De Omloop 70 Years Old

It’s finally here: the official start of the season.
And this year we celebrate the birthday of Omloop het Nieuwsblad.
The opening classic of the season is already 70 years old.
Last year Ian Stannard from the UK won, but the very first
race was won by the Belgian rider Jean Bogaerts.
The first edition of the Belgian race took place in 1945.
Back then, the race was called Omloop van Vlaanderen,
but this looked too similar to that other important Belgian race,
so they decided to change it to Omloop het Volk in 1947.
Het Volk was the name of the newspaper that organised the race.
But in 2008, Het Volk became Het Nieuwsblad, so the name changed again.
Many people were shocked, but right now the commotion has settled
down and people seem to have acknowledged the new name.
At the beginning, many people also used to call the race
Gent-Gent, because start and finish were in this city.
At first, 14 Belgians won the race, before an Irish lad
with the name Seamus Eliott managed to beat Fred de Bruyne.
Eliott was the first non-Belgian who won OHN in 1959.
Only in 1960, 1986 and in 2004 the race was cancelled.
Now, if we look at the very first race and its very first winner,
the times were surely a lot different than they are now.
Jean Bogaerts is still alive and has turned 90 years old in January.
Two years ago, he said in an interview that he still rides a bike.
He is still the youngest winner of the Omloop, because he was
only 20 years old when he won the classic opening of the season.
He had to travel to the race by bike, because of World War II.
He would leave the day before, travel 60 kilometres and sleep in Gent.
The next day he rode the Omloop, which was 187 kilometres.
It’s a distance Jean Bogaerts will never forget. And afterwards,
someone wanted to bring him home, but Bogaerts thought: now
I’m going home by bike as well! A real go-getter, that man.
He says he never used any doping, but he did notice that other men
were taking pills. His secret? Eggs, sugar and a bit of cognac in his bottle.
Yes, he put 20 egg yolks in each bottle with some brown sugar.
He would drink two bottles of his creation during the race and
today, he still believes that it helped him secure the victory.
At the time, there was no help from other teammates, according
to mister Bogaerts. Nowadays, you have a whole sponsored team
to back you up, but this wasn’t the case in the 1940s at all.
He thinks it’s a shame, because you can’t call it a ‘natural race’ anymore.
But thanks to Jean Bogaerts, we still have the memories.

Jean Bogaerts Then and NowCyclist Jean Bogaerts back in the days and in 2013

That’s Amore

♫ Cannondale-Garmin – That’s Amore 

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore, that’s amore
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore, that’s amore

#GreenArgyle | YouTube Cannondale-Garmin | Valentine’s Day 2015

Bon Voyage!

♫ Blaudzun – Bon Voyage! 

“I am the city, come right with me, bon voyage
… around around around around around …
I am the hot wheels, spinning on steep hills, bon courage”

Utrecht, The Netherlands | | Tour de France 2015

Race Of The Falling Leaves

I look outside and there’s a song in my head.
“The falling leaves drift by my window,
the falling leaves of red and gold.”
It’s a classic song, covered by many artists.
I’m also thinking of the final cycling classic.
In Italy, the leaves also start to fall again.
The cycling season is almost over, but there is still
the 5th and final Cycling Monument to look forward to.
The classic used to be called Milano-Milano at first,
then it quickly changed to Giro di Lombardia in 1907.
Since 2012, the name of the race is Il Lombardia.
This cycling classic is special; it does not only mark the end
of the season, but is also a race for riders who still
have the power to give it all at the very end of the season.
For most riders, it will be the last race of 2014.
One could argue that with their vacation in mind, they can
fully focus on Il Lombardia and excel one last time.
However, it is hard to pick a favourite rider for the win.
Which rider will still be fit enough, one week after the
World Championships and many efforts during the season?
Aren’t some already relaxing on a faraway beach in their mind?
Michal Kwiatkowski will be riding in the rainbow jersey for the
first time after he won the road race in Ponferrada last Sunday.
Many people think it will give him extra motivation and
see him as one of the biggest candidates for the victory.
The past two years, Joaquim Rodriguez won the race.
In fact, the last five editions weren’t won by Italians.
Philippe Gilbert won in 2009 and 2010 and Oliver Zaugg in 2011.
Before that, there’s a long list of Italian winners.
In total, the Italians won 67 of the 107 editions.
Fausto Coppi holds the record; he won the race five times.
When you look at the sixties and seventies,
there’s one victory that particularly stands out.
There was Dutchman Jo de Roo who won the race twice
and there were many Italian and Belgian victories,
but in 1965, the race was won by a man from Great Britain.
Tom “Tommy” Simpson was his name.
The man who died two years afterwards on the Mont Ventoux.
He was wearing the rainbow jersey when he won the race.
It is the only victory for Great Britain up until now.
On Sunday, we see the famous Madonna del Ghisallo,
we see an altered course with new climbs, and
we see Cadel Evans race for the last time in Europe.
The leaves will fall down, just like in 1965.
But will another man win in the rainbow jersey?

That’s Incredible, You Know

1 October 2014

Michal Kwiatkowski.
The ‘flower power’ boy of the peloton.
Only two months ago he turned 24.
And last Sunday he won the elite men’s road title.
He said that his attack was a risky one.
It was raining, he went in the descent and no one followed him.
The group with Gerrans and Valverde chased him, but without any luck.
Kwiatkowski passed the finish line only a few seconds before Gerrans.
He will wear the rainbow jersey for the next season.
He dedicated the victory to his girlfriend, his family and to Poland.
Of course to Poland. He is the first rider from Poland to win this race.
Overall, Italy, France and Belgium have won most of the elite men’s road races.
But in the last few years other countries take over the lead.
In 2009, Cadel Evans was the first Australian rider,
in 2010 it was Thor Hushovd who made Norway proud and last year
Rui Costa from Portugal won the race as the first Portuguese rider.
All these victories remind me of another story about Tom Simpson.
In 1965, he was the first rider from Great Britain to win the world championships. He said that he couldn’t have done it
without his team, making this clear after the race.
“For one thing, we had decided that we had had enough of losing
championships and that this time we were all
working together – instead of each going out, one by one.”
They dominated the race, just like Poland dominated the race last Sunday.
Kwiatkowski also stated that he couldn’t have won the race without his teammates and that the plan was to work together as a team:
“I said right from the start that we have to lead the peloton,
because that was our best chance.”
He was right, it was their best chance.
He gambled and won, just like Tom Simpson did in 1965:
“You only get opportunities like that once in a lifetime, and I jumped at it.
I have said this to all of you in cycling – have faith in yourself
and in your ability to win, and you will get there.”
Michal Kwiatkowski had faith in himself and he got there.

The new World Champion / © Casey B. Gibson

A Sky Full Of Stars

Coldplay – A Sky Full Of Stars (Orica-GreenEDGE version)

“‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
I’m gonna give you my heart
‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
‘Cause you light up the path

Spain | | Girona 2014

Dear Michael

1 September 2014

Dear Michael,
it was great teamwork. You said it yourself. And so it was. You won the stage and took the red jersey. Michael Matthews, the leader in the Vuelta for three days. Don’t underestimate it, because wearing the leader’s jersey is something to be quite proud of. It’s just such a shame that all the attention in the cycling summary at the end of the season will go to that German sprinter, Marcel Kittel, winner of four stages in this year’s Tour de France. It’s impressive, I know. He also took the famous yellow jersey after the first stage, just like he did last year. It was a pity that he was only able to enjoy it for one day.

Impressive or not, what you’ve done this year is also pretty amazing. You are making great progress. Winning a stage in the Tour of Slovenia, becoming 2nd in the Brabantse Pijl, winning a stage in the Giro d’Italia. In fact, you wore the pink leader’s jersey for six days. Beat that, Kittel. In three weeks’ time you will turn 24. You are still so young. I dare to say that this year is your best year so far.

I honestly think that you are ready. You are ready for the Tour de France. I can’t wait to see you ride through the streets of Utrecht next year. And I can imagine that you want to sprint against Kittel. After all, he has beaten you twice in the Giro earlier this year. You must want revenge for that. The Tour de France will be the perfect opportunity to do so. On the first day, in the first sprint. You just have to cross the finish line before all the other sprinters. And Kittel, of course. And if you manage to do that, then you will not only win the first stage, you will also be the first leader. Now don’t worry, I’m sure that after pink and red, yellow will look fine on you too. Beat that, Kittel.

Ready For Take-Off

Today I have found more proof about the fact that boys will always be boys.
The third stage of the Vuelta started on a ship. And I’m not referring to those gigantic, white cruise ships. This morning the riders departed from a warship. An aircraft carrier to be more explicit. And most boys like aircrafts. I cannot describe in words what this carrier looks like, so for that I’d like to refer to the photo that Chris Froome took of it this morning.

Firstly, I will provide you with some information about the warship itself. It is the ‘Juan Carlos I’. It is named after king Juan Carlos, the former king of Spain. The ship can carry aircrafs and helicopters and it is 230 metres long. It is used by the Spanish navy for multiple purposes. Enough of that for now. If you are still in an urgent need of more details about this warship, just google it and read whatever you want to read about it.

Back to the proof that I’ve found. Tobias Ludvigsson from Team Giant-Shimano stated on Twitter that this was the “coolest start I ever had”. Cadel Evans from the BMC Racing Team mentioned that this start was “impressive” and Nathan Haas from Garmin-Sharp said that his morning “was better than my day”. He also referred to the movie ‘Top Gun’, by sending a tweet into the world that says: “take my breathe away you fantastic bike race you”. The soundtrack of that movie is ‘take my breath away’ by Berlin. And I have to admit, Manuel Quinziato does look a bit like Tom Cruise (you know, the handsome and famous actor in that movie) in the photo you can see below.

He was not the only rider who was lucky enough to take place in one of the aircrafts on the ship. Riders like Wout Poels, Imanol Erviti, Maxim Bouet and Oscar Gatto also had the opportunity to sit in an aircraft. Alexander Kolobnev even showed that he would be an excellent captain and Rigoberto Uran took a photo with one of the staff members. As you can see, all happy faces.
I think I have proven my point by now.


Wasn’t there any selfie today? Of course there was! What is a day without one? Three Belkin boys (Martijn Keizer, Stef Clement and Robert Gesink) show us the big crowd behind them, stating that many fans were present this morning to cheer for the riders (and take photos of that warship, I presume).

I do wonder: what is next? Today it is a warship, what will it be tomorrow?
The zoo? A football stadium? A swimming pool? With the current heat in Spain I think the riders prefer the last suggestion. I do know that the riders enjoyed themselves this morning. And that they will have some very sweet dreams tonight (about aircrafts, lots and lots of aircrafts).

Teams Aircraft

Dear Tony

26 July 2014

Dear Tony,
I was looking forward to this day.
Most of the time I dislike watching time trials.
Nevertheless, watching you makes everything alright.
Not because the time trial is your speciality, no.
It’s your head.
The head of a hard-working man.
A mine worker, a builder, a farmer perhaps.
Your head shows suffering and dedication at the same time.
Your open mouth, the teardrops of sweat all over your face
and your big eyes fixed on the road ahead of you.
Were you nervous for today?
Was there any pressure, since you’ve already won a stage in this Tour?
I guess there was, since you are the world champion in this discipline.
Of course there was some competition, but you were the favourite.
Do you know that some riders are scared?
Scared that one day you will put every rider in the peloton out of the time limit.
Once you have found your rhythm, you are going so fast.
It almost makes it impossible for others to follow you.
On the bike you show that you are going all the way.
You fight for every second, leaving other riders behind with nothing.
Remember that you already gave us a time trial in this Tour.
As a matter of fact, several of them.
Whenever you were at the head of the bunch, shaking your head
up and down, riding like a mad man, eyes on the road,
you were acting like it was a time trial to you.
And today was no exception to that.
Tony Martin. Two wins in one Tour.
‘Der Panzerwagen’ did it again.

The Tour Selfies #3

Wednesday, the 9th of July. Who doesn’t remember the Tour stage on that day? It was wet, muddy and there were eight strokes of cobblestones. It was the day that Chris Froome left the Tour de France, the day that Nibali gained a lot of seconds on his rivals and it was the day of Lars Boom; the winner of the day. He has also introduced a new kind of selfie. Let’s call it ‘the day after’ selfie. We see Boom sitting in the bus, all clean and ready for another day. Boring selfie. No, I prefer the selfies that were taken on the day itself, right after the finish. That muddy face of Ben King (GRS) shows how hard it was on the cobbles. Jérémy Roy (FDJ) shares a photo from before the race and after the race with us, so we can clearly see the difference. It is also quite hard to recognize Paul Voss from Team NetApp-Endura. On the other hand, the boys from Movistar look like they had a good time on the bike that day. And although the boys of Team Giant-Shimano are still smiling, they really need to take a shower.

More selfies were taken since the cobblestone stage. Actually, Team Astana takes the phenomenon to a whole new level. They introduced the ‘gangster selfie’ to us. Michael Scarponi and Lieuwe Westra are particularly good at taking these kind of selfies. But I guess I wouldn’t want to run into Kévin Réza and Bryan Coquard from Europcar either. These guys can also pull some intense faces. Thomas Voeckler is famous for pulling different faces during a race, but his teammates can pull this off too. In fact, Réza looks funny in a selfie with another teammate, Perrig Quemeneur. On a rest day, funny photos always seem to appear more often than usual. Riders obviously need to relax and have some time on their hands. So Marcel Sieberg posted a selfie where we see that the Lotto-Belisol boys can also ride without their hands on the handlebars. It’s a classic: ‘Look mom, no hands!’ But José Serpa (LAM) finally had the time to shave and posted a selfie of his ‘less hairy face’. “At last,” he tweets, “a bit of time to shave”. Ben King (GRS) is just happy that it finally got a lot sunnier in France on the rest day.

Samuel Dumoulin and Romain Bardet from AG2R La Mondiale felt like they had to look sharp on the 14th of July, the French National Day. On La Fête nationale – or Bastille Day – the French riders always try their hardest to stand out and show their capabilities to the French public. This year, it was Tony Gallopin (LTB) who got to wear the yellow jersey on his country’s national day. This was a very special moment for him. Adam Hansen was also very happy with this and took a selfie of him and Gallopin in the yellow jersey. Besides that, Dumoulin and Bardet were happy with their Oakley sunglasses and tried to look tough and ready for action when they took a selfie of themselves before the stage.

A selfie is also a nice way to show who you have to share a room with during this year’s Tour. We learn that Paul Voss and Andreas Schillinger (TNE) are roommates in this Tour edition and since the first rest day the brothers Brice and Romain Feillu (BSE) are reunited again. Alessandro De Marchi and Marco Marcato (CAN) share a room as well, but in their selfie, they also include a reference to their teammate Peter Sagan. At the Tour’s team presentation in Yorkshire in the UK, Sagan showed his new ‘Wolverine hair’. Wolverine is a superhero that appears in comic books and X-Men movies. De Marchi and Marcato have a photo of Wolverine in their room and pose with it.

However, these kind of selfies sometimes do not only include riders, but might also include other interesting things. For example, Steven Kruijswijk seems to share his room with Laurens ten Dam and took a selfie in their room. But the Belkin riders have apparently joined the ‘Calippo hype’ and showed their Calippo on the selfie. In case you didn’t know, the Calippo is a freezie – or by some called ice pop or popsicle– that can be bought in different flavours. Since Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb shared their love for this popsicle, other riders and cycling fans have jumped on the bandwagon. Kruijswijk and ten Dam obviously felt like they couldn’t stay behind. Well, who could blame them?

Moreover, we also regularly find selfies on the internet that do not include any human beings at all. No, these selfies seem to be taken by animals. Cows, dogs, and even horses that took a selfie with their phone. Wait, what? Of course these pictures were taken, photo shopped, and manipulated by people. But they can still be very funny to look at. There are also animals in this year’s Tour de France, except in this case, they are not real. And no, we are not talking about the animals that we see in the background of the race sometimes. Fast horses following the peloton or dogs that stand a bit too close to the road, we do not see them in selfies. That would be way too dangerous for the riders.

It is the leader in the General Classification and wearer of the yellow jersey who always receives a lion after every stage. These cuddly toys always end up in our Twitter timelines somehow. They are mostly lined up in the team buses and taken care of by the bus driver. The winners of the team classification also get a stuffed animal this year; a very adorable cow. Samuel Dumoulin (ALM) shared a ‘selfie of the day’ on which we saw this cow with blue shades on. His bus driver Cyrille Bertino, on the other hand, posted a selfie that shows the cow in quite another daylight; a cow that looks like he could ride Michael Cherel’s bike in the Tour. He has a jersey number on his back, wears sunglasses and has a helmet on his head. But Cherel can’t let a stuffed animal ride the Tour for him and just like all the other riders, he has to face the Alps in the upcoming Tour days.