspects. He also works on Niels' agility, acrobatics and finesse."
British international, and prolific race winner in the 1970s, Barry Davies called De Vlaeminck "No doubt the World's greatest-ever cyclocross rider" after hearing today's news. Barry raced against De Vlaeminck from 1969 to 1975 and has a host of stories to relate from those races.
De Vlaeminck had been suffering from both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease in the later years of his life and which had affected him severely over the last twelve months.
My brother taught me everything - Roger De Vlaeminck
Roger, two years Erik's junior, told the media that he had said his farewells to his brother prior to his death and that although he was losing his battle with illness he thought that he recognised him.
"My brother taught me everything. It was he who took me - at the age of 17 - to my first 'cross races in Switzerland and Luxembourg. He would often remain on the course to see if I was doing all that he had pointed out to me," Roger De Vlaeminck told Sporza.
1968 World Championship (no sound)
Erik (number 7) wins his second World elite title with ease in Luxembourg.
1969 World Championship (no sound)
Erik wins the rainbow jersey for a third time in Magstadt, West Germany (second race on film).
WORLD CHAMPION 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 (Bronze 1977).
BELGIAN CHAMPION 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972 (Silver 1975, 1977).
TOUR DE FRANCE 1968 Winner of Stage 2 (Arlon, Belgium to Forest, Belgium).