Lucien Van Impe

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Lucien Van Impe
Lucien van Impe, Acht van Chaam 1975 (cropped).jpg
Van Impe at the 1975 Acht van Chaam
Personal information
Full nameLucien Van Impe
Nicknamede kleine van Mere
Born (1946-10-20) 20 October 1946 (age 76)
Mere, Belgium
Team information
Current teamRetired
Rider typeClimbing specialist
Professional teams
1982-1984Metauro Mobil
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
General classification (1976)
Mountains classification (1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1983)
9 individual stages (1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983)
Giro d'Italia
Mountains classification (1982, 1983)
1 individual stage (1983)
Vuelta a España
1 individual stage (1979)

One-day races and Classics

National Road Race Championships (1983)

Lucien Van Impe (pronounced [lɵsˈjɛn vɑn ˈɪmpə]; born 20 October 1946) is a Belgian cyclist, who competed professionally between 1969 and 1987. He excelled mainly as a climber in multiple-day races such as the Tour de France. He was the winner of the 1976 Tour de France, and six times winner of the mountains classification in the Tour de France.


Van Impe credits the start of his career to Spaniard Federico Bahamontes, a climber nicknamed the eagle of Toledo and a former Tour de France winner. In 1968 van Impe was King of the Mountains in the Tour de l'Avenir. Bahamontes used his influence to get van Impe a contract as a professional. In 1969, Van Impe started his professional career with a 12th place in the 1969 Tour de France. In 1971, Van Impe won his first mountains classification in the Tour de France. He would repeat that five more times,[1] a record then shared with Bahamontes. When Richard Virenque broke the record with a seventh victory in 2004, Van Impe criticized Virenque for being opportunistic rather than the best climber; he said he had himself refrained from breaking Bahamontes' record himself out of reverence.

Van Impe's Sonolor team fused with Gitane to become Gitane-Campagnolo in 1975. Former French champion Cyrille Guimard, who retired in early 1976, became directeur sportif in 1976. He was considered to be among the pre-race favorites as this edition had eight high mountain stages and it was expected to be a battle between Van Impe, Joop Zoetemelk and defending champion Bernard Thevenet. Thevenet was no match for these two riders from the Low Countries in the 1976 edition, and despite a strong start from debutant Freddy Maertens, the race became a duel between Van Impe and Zoetemelk with the mountains of the 1976 Tour de France deciding who would become champ. Guimard claims it was his order to attack Zoetemelk that won Van Impe the Tour, shouting at Van Impe that he'd run him off the road with the car if he didn't attack.[2] Van Impe has denied this. Despite Zoetemelk winning three high mountain stages Van Impe's attack gave him a lead of more than +3:00 on the Dutchman, and he then clinched his victory by finishing more than a minute ahead of Zoetemelk in the final individual time trial.

After 1976, Van Impe changed teams. In the 1977 Tour de France he started favorite but failed to take a lead in the mountains. He waited until the last mountain stage to attack, which finished atop Alpe d'Huez, and was in the lead late in the stage but forgot to eat, which caused his lead to slip away. He was still in the lead when he was hit by one of the TV cars. Due to his team car being so far behind he had to stand on the side of the road and wait several minutes for a new bike as Bernard Thévenet and Hennie Kuiper rode past; and the 1977 edition would be decided between the two of them as a result.

After three years where he wasn't among the GC favorites, Van Impe rode incredibly well in the 1981 Tour de France. He finished on the podium in 2nd place, although he was more than +10:00 behind Bernard Hinault, however he won the mountain classification yet again. All total Van Impe finished in the top 5 of the Tour de France eight times.

He also won the mountain classification in the Giro d'Italia twice.

Single-day races were not his specialty and it was a surprise that he won the national championship in 1983.

Van Impe started 15 Tours de France and reached the finish in Paris every time. This was a record when he finished his last, but he would be passed for most Tour finishes by Joop Zoetemelk in 1986, and eventually Sylvain Chavanel reached 16 finishes in 2018. He is currently tied for 2nd with Viatcheslav Ekimov who finished his 15th edition in 2006.[3]

He is now head of a cycling team of professional riders, called Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux.

Lucien Van Impe lives in Impe [2] (his family name refers to that town) with his wife Rita, he has two grown up children, a son and a daughter. His house is called Alpe D'Huez, after the French mountain where he took the yellow jersey (the leader in the Tour de France) in 1976. When he came home that year, the bar where his supporters gathered every day to watch him win the Tour, was painted yellow entirely.

During and after his professional career, Van Impe has never tested positive, refused a doping test or confessed having used doping.[4]

He has been honoured by a tasteful abstract statue on his bike, on a stone plinth on a small roundabout in Belgium at 180km before the finish of Belgium's blue-ribband event, the Tour of Flanders.

Career achievements[edit]

Major results[edit]

1st Stage 8 Tour de l'Avenir
1st Overall Vuelta Ciclista a Navarra
1st Stage 6 Tour of Belgium
3rd Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Mountains classification
4th Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Mountains classification
1st Stage 12
5th Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 12b
2nd Overall Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 3
1st Stage 3 GP du Midi-Libre
3rd Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Mountains classification
1st Stages 14 & 18
1st Overall Tour de l'Aude
1st Stage 1 & 3
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 14
2nd Overall GP du Midi-Libre
1st Stage 4b
1st Stage 2b Tour de l'Aude
3rd Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Mountains classification
1st Stage 15b
3rd Overall Critérium du Dauphiné
1st Stage 6
2nd Overall Tour de Suisse
1st Stages 7 & 8
5th Overall Vuelta a España
1st Stage 15
1st Stage 16 Tour de France
1st Stage 7b Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Mountains classification
1st Stage 5
4th Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Jersey green.svg Mountains classification
1st MaillotBélgica.PNG National Road Race Champion
4th Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Mountains classification
1st Stage 19
9th Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Jersey green.svg Mountains classification
1st Stage 11
1st Overall Vuelta a los Valles Mineros
1st Stage 1

Grand Tour general classification results timeline[edit]

Grand Tour 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986
Vuelta a España 5 11
Giro d'Italia 4 9 7 13
Tour de France 12 6 3 4 5 18 3 1 3 9 11 16 2 4 27
Did not compete
DNF Did not finish


  1. ^ "Past results for Lucien VAN IMPE (BEL)". Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
  2. ^ [1] Archived 25 August 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Historical results - Tour de France". Cycling hall of fame.
  4. ^ Randewijk, Marije (7 July 2007). "Ik zal toch niet de enige zijn?" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant.

External links[edit]