Olympic Games
short story

In pursuit of André Noyelle. An Olympic champion

2min reading time   by Yves Leterme on 01 August 2022
Flanders is race and race is Flanders. Fortunately Ypres is also a lot of racing and a lot of riders. One of those Ypres riders is definitely unique and was unrivalled for a very long time. Greg Van Avermaet was in 2016 the second Belgian to win Olympic gold on the road. 64 years earlier, on 2 August 1952, on the penultimate day of the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Ypres resident André Noyelle, born in Poelkapelle, did it before him.

André Noyelle was even a little bit better than Van Avermaet. He also won gold in the team classification in Helsinki, together with Robert Grondelaers (second) and Lucien Victor (fourth) - Rik Van Looy, the fourth Belgian, gave up. Three weeks later, the Olympic champion also took World Championship silver in Luxembourg with the amateurs. That unusually successful August 1952 was the start of a very regular career as a professional cyclist for the 20-year-old Noyelle, which would end only 14 years later with a nice list of honour in Flemish, French and Swiss races.

A few years ago, I was in Helsinki for a speech on behalf of the OECD. I arrived a bit early in the day and let myself be taken to the Olympic stadium and afterwards to Käpylä, the place in the Finnish capital where in 1952 the Olympic village was and where the Olympic road race ended. An elderly man pointed out the exact arrival point to me and pronounced the name André Noyelle from memory. The guide suggested that I visit the Helsingin Kaupunginmuseo or Helsinki City Museum. I could not miss it. Right at the entrance, there was a wall-sized colour picture of André Noyelle, dragging in full pulling at the head of a group of escapees, on their way to Olympic gold. And a little further on in the museum, the new Olympic champion in the matching jersey.

Even closer to home, André Noyelle's life and career left their mark: His wife Noella's pub became Café Helsinki at the roundabout on Malou Avenue, there was a thriving Noyelle bicycle business in Goesdamstraat, there is the André Noyelle Grand Prix for juniors ... And four years ago, posthumously, the Noyelle path was added, which now safely takes schoolchildren and other cyclists from Poperingseweg, near André and Noella's former bicycle business, to Dikkebusseweg. A lasting reminder of Ypres' most prominent cyclist ever, a part of Ypres' (sports) history.

André Noyelle

André Noyelle (29 November 1931 – 4 February 2003) was a road racing cyclist from Belgium. He won the gold medal in the men's individual road race at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. At the same tournament he also claimed the title in the men's team road race, alongside Robert Grondelaers and Lucien Victor. He was a professional rider from 1953 to 1966.
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