Sunday, 10 June 2012

Daily Cycling Facts 10.06.12

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The Ronde van Vlaanderen was held on this day in 1945 - the latest in the year the race has ever been run and less than one year after Belgium was liberated from Nazi control. It had been the only Classic to continue on occupied home soil for the full duration of the War and a small number of German officers - cycling fans, presumably - had actually become involved in the organisation of the race.

This led to big problems once peace was declared as organisers faced accusations of collaboration. This was a serious issue for Karel Van Wijnendaele, who had set up the first edition right back in 1913 because he was also the editor of Sportwereld, the newspaper that ran the race, and journalists found guilty of collaboration were banned for life from their profession. Fortunately, he was able to have his ban overturned when he supplied a letter from none other than General Bernard Montgomery, thanking him for risking his life by providing a safe house to British pilots as they attempted to return to safety after being shot down.

Sportwereld's rival Het Volk saw the accusations as a prime opportunity to increase its own readership that year and announced that it would organise its own race, to be called the Omloop van Vlaanderen. In Flemmish, omloop has an identical meaning to ronde; which the Ronde's oganisers felt made the names too similar. Their concerns were supported by the Belgian Cycling Federation and Het Volk were ordered to change the name of their event to the Omloop Het Volk - and later, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, by which  name by which it's still known today. The Ronde finished that year at Wetteren, as it would do until 1961, and the winner was Sylvain Grysolle. Three years later, he won the Omloop Het Volk too.

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