Legendary Dutch rider Hennie Kuiper talks to The Handmade Cyclist about his stunning coffee table book 'Champion Willpower', a collection of incredible photos spanning his 15-year career in cycling.



What was the inspiration behind Champion Willpower?

It all started with my son, Bjorn Kuiper. For the last ten to fifteen years, he’s been collecting photographs. He was just 8 years old when I ended my cycling career, so it was his way of understanding what I’d achieved. At the end of 2016 he started talking about creating a photo book of my career. At around the same time Joop Holthausen – a great sports reporter who has created numerous books – approached me as well. Bjorn and Joop started talking with one another and that was the start of it all.



How did you collate such a huge range of stunning photography?

I collected a lot of photos throughout my career – I had 34 photobooks that my son had digitalized. But most of the great material came directly from the photographers of that era themselves. Names such as Cor Vos, Hans Heus, Berry Stokvis, CB van Flymen, Bruno Bade, John Pierce, Tonny Strouken and KJ van der Weij. We reached out to them and they were all more than willing to look into their archives for us, which we really appreciated – this is what shaped the book.



Which is your favourite photo, or selection of photos, and why?

Tough question – it is really hard to choose! The photo on the climb of the L'Alpe D’Huez of 1978 where I drop Bernard Hinault is definitely one of my favourites. I was so strong that day. It is one of the few or perhaps the only day that I beat Hinault. A few days later in the stage from Grenoble–Morzine, Hinault reached out to me as he was getting nervous when I went to the front of the race. Sadly enough I was too nonchalant with my powers that day and crashed on the descent of the Granier, crushing my dreams of winning the Tour once more.




Which is your favourite race as a spectator, and which was your favourite as a rider?

My favourite race to watch and race is Paris-Roubaix. Paris-Roubaix is for riders with stamina, it fits with the title of the book: Champion Willpower. You have to maintain a certain spirit, no matter how many flat tires or crashes you have. You have to push on through, show determination and reserve to win the race. In all the editions I rode I never quit and always finished. Only the truly strongest riders, mentally and leg wise, win in Paris-Roubaix. There are no lucky winners…although that can be said for all the five classics.



And finally, Hennie’s son Bjorn on their unique collaboration with The Handmade Cyclist…

For my father’s 60th birthday in 2009 I was looking for a special gift. My search led me to The Handmade Cyclist. I had seen Neil’s artwork before and I really liked the prints he did for the classics. I reached out to him to get a set of his posters in a smaller format so I could make a picture frame of the five classics with matching photos of my dad’s career. This was a huge success and still hangs in my father’s living room – it is always a nice conversation starter when people visit him. So when we started working on the idea for the special items for the book I immediately thought about the picture frame again and thought of ways to add it to the book. This resulted in a collection of postcards that is now part of the special edition of Champion Willpower.



Above: Hennie celebrating his 60th birthday.  His son Bjorn wanted to celebrate his father's achievements with The Handmade Cyclist Monuments artwork.  Pictured; Hennie with the framed artwork and a photo underneath of Hennie finishing each Monument race (winning four of the five) . Chapeau!

March 28, 2018 — Wendy Wyatt