Monuments to... monuments
…part 2 : Monuments in West Flanders
Just about everywhere you go in Flanders you’ll find something relating to cycle racing! And we don’t just mean the famous hills and cobblestone sections, the start and finishing lines, the cycling cafés and supporters’ bars. There are also a great many cycling monuments and memorials that make Flanders the Land of Cycle Racing. And with regard to the latter, West Flanders is without a doubt the jewel in the crown. This coastal province has played a pioneering role in the rich Flemish cycle racing scene. At the beginning of the 20th century, Cyriel Van Hauwaert brought the whole country under the spell of the bicycle with his great performances in the international classics. Another celebrity from West Flanders, Odiel Defraeye, was the first Fleming to win the Tour de France. A statue of each of them has been erected in their birthplaces of Moorslede and Rumbeke respectively.
Karel Van Wijnendaele was born in Torhout. He was one of the founders of modern reporting on cycle races and co-founder of the Tour of Flanders. There is a memorial plate to this legendary figure on the “Burg”, where he lived for many years. Karel Van Wijnendaele found his inspiration for the Tour of Flanders in Koolskamp, where the Championship of Flanders had been contested every year since 1908. You will find a memorial on the village square in honour of this historic race. In Waregem, between the town hall and the De Schakel cultural centre, there stands a special bronze sculpture – “De Sprint” – that was erected to commemorate the start of a stage of the Tour in 2007, but it also serves as a memorial of the world championship that took place in 1957 and that was won by Rik Van Steenbergen.
At the church in Bellegem, a handsome sculpture serves as a memorial to Germain Derycke, who won the Tour of Flanders in 1958. As for Henri Vanlerberghe, the 1919 winner of the Tour of Flanders (with the biggest lead ever recorded), there hangs a plaque of him in in Lichtervelde, his birthplace.
Henri Vanlerberghe was one of the many “flandriens” from West Flanders. You will come across an ode to these flandriens both on the market square of Ichtegem and next to the church in Kanegem, where a racer sits hunched over his bicycle riding over the cobblestones. Alberic “Briek” Schotte modelled for the stunning statue of Jef Claerbout.
Another statue of the two-times world champion himself as well as a big canvas measuring 6 x 4 metres with his photo can be found in Desselgem. Other world champions from West Flanders who have been immortalised are Freddy Maertens in Lombardsijde and Marcel Kint in Kortrijk and Zwevegem. West Flanders has also had some legendary Tour racers. A monument was erected in Zerkegem, the birthplace of Romain Maes, 1935 winner of the Tour. Jef Demuysere put in a stunning performance in the Giro and a statue was erected of him in Wervik, as was one for Tour hero Jef Planckaert in Otegem.