Rik Van Steenbergen Heroes of Roubaix
Rik Van Steenbergen (9 September 1924 – 15 May 2003) was a Belgian cyclist, considered to be one of the best among the great number of successful Belgian cyclists.
Van Steenbergen was born in Arendonk in a poor family. 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 Ronde van Vlaanderen 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-Sanremo. 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.
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.
When talking cycling, recalling those heroes from the past, the name of Rik Van Steenbergen is soon on the table. To honour him as the great sportsman he was, in 2004 a statue with his torso was placed on the Wampenberg in Arendonk.