Lake Cycling Legends: Steven Rooks

Lake Cycling Legends: Steven Rooks

An uphill journey into cycling history

Most of the Netherlands is flat. Indeed, a great percentage of the country, near to the North Sea coast is below sea level, with a landscape made for cyclists who want to ride fast. There are parts of this amazing country, in the South, around Arnhem and Maastricht, that are hilly; but in the main, we rarely see a Dutch cyclist coming to the fore for their world-leading climbing ability. Steven Rooks however was different – very different. Add to this, that he was riding in that tough and unrelenting cycling period of the 1980s and 90s, with the peloton filled with legendary climbers, and his achievements at the highest level become even more remarkable and inspiring.

This quietly spoken Dutchman, who hadn’t come from a sporting family, and didn’t take up cycling until he was 18, found out early on in his cycling journey that he had a gift for going uphill – and doing so faster than most people in the world. Having been introduced by a friend who was a cyclist, Steven entered a few races locally and came 6th, giving him the motivation he needed to take on more. Having then joined a club and got his race licence, then winning a number of criterium races in his local region, Stevn then found himself competing in the 1980 Championship of Holland, his first big race.

Racing to attention and the ride into the pro peloton

Yes, he’d travelled a bit in a few European countries by then, racing in Poland, Switzerland and Germany, and Steven had noticed that he was good on the climbs. The 1980 Dutch National Championships were in the south, and so had a few climbs on the route that suited him. He dropped a well-known Dutch rider from that period, and nearly came in the top 3 places, finishing a close fourth, with the commentator asking, “Who’s that guy!” Steven, whilst only 20 years of age, and having only been cycling for 2 or 3 years, had arrived on the scene and people wanted to know his name.

By 1982, Steven was invited as an amateur to compete in Paris-Nice, alongside other teams with names such as Adri van der Poel and Sean Kelly. It was, as Steven himself says, “A phenomenal field of riders from that period – some great cyclists.” Finishing 8th in the Prologue, he showed his abilities to the other teams and the onlooking Directeur Sportif's. On the final stage into Nice, Steven finished 15th, his third top 20 finish of the race, putting him in 20th GC and firmly in the eyes of the watching pro teams, such as Peter Post from Ti Raleigh, and he joined the pro rider ranks.

Winning at the highest level

Here at Lake Cycling Shoes, we try to give our best, every time we create a cycling shoe, and we fit it onto the feet of riders. We always strive to be the best, because in doing so, we provide cyclists with the ultimate in comfort and performance. That’s an ethos we share with Steven; and, when he joined the pro peloton, he made an immediate impact, winning the spring classic, Liège–Bastogne–Liège for the first time in 1983, providing Steven with one of his most amazing moments in cycling: “It was incredible, and it changed my career!”

By 1988, now an established rider and climber, Steven achieved his greatest ever result, winning the legendary Alpe D’Huez mountain stage of the Tour de France and taking the Polka Dot jersey all the way to Paris, also finishing second in GC to Pedro Delgado. Speaking with Steven, ha says “It was a dream. The finish is incredible and it’s a memory to stay with me forever. My name hangs forever on corner 9! I was the first Dutch rider ever to win the climbers jersey – incredible feeling!” Standing in Paris, wearing the jersey felt incredible, and was the pinnacle of his career.

Since those days, pro cycling has changed; not just the riders, but the kit and equipment, and the nutrition that cyclists take on. As Steven says, “My hardest moments were with the nutrition in events such as the Tour. WE would ride 200-300 km in the mountains. The food was for 21 days the same. We didn’t get good food to race each day at same level. These days the nutrition is targeted to each rider specifically. It’s much healthier these days. We had more mental pressure to ride and it made you strong in the mind to get to the start.” Thankfully though, his journey with Lake cycling shoes was far more enjoyable.

Riding in 100% comfort – with Lake cycling shoes

Steven recalls the introduction of the Look clipless pedal in 1984 and how it helped his own cycling. “My feet have problems, so during my racing career I changed a lot of shoes. After Look came in with new style pedals, it was better for me, as the stiffness of shoe improved.”

Searching for something to make his own post-pro career more comfortable, he came across Lake, and recalls how it felt when he first put on our road cycling shoes: “It was like being in heaven – 100% a good feeling.  The range of [Lake cycling] shoes are good for everyone, whatever size and shape your feet are. I like the larger toe box on the newer models, and the stiffness and performance are excellent – always has been. They’re super comfortable.”

His current shoes are the Lake CX332, which he’s about to change for our latest CX333, probably in a custom design to match his bike and cycling kit – and why not! After all, we provide an excellent custom shoe design service for all riders. Steven still rides three times a week and has also used our race readyCX403 shoes, with their sleek design and carbitex panels and heat moulded heels.

Comfort equals performance and adds to happiness

Riding through the 1980s and into the modern era of cycling, as both a leading member of the pro peloton and these days as a keen leisure cyclist, Steven knows how important it is to have the very best cycling shoes in the world, wrapping your hard-working feet in comfort. Ultimately, comfort equals performance, and when it also comes with the highest quality materials and modern styling, then you’re already on your way to the top. You may not win your won Polka Dot jersey, but you’ll have lots more smiles along those tough cycling miles, like this legend of Dutch and world cycling, Steven Rooks, with your feet wrapped in our legendary Lake cycling shoe comfort.

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