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By Ed Hood
Remembering one of the great Dutch cyclists
Less than a month after the death of Peter Post, Dutch cycling has lost another of its ‘Greats’ with the news that Fedor Den Hertog succumbed on Saturday 12th February, 2011, after a long battle with illness. Ed Hood recalls his impressive career.
For anyone involved in cycle sport in the late 60’s and early 70’s, amateur Den Hertog’s name was as well known as any of the top professionals. Born to a Dutch father and Ukrainian mother in Utrecht on 20th April 1946 he made a name for himself in the hard school of Holland’s amateur cycling and by 1966 was the national military champion.
The following year the progression continued with stage victories in the Tour de l’Avenir and amateur Tour of Belgium; but a bad crash prematurely ended his season and very nearly, his career.
Den Hertog’s comeback in 1968, which saw him take the Dutch pursuit title and GC in the Circuit des Mines stage race in France, was capped with a gold medal in the Mexico Olympics. Partnered by riders who would soon become household names – Rene Pijnen and Joop Zoetemelk – backed by the less well known but very strong Jan Krekels, he became Olympic champion in the 100 kilometre team time trial.
Fedor Den Hertog (20 April 1946 – 12 February 2011)
In 1969 he again took stages in the l’Avenir and Tour of Belgium not to mention his first win in the tough amateur Tour of Britain ‘Milk Race’ – a feat he would repeat in 1971.
The year of his second Milk Race triumph also saw him second on GC in the Tour de l’Avenir to the classy Frenchman Regis Ovion – but in 1972 Den Hertog made good the gap in his palmares by winning the race overall from Swiss, Ivan Schmid. His domination of the World’s best amateur stage races continued into 1973 with his winning his ‘home’ Olympia Tour of Holland despite his being heavily marked.
He was also a stylish and effective ‘chrono man’ with wins in the Grands Prix de France and des Nations. Den Hertog’s philosophy was unlike most riders of his – and indeed the current era – in that he did not want to turn professional.
In those pre-Mondialisation days he revelled in the world travel being on a top amateur team afforded – his palmares include GC podium finishes in races as diverse as the Tours of Morocco and Mexico.
In 1969 he said in an interview with the British ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine; ‘I don’t want to turn pro because I don’t think I have the mentality for it. If you’re a pro, you have to do well when your boss expects you to. It’s a case of, “you do well, or else;” you have to take an injection, and I don’t want that.’
Early days as an amateur in 1971
At the end of 1973, backed by his Frisol Oil team sponsors, he fought a successful battle against the Dutch Federation which was trying to enforce a ruling that amateurs over the age of 25 could not sign a contract with a sponsored club but must ride as individuals.
Despite the success of his action he did indeed turn pro for 1974, saying that he was sick of the wrangling with the Federation and as a recently engaged man needed to think more about financial matters.
Despite the pundits saying that he never realised his true potential as a pro he nevertheless built palmares which most riders would be more than happy with, including stages in the Tours of France, Holland, the Mediterranean and Spain; he took a stage in Paris-Nice; stood on the GC podium in the Tour of Romandie and in 1977 took the Dutch pro road race championships for Frisoil in a year when Raleigh’s ‘total cycling machine’ was consuming all before it.
He was with Frisoil for four years, Lejeune and Ijsboerke one season each; with his final two years as a pro spent with Vermeer. A man of obvious humor, a scan through Cor Vos’ archives reveals a number of photos of den Hertog bedecked in a variety of chapeaus.
A complex man, not consumed with lust for the riches the sport can confer he was as liable to spend time in a bar or disco the evening before an important stage as he was to pay a visit to the local church.
After his pro career he opened a bike shop but that did not meet with success, nor was his personal life straightforward.
But to those who remember Fedor astride his red all Campagnolo RIH sport machine, he was the very epitome of how a man should look on a racing bicycle.
Fedor Den Hertog, amateur colossus and successful pro, rest in peace.
Fedor den Hertog – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fedor Iwan den Hertog (20 April 1946 – 12 February 2011) was a Dutch racing cyclist. He won the Olympic 100 km team time trial in 1968 with Joop Zoetemelk, René Pijnen and Jan Krekels. He also won the national road championship in 1977.
As an amateur, Den Hertog won the British Milk Race in 1969 and 1971. His most outstanding performance was the Rheinland-Pfalz tour in Germany in 1969, when he won nine of 11 stages and overall, 36 minutes ahead of the field. He was national road champion in 1968 and pursuit champion in 1968 and 1971. He came third in the Olympic team time trial in 1972, won the Grand Prix des Nations in 1969 and 1970, and in 1969 won the Tour of Belgium. An accident with a car in the Belgian Ardennes on 17 August 1967 came close to ending his career. Den Hertog was considered the best amateur of his time, and many professional teams wanted him, but he declined out of fear to lose his freedom.
In 1974, Den Hertog finally turned professional but he had passed his peak. He first rode the Tour de France in 1974. He rode three times for the Dutch team, Frisol, coming 27th, 18th and then not finishing, although in 1977 he won the stage to Rouen. He broke away from the field 21 km from the finish and won by 20 seconds. He dropped out with knee pain in the 13th stage. He also rode for Lejeune-BP and the Belgian team, IJsboerke-Warncke Eis, but never with the success he had as an amateur.
He won a stage in the Vuelta à España in 1977 but retired soon afterwards. He opened a bicycle business in Dilsen in Belgium but closed it for “personal circumstances”.
His brother, Nidi, was a professional from 1974 to 1980.
Fedor den Hertog was 1.83 metres (6.0 ft) tall and weighed 76 kilograms (170 lb). In 2007, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, from which he died in February 2011.