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Epic races

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1919

Gabe Konrad writes: "The 1919 winner, van Lerberghe, showed up on the line in full racing attire but, for some reason, without a bike. He borrowed one from the brother-in-law of another competitor and, prior to the starting gun, threatened the pack that he was going to drop them all at their own front doors on the way to victory. Van Lerberghe hadn't had, and would never have, an impressive career, and all the cyclists laughed as he pulled away immediately - never to be caught. Just prior to entering the velodrome for the finish, van Lerberghe stopped off at a pub to take in a few beers. His manager, worrying that he would miss a chance at victory, had to track him down and get him back on the bike. After he had crossed the line and done his lap of honour, van Lerberghe stood in front of the crowd and, in all seriousness, told them 'to go home; I'm half a day ahead of the field.'"

1939

Karel Kaers, the youngest man to win the world road championship, also won the Ronde in 1939 - without intending to. For him, it was training for Paris–Roubaix.He drove to the Kwaremont hill near Kluisbergen, parked his car, then rode 40 km to the start in Ghent. His plan was to ride round the course with his usual training partner, stop when he got to his car, then drive home.Knowing he wasn't riding the whole distance, Kaers jumped clear of the field - again as training - and rode up the Kwaremont with a minute's lead. But his car wasn't there. He pressed on instead and won the race. His manager had driven the car away to save Kaers from temptation.

1951

Fiorenzo Magni, a rare Italian in Belgian classics, won so many intermediate prizes during his long solo flight that they would have bought him a house. He was one of nine to escape the field at Ingelmunster. The others cracked one by one until Magni was alone by Strijpen - the point where he made his winning move the previous year. He rode the last 75 km alone to win the Ronde for the third successive year. Magni won by almost eight minutes and the first five finishers were foreigners.

1969

Eddy Merckx dominated world racing in both classics and stage races but couldn't win the Ronde. By 1969 he had not only frustration to contend with but rising resentment of other riders unhappy that he won so many races. He attacked early and half the field never saw him again. The other half was reduced with each successive attack until he got clear alone. The chase was furious but ineffective and Merckx won by more than five and a half minutes over Felice Gimondi and more than eight minutes on the rest. The Ronde remained an unhappy race for him; it was another six years before he won again.

1985

Bad weather has often hit the Ronde. In 1985, a storm broke in the second half of the race. The weather was so bad that only 24 made it to the finish. The race historian, Rik Vanwalleghem, said: "It was a legendary Ronde, one which wrote Sport with a capital S. It was as cold as Siberia all day and the rain fell in torrents. Of the 173 starters only 24 were counted in at the finish. In this apocalyptic background Eric Vanderaerden got back to the front after looking beaten to ride 20km at the head of the race alone. Impressive."

1987

The danger of the Ronde's narrow and badly surfaced hills came close to tragedy when the Danish rider, Jesper Skibby, lost his balance and fell on to a roadside bank, still strapped into his pedals on the Koppenberg. He fell with a race official's car between him and a field of riders. The driver of the car continued moving forward and ran over Skibby's back wheel, narrowly missing his leg. The Koppenberg was judged too dangerous and did not return until the surface had been improved in 2002. The race official continued driving to the finish, where he was met by mud, stones and cups thrown by spectators.The incident overshadowed victory by the French-speaking Belgian, Claude Criquielion.

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