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.
Cyclist Jean Bogaerts back in the days and in 2013