Hello World!

14 October 2015

Kris Boeckmans isn’t nominated for a Flandrien. The most prestigious cycling prize in Belgium, that is being awarded to the best rider at the end of every cycling season, will not go to ‘Boeckie’. This is quite unexpected, because he managed to gain 8 UCI victories this year. At least that is what Thomas De Gendt pointed out to all his Twitter followers. “Strange, no Kris Boeckmans in the selection of the Flandrien. With 8 UCI victories and as national victory king it would not have been out of place.” The five riders that did make the selection are Tiesj Benoot, Greg van Avermaet, Tim Wellens, Edward Theuns and Philippe Gilbert. These guys are all great and talented riders, but they didn’t end up in the top 10 of riders with the most UCI victories this season.

Kris Boeckmans from Team Lotto-Soudal had a good season until the 8th stage in the Vuelta, when 50 kilometres before the finish in Murcia, the rider was involved in a massive crash. His teammate, Tosh van der Sande, stated later that Boeckmans was drinking when an unavoidable hole in the road appeared. Boeckmans looped, fell flat on the road and was unconscious at first. He was then taken to hospital with a severe head trauma and multiple fractures. “He’s conscious and the situation is stable,” his team stated on Twitter at the time. Later on, it became clear that Boeckmans had a lot more injuries; he also suffered from a concussion, a collapsed lung and a bleeding in his lung. This even resulted in the fact that his doctors had to decide to keep him in a coma for a few days. It was not until the 16th of September that Kris Boeckmans let the world know that he made it and that he was on his way back to recovery, even though it would take a long time before he would be his normal self again and be able to ride his bike.

On the 24th of September, Kris Boeckmans tweeted that he left the hospital in Genk. He had been transported already from a hospital in Spain to one in Belgium. The week before, he had an operation that took over five hours in which the doctor used fifty small metal screws and eight plates to reconstruct his face and recover the fractures. Now he has to face a long recovery period; his rib fractures need to recover naturally, as well as his lung injuries. But it’s good to see him smile again after such a horrible time. And I agree with Thomas De Gendt: he really deserved the Flandrien nomination. After all the misery, the nomination would remind him of the good times in 2015 with 8 UCI victories.

Kris Boeckmans

Abu What?

“Abu what?” That is what I asked my sister, when she told me about the Abu Dhabi Tour. A new race somewhere in the desert. But where exactly is that somewhere? Well, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is the second most populous city of the country, after Dubai. The city is built on an island, next to the Persian Gulf. It is known for its large resources of oil and gas and therefore it is one of the richest cities on this planet. Recently, the government announced that they are planning to invest in industry, retail, tourism and real estate. See, you don’t have to go to school to learn about geography, or learn about the economics of a country. You just have to watch cycling races. And check Wikipedia and Google Maps for the facts, in my case.

We all know that the UCI wants to ‘develop’ the cycling sport all over the world. But people, why on earth in a hot desert climate. Do I need to repeat myself? A hot desert climate! Hot. Desert. Climate. The UCI says that the goal is “to develop the sport in emerging countries across the world with support for our continental confederations and our national federations”. They also want “to help facilitate a commercially more successful sport, strengthening cycling as a whole and to develop new audiences for our sport”.

Hey. Look. New audience. A camel.

Okay, that is not fair of me to say. Of course it is great that the UCI tries to develop the cycling sport. Involving the Middle West is only a good thing. This race will be the fourth major race in the Gulf region after the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Oman and the Tour of Qatar in the first part of the season. Also, the organisation of this race, the General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, gave some reasons as to why there should be a race in Abu Dhabi. The government’s plan is to double the number of cycle paths in the city by 2020. Therefore, they like to spark the interest of cycling fans worldwide. And they want to  change the behaviour towards cycling in the country.

In the future, they even want to be included on the WorldTour calendar. They have great ambitions and they will be part of the WorldTour by next year, I’m sure of that. They even ‘invented’ a gala dinner to impress the UCI. Tomorrow, on the 11th of October, Abu Dhabi will  host the UCI Cycling Gala to celebrate the ending of the WorldTour season. It takes place at the Yas Marine Formula One Circuit and begins with an award ceremony to honour the best riders of the season. After that, there will be a dinner. And a desert. Dessert, I mean. I would not have made this mistake if it wasn’t for all these photos of riders in the desert on Twitter. Just one more warning for the riders. Watch out for camels over there. On a road. In a desert. Abu what?

© Sam Bewley, Valerio Agnoli, Danilo Wyss, Davide Cimolai, Tim de Waele and Carlos Verona in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, October 2015

The Black Hole

It is almost over. The end of the cycling season is nearby. Just a few more races and then we have to face a few months without cycling. Grab your tissues, because there is a black hole waiting for us and there is nothing we can do about it. Riders are going to spent time with their families, or explore the world by travelling (read: drinking a beer on a beach somewhere in the world) or are going to do absolutely nothing (read: drinking a beer on the couch).
The social media posts of the riders will not be cycling related for the next weeks. Ouch. No photos of sleeping riders on a bed. Or riders taking weird photos in the team bus. Probably lots of family photos. Wives. Girlfriends. Parents. Food. Holidays. The usual. But something has changed over the past few years. There are more training camps and team buildings after a season. So we will probably see more photos of that too. Still, it is not the same as watching a real race.
What else can we do in the meantime? Oh well, sometimes doing some calculation can be good for your brains. You can calculate the duration between now and the date of your favorite race and voila! Sorry if your favorite race is the Giro di Lombardia. You will have to wait more than 350 days. On the bright side, only 103 days until the Santos Tour Down Under begins! Hurray! I cannot wait to see riders hugging with kangaroos and koala’s again. Beat that, black hole!

Start All Over Again

7 October 2015

A sunday in May, 2013. A beautiful day. There you were, standing on a podium. An emotional man from Sicily. You had just won your very first Giro d’Italia. All your Italian fans were there, shouting your name. “Nibali, Nibali!” You stated in an interview that day that “this victory crowns a life’s dream”.  You gave up your life in the south of Italy for that dream. At the age of fifteen, you moved to the north of the country to ride for a team there. There was no other option. In the south of Italy there were no big races, not much knowledge and hardly any money. And there were no mountains there to climb. Or to descent. The hard work you’ve put in from then until 2013, finally paid off. I also remember another Sunday. A Sunday in July, 2014. Marcel Kittel was the fastest in the sprint. And somewhere in the peloton you were raising your arms to the sky. You made Italy proud again after sixteen years without a win in the Tour de France. A clean win. Italy waited for this so long and finally, you made that dream come true. The shy and quiet guy from Sicily. Expectations were high for 2015. You announced that you would skip the Giro, to focus on the Tour de France. Italian fans were disappointed in you, because for the second time in a row you would not start in the Giro. The Tour de France turned out to be a deception,  although you did won a stage. And I will not bring up the Vuelta a España. You answered all the critics in one of the last ‘monuments’ of the season. With an attack in the descent of the Civiglio. Never to be seen again by the other riders. Solo over the finish line. Winning the Giro di Lombardia. So can we still call it a lost year? Maybe we should forget about some days. And look back at the good days. Like you said yourself this Monday at the presentation of the route of the Giro d’Italia, 2016: “After every year you start all over again, no matter what you achieved.” It is the truth. Every rider starts with a clean sheet next year. You also said that you are thinking about riding the Giro and skipping the Tour de France. Or ride it in support of Fabio Aru. Just do it. Make the Italian fans proud again. The Giro has a special place in your heart, so just go for it. Follow your heart and make that dream come true. Again. I can already hear the fans cheer for you along the Italian roads. “Nibali, Nibali!”

© Tim de Waele

Changing Lives

3 October 2015

Dear Mark,

You turned 30 this year. Maybe you thought that it was time for a big change. A new team. A new challenge. You have signed for the African team MTN-Qhubeka, which will be known as Team Dimension Data from 2016 onwards.
You said you were “super-excited” to become a part of the team. The team itself says that with signing you, they are making a big step forward and they are hoping to get to the next level. Although the Tour de France will not be a guarantee next year, it is most likely that the team will receive an invitation. With one of the best sprinters of the peloton and the success of this whole year, it would be a strange decision of the organisation to ignore the team.

There is another reason you are going to the African team. The new sponsor will continue to support the Qhubeka charity, having generated over 4,000 bicycles in its BicyclesChangeLives campaign. You want to help to develop cycling in Africa and “to get more bikes in the hands of the people who need them”.
And not to forget, this team is prepared to support you in achieving one of your biggest dreams: competing for Great Britain on the track at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. That golden medal is still in your head, after the deception of 2008 in Beijing. As far as I can judge, you’ve made the right decision to move to the African team. Riding for your dream, riding for the dream of thousands of children. The bicycle changed your life, now it is time to change their lives too.


World Peace

27 September 2015

The new world champion. He was riding like a boss. He waited for the right moment. Of course he attacked on the cobblestones. No other rider could follow his wheel. Steam came out his ears. It was the right attack. This course was made for Peter Sagan. Oh, and he wants world peace. And he found out that gold is kind of hard to eat. He is happy, Slovakia too. The new world champion.

© Cor Vos