“I’m by no means happier than once I’m writing.”
~ Ed Hood, as spoken to Martin Williamson from the passenger seat, driving alongside a stage route on the Tour de France.
Expensive Readers – Our beloved colleague and buddy Ed Hood suffered a severe stroke in February. We don’t anticipate Ed will make it again into our bunch, so we’ve began a GoFundMe web page to assist Ed along with his future. Learn the total put up right here – and please contemplate donating.
** Click on this hyperlink to donate to the GoFundMe web page to assist Ed **
We’ll be posting a number of Ed’s work from the previous 16 years, as a result of nice story-telling by no means will get outdated.
Ed on the Gent ‘6 Days’: Ed Hood has missed out on his journeys to Belgium for the ‘6 Days’ of Gent since 2020, however this yr was going to be the total Flemish expertise. A cyclo-cross, ‘t Kuipke and naturally beer and people well-known nights within the bars of Gent.
It wasn’t simply the Covid, it was extra the quarantine we’d have needed to endure that saved us away from the Flatlands for the 2021 Gent Six Day and 2022 Opening Weekend; however like Kiss mentioned; ‘We’re again, again within the New York Groove’ – let’s make that the ‘Flanders Groove.’
That Friday morning flight outing of Edinburgh was downright anti-social however on the upside it meant our ft had been on holy soil good and early. We missed the frites stand simply exterior Charleroi Airport terminal, we appreciated the outdated, ‘no frills’ terminal; ‘gentrification’ isn’t only a Scottish curse. We received the rent automobile organised with out an excessive amount of drama and headed north in the direction of Gent through the dreaded ‘Brussels Ring,’ – greatest prevented at rush hours.
Brunch was on the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen in Oudenaarde, there was just one cobble stone we needed within the image: that one from 1961, Tom Simpson – I don’t keep in mind Cav or Brad profitable de Ronde?
Throughout the highway is considered one of our favorite bars on the planet, De Carillon, Dave was telling me that it’s considered one of Roger De Vlaminck’s most popular watering holes – and we are able to perceive that. It was restored to a design by architect AR Janssens in 1921 after the destruction wrought upon Flanders throughout World Battle One. The within of the bar room is enriched with Artwork-Deco panelling with floral motifs and painted cityscapes of Oudenaarde, signed and dated Edg. Fobert 1926. A gem.
We headed for Gent, checked in to the Campanile Motel, deserted the rent automobile and sampled the beautiful draft Karmeliet, an Abbey-style blonde beer by Brouwerij Bosteels in Buggenhout. It’s created from three grains – oats, barley and wheat, which is an genuine beer recipe relationship again to 1679.
It’s a good hike from the Campanile as much as the Vivaldi – our HQ in Gent for a few years – so it was time for a taxi. The Hostess at our favorite bar supplies nice music and a terrific environment; issues would get a tad loopy there on Saturday evening, however extra of that later. Should you’re in for the long term greatest stick with pils; trappistes are stunning beers however harmful.
Simply alongside the highway and a stone’s throw from the Kuipke is de Karper, Iljo Keisse’s dad, Ronie’s bar. Ronie was supervisor on the sacred velodrome earlier than he purchased de Karper and within the phrases of Donna Summer time; ‘Works Laborious for the Cash.’ Ronie and his daughter – Iljo’s sister – Drieke run one cool place, 50 types of beer, good snacks, good tunes and wall to wall and ceiling to ground Iljo and QuickStep memorabilia. Sadly, in case you’re a biking fan, Ronie was telling Dave that now that Iljo has retired he’s going to alter the look of the place and dispense with a lot of the biking ‘stuff.’ Ultimately we remembered we had been right here to see some bike racing and headed as much as the velodrome.
Within the entrance lobby there are footage of earlier winners, I couldn’t resist the considered one of Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv, winners in 2009 once I had the honour of being their ‘runner’ – nice recollections.
Throughout Europe from France as much as Denmark through The Netherlands and Germany the six days recognition has waned – not in Gent, the place is bursting on the seams each evening.
As we took our seats, I mentioned to Dave; ‘That dude in entrance of us is the double of Ferdi Van Den Haute.’ Dave, not famous for his shyness, requested the gentleman and it was certainly the 1978 Gent-Wevelgem, Belgian Street Race Championship, Tour de France and Vuelta stage winner, a pleasant man.
We simply missed the flying lap – De Wylder & Ghys twice broke the lap file this yr, taking it down to eight.332 – however the one we actually needed to see, the Gran Prix Patrick Sercu Memorial Madison turned out to be a disappointment. On this, the a hundredth Gent Six Day, with the race to honour the best six day rider who ever lived and with Eddy Merckx himself firing the beginning pistol, we anticipated nice racing. However what we received was a, ‘potato chase’ – that time period comes from the outdated days when the spectators would provide prizes to the riders for maybe the following lap achieve or to be first throughout the road on a selected lap. Rich enterprise males with loads of Belgium’s most interesting beer inside them would possibly provide a giant money incentive however farmers would convey alongside a sack of potatoes to supply up – all they may afford. It was beneath the dignity of the large groups to chase such a paltry prize however to the lesser groups with a household to feed on not a lot cash it was price chasing.
It was a ‘flat,’ disappointing chase with Dutch lesser lights, ‘ploeg 11,’ Vincent Hoppezak & Philip Heijnen operating out winners. Subsequent up was the women factors race, with only a dozen riders on the observe 120 laps appeared like overkill, half that distance would have been positive.
We watched the Derny after which did the wise factor – headed for the Vivaldi, the place a few of Gent’s most engaging younger women had been attending a party, downing copious portions of pils and Prosecco – and dancing on the bar high. Wild!
We weren’t too delicate on Saturday morning and determined to move as much as the well-known Plum’s bike store. In recent times it’s been in a little bit of decline however the brand new homeowners have given it a makeover and it appears sharp and each inch the trendy Belgian bike store. We appreciated the little ‘museum’ with outdated machines and a few nice photographs, together with a giant minimize out of Peter Put up pushing Rik Van Loy into the fray.
Subsequent up was the ‘Strawberry Cross’ up at Merksplas, in case you’re an everyday reader you then’ll have seen our report, with each winners in a category of their very own, Ceylin Alvarado went off like a rocket and was by no means seen once more.
It was an analogous story with, ‘cross man of the second, Sweeck’ albeit Van Der Haar, Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt by no means stopped chasing exhausting.
The person within the rainbow bands was nonetheless discovering his ‘cross legs on this, his first race of the X season and would end seventh. The tunes on Radio Nostalgie Belgique had been high-quality – predominantly 70’s soul – as we headed south and we had been again in Mecca, sorry, Gent very quickly.
As you enter the Kuipke, there’s a pleasant tribute to Isaac Galvez, who misplaced his life in a horror crash right here in 2006. Relaxation in peace, sir.
Only a row behind us on the Kuipke had been u23 Gent winners in 2003 and regulars on the six day scene a yr or two, earlier than it imploded, Germany’s Hans Pirius and Sebastian Wotschke. I had the pleasure to be their runner at a number of six days – nice guys.
All that Merksplas contemporary air had honed our appetites; vegetarianism isn’t a giant factor in Belgium – these burgers had been flying over-the-counter. And take a look at these sauce pumps – they’re ‘full professional.’
In the meantime, again on the boards there was a shock consequence within the Derny with Iljo profitable. . .
The Saturday evening madison was a significantly better affair than Friday’s ‘potato chase,’ with Havik [who we interviewed recently] and Van Den Bosche, who was third to Havik within the Worlds Factors Championship taking the honours. Somewhat later the query was requested, ‘Puntenkoers Dames’ or Vivaldi – you recognize the reply.
Sunday and we had a rendezvous with Ronie Keise on the bar at 10:00 am to obtain our restricted version de Karper casquettes – very good they’re too. Bedankt, Ronie!
We caught the entire six hours of the final day; we had been eager to see the ultimate u23 chase nevertheless it proved to be a little bit of a moist squib with hardly a lap taken – a glorified factors race with Belgian duo Milan Van Den Haute and Jasper Bertels operating out general winners on their 52×16 or 49×15 gear ratios. They had been offered with their prize by Belgian legend Stan Tourne, World Novice and Skilled Factors race champion, ‘again within the day’ and twice a winner of the Gent Six.
Ultimately it was the second the afternoon was all about; The Trustworthy unrolled an enormous Iljo tribute banner – don’t ask me what it mentioned, I used to be beneath the rattling factor.
Iljo’s dad, Ronie was on the boards as a part of the, ‘ciao Iljo’ ceremony – not a dry eye in the home!
And there was the inevitable ‘tunnel of wheels,’ with Iljo’s household becoming a member of him on the boards.
What was pleasing although was that there was no, ‘fairy story’ ending to the final chase; Iljo and De Buyst had been third, which was honest – De Vylder and Ghys had been good winners and Havik was the strongest man on the observe, in second place with Fabio Van Den Bosche.
Subsequent yr? The web site has already ‘crashed’ with the quantity of ticket enquiries for 2023 – Iljo has retired however The Six Days of Gent marches on. . .