Monuments to... monuments!
…part 1 : Monuments in East-Flanders
Anyone who travels along Flemish roads is bound to come across cycle racing monuments! The sculptures pay tribute to the “monuments” from Flemish cycle racing history- both cycle racers and races alike. One of the finest is without a doubt located right next door to the church in the East Flanders village of Meerbeke, near Ninove. Thirty-nine years ago this was the finish line for the Tour of Flanders. At the corner of the churchyard stands a beautiful ensemble of statues and a poem by Willie Verhegghe that recalls the day: “White and watchful, the finish line waits expectantly for what is to come (…) And the people look intently on and shout out the names of their gods (…) The triumphant one emerges from a snarl of wheels to forever claim his place in the hall of fame.”
In East Flanders, more specifically the Flemish Ardennes – the heart of The Ronde – you will discover even more monuments. For example, on the roundabout in Brakel (N48 and N8) there is a striking construction of brightly-coloured bicycles suspended in a cylindrical structure.
In the Ronde van Vlaanderenstraat in Kwaremont you can greet Karel Van Wijnendaele, founder of the Tour of Flanders.
On the village square in Ruien, a sub-municipality of Kluisbergen, to the right of the church there is a small monument in honour of Eddy Merckx, who won his final victory there in 1977. In Sint-Martens-Lierde (Kwaadstraat) they pay tribute to Emiel Faingnaert, winner of the Tour of Flanders in 1947. At the beginning of the Paddestraat in Velzeke there is a monument featuring a cobblestone and the metal corner profiles bear the names of the winners of the Ronde since 1973, the year that the Tour of Flanders passed over the illustrious cobblestones for the very first time.
In Wetteren, where the Ronde’s finish line was also located for a number of years, you can find “a monument to a monument”. “De Coureur” at the Zeshoek (Kerkstraat) pays homage to Achiel Buysse, who won the Ronde three times (1940, 1941 and 1943).
Cycling heroes are also honoured in other East Flanders regions besides the Flemish Ardennes. For example, there is a memorial to Noël Foré at the municipal swimming pool (Oostveldstraat) in Eeklo. With his list of achievements, including the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, he was a typical cobblestone racer. Two Tour de France winners are also honoured with a monument. In Lovendegem (Oostveldkouter) a plaque commemorates Maurice De Waele’s victorious Tour de France in 1929. At the church in the village of Wontergem where he was born there is a fine bronze sculpture that refers to Lucien Buysse, winner of the Tour de France in 1926. Lastly in De Klinge, almost on the Dutch border, a small square was recently rechristened the Gebroeders De Loorplein, after the cycle racers Alfons and Gustaaf, who grew up there. Gustaaf De Loor went down in history as the winner of the very first Tour of Spain or Vuelta in 1935. The following year he won again and his brother Alfons finished in second place. To this day we have yet to see a repeat of two brothers occupying the top two positions on the podium.