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Old bird season 2004 in Belgium

‘God was born in Flanders’ is one of the topics on the forum of the popular pipa website and the guy that wrote these words must be as frustrated as many others, because of the weather conditions this year.
In pigeon sport the direction of the wind is often decisive, as is well known. Therefore fanciers that live East hope the wind will be west when a race is on and fanciers that live West hope for Eastern wind.
But what happened in 2004?
A whole week the wind was neutral (right from behind or right ahead) or there was no wind at all, apart from Saturday, the race day.
Then the wind switched to Eastern directions with the result that fanciers that live west (Flanders) dominated the 2004 nationals in a way that seldom happened before.

Before I start this review I must admit something.
The vast majority in Belgium race Short and Middle Distance only. Since the media pay most attention to Long Distance, many champions do not get the credits they deserve, and now in this article, I find myself doing the same; paying attention to Long Distance.
The reason is that describing the National Middle and Short Distance stars is hard since there are so many.
Paying attention to all is impossible and paying attention to just a few would be unfair to others. Therefore there is little other choice than focus on Long Distances if one wants to bring the news.

The first ‘race news’ this year came from Sun City (South Africa) and it was about the ‘final’ of the 8th Million-dollar race.
2,016 Birds had ‘to fight’ 631 kilometres.
The weather was nice, therefore people thought birds of the big names would be ahead, but surprisingly enough this was not the case. German birds were on top and birds that were supposed to be outsiders got away with the big money.
Take the winning bird from Jammer Reinhard.
In two pervious races it could not be entered since it lacked condition and its best result in the races before was 82nd place.
The best over all bird was from American Carlos Avilla.
His bird cannot possibly have been a bad one, but Mr Avilla, with all respect to him and his fantastic bird, was certainly not the number one favourite.
Also in previous years the birds of great names from Holland and Belgium failed. ‘Pure luck’ they moaned but that is not fair.
Winners deserve respect and the Belgians and Dutch should realise that nowadays fanciers in other countries do have good birds as well.
No pigeon beats 2,000 others by accident from 600 kilometres in nice weather. Pigeon magazine ‘De Duif’ said about this race: ‘It was proven again that the right condition at the right day is decisive’.
The fact that outsiders also have a chance makes races like these so fascinating but unfortunately many people can’t stand losing. Let’s go back to Belgium.

The first big contest was an Interprovincial race from Vierzon (over 22,000 birds).
Due to the hard conditions (North East wind) the winning bird (a 2001 cock bird from Lucien Velghe) had a speed of no more than 1.158 mpm.
A pigeon related to this was supposed to be the best in Belgium in 2001.
Unknown C van Lancker was ‘the man of the day’. His 5th bird won 37th prize!
Van Lancker is a retired farmer that got birds from Meire. The latter had fantastic pigeons that made fanciers like Leutenez and many others famous.
I went to Meire with Mr de Bruyn, we bought some birds at real cheap prices and one of them was to be one of the best of Europe.
Well known Albert Jolie won 1st and 2nd from 7,296 yearlings despite he auctioned 200 pigeons last year. He ‘only’ kept 86 yearlings to be raced in 2004 Cassaert was also phenomenal and won 3rd and 5th.
They all live in Flanders and owe their nice positions to a better location mainly. At least these races.

The two most popular races in Belgium are ‘Bourges I’ held the last weekend of May and ‘Bourges 2’ held the first weekend of August.
‘Bourges 1’ is the first real ‘National’, since the whole country can participate. The entry (43,257 birds) was close to the record in 1999: 44,784 birds then.
Due to the southeast wind the birds were again driven westward and again fanciers from Flanders were advantaged.
They won the first 20 prizes National Old birds AND Yearlings as well.
When the race was finished in Flanders few birds had arrived elsewhere.
Now you may understand why I have a weathercock on the chimney of my house, on a race day it shows me how my chances are.
Billet had the fastest Yearling (19,590 birds, 1,528 mpm), the winner old birds was Noel Peiren (1,525 mpm).
Peiren himself was most surprised to win, since he is only interested in races from 700 to 1,000 kilometres and Bourges was just meant for training.
Peiren has real strong birds and he says he has created such a sort by training babies in bad weather, hoping only the toughest will make it home.
Loockx was the winner in the province of Limburg (5,000 birds) that lies north East. The speed of his winner (1,361 mpm) was a joke to those who live in Flanders. ‘Food for thought’ for people that pay crazy prices for National winners, as they think these are the best.
In Limburg unknown Mr Verrect humiliated the big names, he beat 2,063 yearlings and won 9 prizes in the first 25.

The second ‘National’ was Brive. Those who were hoping for a fair race this time hoped in vain, since the wind was North East again and once more fanciers that did not live in Flanders had no chance. Peiren stunned the nation by winning again (19,487 birds), 1,165 m.p.m shows how hard the race was, runner up Pollin lost by 1 mpm only.
Peiren’s winner (again a 2001 cock) is of real good long distance family.
Its father won 5th National Mountauban (7,352 birds) and he is a full brother of a bird that was 1st World champion V. L., raced by Saarloos.
There have been more fanciers that won 2 Nationals in one year but most probably no one ever did so in 2 weeks’ time.

Pau was the first INTERNATIONAL race with an entry of 8,116 birds:
Belgium 2,180.
Germany 1,131.
Luxembourg 42.
England 111.
Netherlands 3,571.
France 1,081.
And believe it or not, it was the same song.
Due to a bright sky in the west and bad weather elsewhere many birds from fanciers that live in the west of France, Holland and Belgium were home before any bird had arrived in eastern areas and especially the Germans could lick their wounds.
F Duquesnoy (in the far west of France) was the International winner and also the National winners in Belgium and Holland (Norman and Winter) live west, close to the North Sea.
Filip Norman’s winner (2nd International) was again a 2001 cock.
He is the third from a generation of champions, his father Norbert is almost a legend, and even his grandfather was a great champion before World War 2.
On the same day of Pau there was a National race from Bordeaux. It was won by van Pamel De Mulder (7,537 birds). His winning bird was six (!) years old and (of course) he also lives west.
Then came the big race: Barcelona International.

24,914 birds were entered total.
France 1,938.
Luxembourg 101.
Netherlands 7,871.
England 130.
Belgium 12,274.
Germany 2,600.
For the first time the Belgian birds were transported by truck.
Many were against it but they turned out to be wrong since Barcelona was a nice race. Birds were released at 7.00 a.m. with headwinds that changed into tailwinds, therefore the Dutch were supposed to destroy it like they did in the years before but this was not the case.
The international winner was a Dutchman indeed (Vrosch Meyers) who clocked at 5,06 a.m. (1,358 mpm) which meant that for the 5th time in 6 years the Dutch flag could be hoisted from Barcelona but the Dutch did not dominate.
The Belgians won 2nd and 3rd, a German won 4th and a Frenchman 5th.
So unlike other races it looked fair with equal chances like so often from Barcelona. That is because it is a 2-day race; the birds have to stay the night over and will correct their course in the morning.
For Belgian De Vriendt Barcelona was a nightmare.
His electronic clocking system showed that a bird of his arrived at 5,09 a.m. but the poor man had overslept himself, he did not report it until 7.40 which was considered to be its timing and he could forget his 1st National and the big money involved. Bad luck for him but good luck for Mr Bylau, a complete outsider (76 years old) who won the National now (12,274 birds).
This 2-year-old cock was late in previous races but a good condition can do miracles. Many were surprised that fanciers that live in the North of Holland, so at the greatest distance (up to 1,300 kilometres) did so well.
It is said that competition is poor over there but this seems not to be the case for 2-day races.

Strong tailwinds and heavy rain spoiled the fun for National Limoges yearlings.
Outsider Frank Careel had the fastest of 21,956 birds.
On the same day of Limoges there was an International (2 day) race from Bordeaux (7,106 pigeons).
For a change now all early birds were clocked in the East. Dutch Huynen won but the Germans dominated with 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6h, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th prizes International.
Well-known Hermes won 2nd and 4th.

Many Taiwanese fanciers will have heard about Michel van Lint.
He settled in Belgium in 2003 with his Taiwanese wife, he set up a nice loft and guess what?
Right from the start he was outstanding and the same hens that did so well as a baby were breath taking this year.
Fanciers that looked at the band numbers wondered what kind of birds he has, since they start with ‘1’ and there are no such bands in Belgium.
Michel however races Dutch birds that he got from our mutual friend W de Bruyn. Who was that Eastern guy that said Belgian birds are the best?
Michel van Lint is happy, Mr de Bruyn is happy and the author of this article is happy since many of Van Lint’s top racers partly descend from my loft.
Of course there are more Nationals than the races I referred to, but these are the most popular and prestigious and I had to make choices.

I wrote this article to bring the news but for another reason as well.
Fanciers in Holland and Belgium are often stunned when they hear about prices that are paid for national winners. Now you may understand why they do not.