Sport: Making of an Emperor

Big-time bicycle racing is no sport for the squeamish. Perilous and punishing, it promises lung-searing fatigue, bone-smashing crashes, and the kind of nasty guerrilla warfare among competitors better employed in the jungle. Racers have been known to ram each other off mountain curves, to strew tacks in the road behind them, to urinate into the wind so that it blows back in the eyes of their opponents. So taxing is the sport that few champions enjoy a long reign.

But one man who has been on top—or near it—for twelve years is Belgium's hawknosed Rik Van Looy. To his fans, Van Looy...

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