For Kristel

The jersey collection of a heart-broken Belgian father

Photos by Sam Copeland

Every year on June 30th, Gilbert D’Hooghe makes a memorial card for his daughter.

Translated into English, the text reads:
Five years ago you disappeared out of our lives. Your name sounds like an echo, but we will never forget you. People told us that we will get used to it, that time heals, but it’s so difficult to accept the truth, we keep missing you, you were unforgettable, extraordinary. Dear Kristel, the best to you above.

Immediately after the Koksijde Cyclocross Race, Sam went with our gracious hosts, Jan, Dean and his friends, to see Gilbert (known as Matrak to his friends) D’Hooghe’s incredible collection of jerseys.

Nicholas was amazed at the miraculous appearance, from the race they had just left, of the winner’s jersey. It was is if it had been teleported there.

Matrak’s home had been transformed into a makeshift cycling museum. Every available space was occupied with a jersey, most of them signed to Matrak, but after his daughter’s death, racer’s started signing the jerseys to Kristel.

Matrak and Roger

Not sure, but there may be a hanger shortage at Chateau D’Hooghe.

Listening to Matrak made us wish our Flemish was better. We don’t have any Flemish, so anything would be an improvement. He dutifully told Sam stories about jersey after jersey. Matrak then showed Sam volumes of photo albums chronicling years of a cycling super-fan, an obsession that lately includes motocross. Despite the language barrier, Sam understood all the important parts. Matrak’s love of the two sports, his need to collect and of course the love of his daughter.