“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 pal Ed Hood suffered a severe stroke in February. We don’t count on Ed will make it again into our bunch, so we’ve began a GoFundMe web page to assist Ed together with his future. Learn the complete submit 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 collection of Ed’s work from the previous 16 years, as a result of nice story-telling by no means will get previous.
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 12 months was going to be the complete 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 stored us away from the Flatlands for the 2021 Gent Six Day and 2022 Opening Weekend; however like Kiss stated; ‘We’re again, again within the New York Groove’ – let’s make that the ‘Flanders Groove.’
That Friday morning flight day out of Edinburgh was downright anti-social however on the upside it meant our ft have been on holy soil good and early. We missed the frites stand simply outdoors Charleroi Airport terminal, we preferred the previous, ‘no frills’ terminal; ‘gentrification’ isn’t only a Scottish curse. We obtained the rent automotive organised with out an excessive amount of drama and headed north in the direction of Gent by way of the dreaded ‘Brussels Ring,’ – finest prevented at rush hours.
Brunch was on the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen in Oudenaarde, there was just one cobble stone we wished within the image: that one from 1961, Tom Simpson – I don’t keep in mind Cav or Brad successful de Ronde?
Throughout the street is one in all our favorite bars on the planet, De Carillon, Dave was telling me that it’s one in all 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 automotive and sampled the beautiful draft Karmeliet, an Abbey-style blonde beer by Brouwerij Bosteels in Buggenhout. It’s constituted of 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 gives nice music and an ideal ambiance; issues would get a tad loopy there on Saturday night time, however extra of that later. Should you’re in for the long term finest stick with pils; trappistes are lovely beers however harmful.
Simply alongside the street 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 season; ‘Works Arduous for the Cash.’ Ronie and his daughter – Iljo’s sister – Drieke run one cool place, 50 forms of beer, good snacks, good tunes and wall to wall and ceiling to ground Iljo and QuickStep memorabilia. Sadly, in the event you’re a biking fan, Ronie was telling Dave that now that Iljo has retired he’s going to vary the look of the place and dispense with a lot of the biking ‘stuff.’ Finally we remembered we have 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 one in all 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 by way of The Netherlands and Germany the six days reputation has waned – not in Gent, the place is bursting on the seams each night time.
As we took our seats, I stated 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 Highway 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 report this 12 months, taking it down to eight.332 – however the one we actually wished to see, the Gran Prix Patrick Sercu Memorial Madison turned out to be a disappointment. On this, the one 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 obtained was a, ‘potato chase’ – that time period comes from the previous days when the spectators would supply prizes to the riders for maybe the subsequent lap acquire or to be first throughout the road on a selected lap. Rich enterprise males with loads of Belgium’s best beer inside them may supply a giant money incentive however farmers would convey alongside a sack of potatoes to supply up – all they might 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 monitor 120 laps appeared like overkill, half that distance would have been nice.
We watched the Derny after which did the smart factor – headed for the Vivaldi, the place a few of Gent’s most tasty younger women have been attending a celebration, 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 house owners have given it a makeover and it appears to be like sharp and each inch the fashionable Belgian bike store. We preferred the little ‘museum’ with previous machines and a few nice photographs, together with a giant lower out of Peter Submit pushing Rik Van Loy into the fray.
Subsequent up was the ‘Strawberry Cross’ up at Merksplas, in the event you’re a daily 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 identical story with, ‘cross man of the second, Sweeck’ albeit Van Der Haar, Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt by no means stopped chasing onerous.
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 have been top of the range – predominantly 70’s soul – as we headed south and we have 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 have been u23 Gent winners in 2003 and regulars on the six day scene a 12 months 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 have 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 outcome within the Derny with Iljo successful. . .
The Saturday night time 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. Just a little later the query was requested, ‘Puntenkoers Dames’ or Vivaldi – you realize 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 have been eager to see the ultimate u23 chase however 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 total winners on their 52×16 or 49×15 gear ratios. They have been introduced 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.
Finally it was the second the afternoon was all about; The Trustworthy unrolled an enormous Iljo tribute banner – don’t ask me what it stated, 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 have been third, which was truthful – De Vylder and Ghys have been good winners and Havik was the strongest man on the monitor, in second place with Fabio Van Den Bosche.
Subsequent 12 months? 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. . .