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3rd Ronde van Vlaanderen 1919 / Tour of Flanders (Belgium)

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed Historian

 

 

 

 

A Legendary Belgian Tale!

Four months after the ‘final shots' of World War 1 were fired bicycle racing in Belgium returned with the Tour of Flanders. Very talented Belgian rider Henri "Ritte" Van Lerberghe, second in 1914, arrived directly from his military post to the start line in Gent . Van Lerberghe had no bicycle but managed to borrow one from a relative of racer Jules Messelis.

Just before the start of the race "Ritte" shouted: "I will ride you all to hell !!!" Race favorite Jules Vanhevel had the best laugh on hearing the declaration and "Ritte" replied to him: "You shouldn't laugh because I'll ride you off my wheel in front of your own house!!!"

True to his opening declaration Van Lerberghe kept his promise and attacked on a hill in the Town of Ichtegem (hometown of Jules Vanhevel!!!). Amused by the theatrics, the other racers let him have the initial breakaway. By the time the peloton realized the size of the gap and started to chase him, it was too late. "Ritte" was too far ahead.

Steadily in heavy North Sea winds he rode away and with the velodrome finish line in sight Van Lerberghe stopped at a local pub and simply ordered a "Demie" (a demie is Belgian blond beer). It tasted so good he ordered another and then another. Race official Oscar Van Braeckel noticed "Ritte" sitting in the pub and he summoned Van Lerberghe's coach to fetch him.

After considerable persuasion Van Lerberghe's coach succeeded in dragging him from the pub. While "Ritte" was doing his “lap of honor” in the velodrome (walking because he wasn't able any longer to ride his bicycle) he cried out to the public: "You can all go home, I've got half a day lead on the others!!!!!" He had actually only 14 minutes left of his initial advance because of his little passage through the Pub. Henri Vanlerberghe did complete the course and crossed the finish line for the 1919 victory in the Tour of Flanders.

SPECIAL NOTE: The 1928 edition of Flanders included the first 2 hills (bergs) the Oude Kwaremont and Tiechemberg.

Flanders March 22, 1919
203 Km Gent-Gentbruggen (Velodrome)

1. Henri VAN LERBERGHE (Bel) 7h41'00"

2. Lucien Buysse (Bel)

3. Jules Van Hevel (Bel)

Starters: 47
Finishers: 23
Average Speed: 26.420 km/h

Also see- Van Lerberghe: A Legendary Railroad Crossing

 

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