With the sad news that Peter Post had died on Friday in Amsterdam at the age of 77, cycling has lost one of the greatest personalities and talents the sport has ever known, both on and off the bike.
Born in Amsterdam in November 1933, his childhood years were spent in Nazi occupied Holland.
He turned professional in 1956 for Legendary Amsterdam bicycle makers RIH Sport.
By the time his pro career ended in 1972, he had ridden for some of the most famous teams in the history of cycle racing. They included Flandria, Faema, Solo-Superia and Willem 11.
As a road rider Post won the Paris-Roubaix in 1964 and there were podium places in Paris-Brussels, GP E3, Fleche-Wallonne, Rund um Koln and Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Peter Post on the right, with teammate Rik Van Looy.
On the track Post is best remembered as a six day rider; his 65 wins beat the previous record held by Belgian rider Rik Van Steebergen, and stood as a world record for a number of years. Today he is placed fourth in the all time rankings behind Patrick Sercu with 88, Rene Pijnen with 74 and Danny Clark 72 wins.
(Picture left.) Peter Post on the right with Fritz Pfenninger as European Madison Champions.
To get a true grasp of Post’s standing as a Six-Day rider one has to understand that during their careers, Sercu competed in a total 223 Six Day events, Pijnen 233, and Clark rode in 235.
While Post’s 4th place in the all time rankings was achieved competing in 155 Six-Day races; which means he won 42% of the six day races he started.
Incidentally, Peter Post's first Six Day win came in 1957 in Chicago, when he parnered with Harm Smits; back when America still hosted Six Day events.
He won most major European six day races at least once – Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Bremen, Brussels, Cologne, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Gent, Grenoble, London, Milan, Munster, Rotterdam and Zurich.
I was fortunate enough to see Peter Post in 1968 when he partnered with Patrick Sercu and won the London Six Day event at Wembly Stadium.
As a measure of his versatility, in Antwerp 1965, Post set the derny-paced hour record of 63.783 km, (39.63 miles.) beating Stan Ockers' record which had stood for nine years.
(Above left to right.) Patrick Sercu, Peter Post, Rik Van Looy. The fourth man is a Derny pacer.
In his day, Peter Post was one of the world’s best pursuit riders, he was a multiple Dutch champion and took bronze and silver in the world pro pursuit championships; he happened to be competing in a golden era of pursuiting against such greats as Bracke, Faggin and Porter.
When Post’s professional career ended in 1972 a new challenge awaited him. British bicycle manufacturer Raleigh launched a pro team in 1973; the team’s initial showing was less than spectacular. All this changed when Post was recruited to manage the team for 1974; and so began the story of perhaps one of the most successful teams in cycling history.
He dropped many of the British riders from the team, which didn’t set too well with the UK cycling establishment; after all Raleigh is a British company. The team was made up of mostly Dutch and Belgian riders; Peter Post was branded as anti-British.
Scotsman Billy Bilsland, one of the few Brits who survived the cut, once stated; “Post wasn’t anti-British, he was anti-failure!” Peter Post was a tough task master and would accept nothing less than a total commitment of effort from his riders.
The results speak for themselves. 1974: 55 wins; 1975: 55 wins; 1976: 71 wins; 1977: 68 wins; 1978: 94wins; 1979: 99 wins; 1980: 120 wins; 1981: 94 wins; 1982: 92 wins; 1983: 100 wins.
During this period the team won virtually every important one day race on the calendar - including the world professional road title with riders like Jan Raas, Gerrie Knetemann, Roy Schuiten and Dietrich Thurau- and the 1980 Tour de France, with Joop Zoetemelk. That year also saw the team win 11 stages in the Tour.
Due the team’s success, Raleigh’s brand recognition had reached its highest level by the early 1980s. The company decided it had achieved its intended goal, and eventually ended sponsorship. Post was always the shrewd businessman who could negotiate with companies to obtain the best deal for the team and its riders; he obtained sponsorship for his team from the Japanese electronics company Panasonic.
Post’s men continued to be a major force in the sport of professional cycling into the 1990s. Post retired in 1995 having changed forever the way cycling teams are presented and managed.
Results-wise he is the second most successful cycling manager in the history of the sport; only Guillaume Driessens bettered Post’s record, and his success could be largely attributed to the fact that Driessens was Eddy Merckx’s boss.
One of his contemporaries said; “Peter Post was hard on riders – but was hardest on himself.” Hard or not, there were riders who spent their whole careers with him; but there were also riders who never again performed at the level they achieved with Post after they left Raleigh having had ‘better’ offers from other teams.
Eric Vanderaerden who won the Tour of Flanders in 1985 and Paris-Roubaix in 1987 as a Panasonicman said, “Post was a great motivator, we might have had our doubts about the weather, the strength of the opposition . But during the course of a pre-race meal he had such an effect on us that we rose from the table thinking; “we are unbeatable!”
(Above.) Three generations of the worlds greatest six day stars. L to R Peter Post [Holland], Gus Killian [Germany] and Torchy Peden [Canada]. A total of 137 victories between them.
Peter Post during his lifetime was an outstanding road and trackman, and a six day super star. When that was over he became one of the world’s greatest in the role as Directeur Sportif.
Although a tough team manager, he no doubt had the respect of his riders because he had previously earned respect himself as a rider. It is always easier to take directions from someone who knows first hand exactly what you are experiencing.
Peter Post’s nickname as a rider was “de Lange,” or “Big Man,” because he was tall for a cyclist. Last Friday 14th. January 2011, the world of cycling lost a Big Man indeed.