Johan Museeuw took us on a tour of his home roads in Belgium. We quickly realised he is treated like royalty — quite rightly so, being a 3x winner of the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix…
We popped into a local bakery for some mid-ride mattentaart — from a young girl drinking hot chocolate with her parents, to an elderly man fetching a fresh baguette, all were excited to meet the Lion of Flanders, and wish him well on his ride. In his youth, Belgian-born Bradley Wiggins idolised the 1996 World Champion. That’s the beauty of Belgium, it is the heartland of cycling, and Johan has the heart of a Lion.
Johan rode at the helm of the iconic Italian-based Mapei team (managed by Patrick Lefevere, who continues the legacy of Mapei through Deceuninck–Quick-Step), who dominated the road between 18th May 1993 and the end of the 2002 season with a total of 654 wins under their belt. 1995 was a notable year for the cube-clad super team, they finished top of the team standings in the World Cup and International Cycling Union world rankings, and Johan was crowned the overall winner of the World Cup.
Mapei’s slogan was “Winning together” - nothing fulfilled this promise quite like when a Mapei trio crossed the line during the 1996 Paris-Roubaix, Johan in 1st place, with Gianluca Bortolami and Andrea Tafi behind him.
Now, it’s no secret that riders will risk life and limb to add a monument to their palmarès. Most will never come close, but in 1998 Johan fell victim to the notorious Trouée d’Arenberg and shattered his knee so badly there were fears he may lose his leg.
Just two years later Johan would return to face the race that nearly put an end to it all. This time skating over the Arenberg cobbles without turbulence, entering the Roubaix velodrome to a gladiatorial roar for the Classics hero. As he crossed the finish line victorious Johan unclipped, raised his leg and pointed towards his knee, dispelling all of the pain and agony from that fateful day in 1998. This would be the iconic image behind perhaps the greatest comeback in the history of cycling.
Johan is heralded as ‘the Classics Rider of a generation’ — his protégé, Tom Boonen, become the next in line to don such a title. However, Johan will tell you that his biggest victory was simply returning to his bike:
"When I got back on it I simply rode for an hour, taking my time. I felt as though I’d been reborn. It was the happiest day of my career.” - Johan Museeuw.
Today Johan continues to ride for pleasure, making him the archetype Joyrider and fine company at the dinner table.
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