Thursday, January 31, 2013

Did You Know...a Bike Race was Held in German Occupied Belgium during WWII?

Photo credit: The Brussels Journal
The Flemish speaking part of Belgium, Flanders, is well known for it's gritty obsession with bike racing—notably, it's Tour of Flanders held every spring. What I didn't know (maybe this is because I live in the United States?) was that during WWII, when Germany occupied Belgium, the event still took place with Germans helping to police the race route. I guess it goes to show how the fanatical sport of bike racing knows no boundaries.

Albert Schotte.
One of the Flanders' competitors in WWII. Photo and following text credited to Flanders Classics.
Alberic "Briek" Schotte was born in Kanegem, West Flanders on September 7, 1919. He was a Belgian professional road racing cyclist, one of the champions of the 1940s and 1950s. His stamina earned him the nickname "Iron Briek".
He won the Tour of Flanders twice: in 1942, 1948. In 1948 and 1950 he was world champion. He won the last stage of the 1947 Tour de France and finished second in the epic 1948 Tour, behind Gino Bartali. 
Albéric Schotte took part in no less than twenty Tours of Flanders. From 1940 until 1959 (he was almost 40!) he competed each year. Sixteen times he reached the finish line. 
After retirement as a rider in 1959, he was team coach for 30 years, mostly for Flandria. 
He died on the day of the 2004 Tour of Flanders. The commentators during the race said "God must have been one of Briek's greatest fans".

1 comment:

  1. It just goes to show that even in the middle of a war some people still remembered that cycling was a worthwhile way of passing the time...also much nicer to participate in than trying to kill each other.

    -Trevor

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