By Graham Healy
The retired Dutch cyclist, Johan van der Velde, has recently been announced as being one of the bus drivers for the new Roompot Orange team. The news brought to mind the highs and lows that the Dutchman has seen in the sport.
Van der Velde, from Rijsbergen near the Belgian border took victory in the Tours of Britain Holland and Romandie in 1978, but he was two years later when he really emerged as the next in line of great Dutch cyclists. In 1980, he won the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, the Dutch Championships and the white jersey in the Tour de France where he finished 12th overall.
Two years later, he finished in third place in the Tour and it looked like he would one day win the race. However, that was as close as it came to victory in the World’s biggest race for the stylish rider.
The Dutchman would go on to win stages in the Giro d’Italia and take the points classification in the Italian race three times. However, unknown to his fans, he had also developed an addiction to amphetamines and gambling.
He would later be caught stealing lawnmowers and breaking into post office stamp machines to pay for his addictions. He was subsequently sentenced to a term in prison, and he and his wife Josée lost everything.
However, following on from hospital treatment, he managed to turn his life around, and would eventually return to the sport which he had avoided for a long time. The news that he will join Roompot offers Van der Velde the chance to be a part of an exciting new project for Dutch cycling.