August 8, 2016

A Diamond in the Rough: The Grote Scheldeprijs

When Mark Cavendish closes his eyes and dreams of the top step of the podium, I imagine he envisions his name being mentioned alongside and ultimately above some of the greatest sprinters in the history of cycling. Piet Oellibrandt has sat back and waited almost 50 years to see whose name would stack up alongside his. Odds were good that it would be a superstar; the only question was who- Eddy Merckx? Freddy Maertens? Tom Boonen? The record for wins in the Flemish Spring Classic the Grote Scheldeprijs is three, and Oellibrandt was dusted off and marshaled to the waiting area behind the podium curtain, prepared to be introduced and welcome his newly minted partner to be enshrined in his personal Hall of Fame. Perhaps that it was Oellibrandt, and not Merckx or Maertens or any other famous Belgian for that matter, is the reason Cavendish wore a perplexed look, seen through the grin he managed during the podium ceremony. Winning a Flemish Classic three times surely brings admission to an elite fraternity, one that Cavendish had yet to be invited to. That he was on even ground and not above Oellibrandt simply tells the rider, and the world of cycling, that Belgian cycling is an elite fraternity that is difficult to enter, high profile rider or not, front page news or back, world famous or not. It is a welldeserved entry indeed, but one that doesn’t come without either being Belgian, or at least having a bit of Belgium in your heart. Welcome to the fraternity Mark. The badge of the Great Schelde Prize has been neatly pinned to your lapel. Read more



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