Lack of Flemish results is no disgrace, says Belgian TV’s De Cauwer
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Lack of Flemish results is no disgrace, says Belgian TV’s De Cauwer

by Ben Atkins at 11:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders

tom boonenThe five big Flemish races of the season so far have all been won by non-Belgians for the first time in history, but this is no disgrace says former coach turned TV commentator José De Cauwer to Sporza.

The Omloop van Het Nieuwsblad was won by Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky), a Spaniard; Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne went to Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil), a Dutchman; Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank), a Dane, won Dwaars door Vlaarnderen; the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen was taken by Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), a Swiss; and Gent-Wevelgem went to Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia), an Austrian. For the first time ever the Belgians completely missed out on these races, but De Cauwer sees a number of positives for the home nation.

"We saw a formidable Boonen in the E3 on Saturday,” he said, “who left everyone behind on the hills. Roelandts and Gilbert were good in Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday; okay, not at the level of Boonen and Cancellara. The question is whether in the race this weekend they can be even stronger.

"Belgium is losing its grip on cycling,” he continued, “but that is no disgrace. We have long waited for globalisation and that has now come. You have a formidable Swiss in Cancellara, with a formidable Dane in Breschel, with a formidable American in Farrar and I could go on and on."

This increase of foreign riders who excel in Belgian races is not necessarily a bad thing, according to De Cauwer. It is an inevitable consequence of the globalisation that he refers to, but all is not lost for the Belgians.

"We used to think that cycling was international, but must now look as though it is only international!” he laughed. “But the Belgians: we can’t say that they are doing badly. There are many good young people coming through, and the times of Merckx and co. are not coming back anyway. Anyway, in terms of victories it can all change fast. If Boonen wins the Tour of Flanders again then hallelujah!"

Many of the reasons for so many foreigners doing so well in Belgian races are down to the sport’s popularity among the general public, he says. "If you look at the start and finish of each race in Belgium and the people that crowd to them,” he said, “this is a night and day difference with dismal foreign races where no one can be seen for miles. The foreigners get a kick when they are allowed to ride here [in Belgium]."


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