Rik Van Steenbergen

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Rik Van Steenbergen
Rik van Steenbergen (1967).jpg
Van Steenbergen in 1967
Personal information
Full nameRik Van Steenbergen
NicknameRik I (Rik II is Rik Van Looy)
Born(1924-09-09)9 September 1924
Arendonk, Belgium
Died15 May 2003(2003-05-15) (aged 78)
Team information
Rider typeClassics specialist, Sprinter
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
4 individual stages (1949, 1952, 1955)
Giro d'Italia
15 individual stages (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1957)
Vuelta a España
Points classification (1956)
6 individual stages (1956)

One-day races and Classics

World Road Race Championships (1949, 1956, 1957)
National Road Race Championships (1943, 1945, 1954)
Tour of Flanders (1944, 1946)
Paris–Roubaix (1948, 1952)
Milan–San Remo (1954)
La Flèche Wallonne (1949, 1958)
Paris–Brussels (1950)
Medal record
Representing  Belgium
Men's road bicycle racing
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1949 Copenhagen Elite Road Race
Gold medal – first place 1956 Copenhagen Elite Road Race
Gold medal – first place 1957 Waregem Elite Men's Race
Bronze medal – third place 1946 Zürich Elite Road Race

Rik Van Steenbergen (9 September 1924 – 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[edit]

Van Steenbergen was born in Arendonk into 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 achievements[edit]


Major results[edit]


1st MaillotBélgica.PNG Road race, National Road Championships
1st Tour of Flanders
1st MaillotBélgica.PNG Road race, National Road Championships
1st Tour of Flanders
1st Paris–Roubaix
1st Jersey rainbow.svg Road race, UCI Road World 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 Jersey pink.svg after Stages 1, 7, & 13–17
Giro d'Italia
1st Stages 6, 9 & 10
Tour de France
1st Stage 1
Held Jersey yellow.svg after Stages 1–2
1st Paris–Roubaix
1st Stage 9 Giro d'Italia
1st MaillotBélgica.PNG Road race, National Road Championships
Giro d'Italia
1st Stages 5, 16, 17 & 22
1st Milan–San Remo
1st Stage 16 Tour de France
1st Jersey rainbow.svg Road race, UCI Road World Championships
5th Overall Vuelta a España
1st Jersey green.svg Points classification
1st Stages 1, 7, 8, 11, 14 & 17
1st Jersey rainbow.svg Road race, UCI Road World 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. He came close to prison for smuggling a suspect package over the Dutch border.[7] 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[edit]

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.


Walter Rottiers: Rik Van Steenbergen. Das Ass der Asse. Bielefeld, Covadonga-Verlag, 2005. 144 p. ISBN 3936973156 (German)

Rik van Steenbergen: Geschiedenis der Kruistochten. Rebo Productions. 1987 203 p. (Flemish)

Fred De Bruyne: Rik van Steenbergen. Mechelen, Uitgave G. Kolff, 1963. (Flemish)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Bicycle, UK, 31 May 1950, p. 4
  2. ^ Rik Van Steenbergen at Cycling Archives
  3. ^ a b c Piedfort, Dominique (8 September 2010). "Wielerlegende Rik Van Steenbergen duikt op in seksfilm" [Cycling legend Rik Van Steenbergen appears in adult movie]. Gazet van Antwerpen (in Dutch).
  4. ^ a b maj (8 September 2010). "Bioscoop speelt seksfilm met Rik Van Steenbergen" [Cinema plays adult movie with Rik Van Steenbergen]. De Standaard (in Dutch).
  5. ^ Ilegems, Andreas (30 August 2010). "Vlaamse schandaalfilms in Cinema Zuid" [Flemish scandal movies in Cinema Zuid]. Knack (in Dutch).
  6. ^ "Pandore (1968)". Internet Movie Database.
  7. ^ Fotheringham, William (24 May 2003). "Obituary: Henri Van Steenbergen". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 January 2020.

External links[edit]