Bram Tankink retired from professional cycling in 2018, aged 39, after an astounding 18 years as a pro. The peloton said goodbye to a beloved rider who was nearly always cheerful. To coincide with his retirement, Tankink published a biography in which he unveiled his life so far. The book includes a host of interesting information about his life on and off the bike. Here are six things you perhaps didn’t know about the man behind the smile.

Love beats racing

During his second year as a professional, Bram Tankink was racing in the Tour of Germany. During the first stage, after attacking hard and regularly, he won, winning all three leader’s shirts (overall leader, sprinter and climber). Each subsequent day he lost a shirt. On the third day (his last in the leader’s yellow jersey), he received a text message from a girl he fancied: “Are you in Maastricht? We’re going out on the town.” He didn’t want to miss the chance, and convinced the team he was sick. The next day he drove to Maastricht and went out with Vera, who became his wife. Detail: the following day he really was ill.

Bram Tankink Ronde van Duitsland

Bram Tankink in the leader’s jersey. Credit: Cor Vos

Back from holiday by bike

When he was 14, Bram, his brother, and a friend cycled over 1,000km from their holiday destination in Le-Puy-en-Velay back to Haaksbergen in the Netherlands. The boys had two bags on each bike and cycled between 100km and 120km a day. They included all the mountainous regions on their route and passed through the Alps, the Vosges, Jura, Saarbrücken, and Sauerland before they eventually arrived home.

Starting a professional race with 11 patches on his inner tube

Bram’s first racing bike was a purple Colnago. He didn’t think twice when he was unexpectedly invited to start at a professional stage race. Once he had arrived, his bike became the centre of attention in the team. The seatpost bolt was missing. “I took it out to save weight, because my seatpost is rusted solid,” he writes. Tankink knew his seatpost was rusted, but he hadn’t actually noticed that the bolt had vibrated loose. He also had an inner tube fitted that had been repaired 11 times.

Bram Tankink, “most stylish rider”

Tankink won the intermediate sprint classification during the Tour of the Basque Country 2011. This was mainly by accident, as he crossed the line first during attacks. But as he made his way from the podium after collecting his prize, he was waylaid and asked to get on the podium again. As his name was called over the loudspeaker, Tankink received a bigger cup than the one he has just picked up. He had been voted the “most stylish rider” in the peloton!

Bram Tankink ronde van het baskenland

Bram Tankink on the podium of the Tour of the Basque Country. Credit: Cor Vos

Training rules

There’s no other rider like Bram Tankink. During his 18 years as a professional racer he has developed a number of his own training rules. Tankink often started his training rides on an empty stomach, as there was a coffee break scheduled. (Every worker has the right to a coffee break, and that includes bike racers.) Often the coffee was accompanied by a decent piece of apple pie. Also, 40 minutes on the home trainer is equivalent to 1 hour on the road, as you often have to stop pedalling while out on the road. The number of hours on a bike may also be rounded up to the nearest quarter hour. Four hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds, may be noted as 4 1/4 hours. When riding a mountain bike one has to pedal harder, therefore 4 hours mountain bike riding is equivalent to 6 hours on the road.

Nature lover

Bram Tankink respects nature. He enjoys his surroundings, even during the most challenging mountain stages, but it also brings him new opportunities. Because he suffers from exercise-induced asthma, due to cycling in polluted air, Tankink wants to contribute to creating a cleaner future. His team-building skills as a road captain will now be put to use in order to build a more sustainable future at his new job in the Limburg Province-based Brightlands Chemelot Campus, which develops smart materials and sustainable manufacturing processes.

Bram Tankink Tour de France

Bram enjoys the natural surroundings even on the toughest race days. Credit: Cor Vos