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Dutch legend Knetemann dies at 53

Knetemann celebrates winning a stage in the Tour de France

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Dutchman Gerrie Knetemann, the world road race champion in 1978, has died of a heart attack aged just 53.

Knetemann died while out riding a bike with friends at his birthplace of Bergen in the north west of the Netherlands.

His career spanned 15 years (1974-1989) which saw him win 10 stages in the Tour de France and he was regarded as one of the finest classics riders in the world, winning the Amstel Gold Race twice and Paris-Nice.

Knetemann, who leaves a wife and two children, recorded 130 victories and after his retirement became the selector for the Dutch cycling team, a post he still held.

"He was an outstanding athlete and an example to everyone," said Joop Atsma, president of the Dutch Cycling Federation,

Top Dutch cyclist Michael Boogerd couldn't believe that Knetemann had died. "It is a huge shock. 53 years of age is too young to die," he said.

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