The President

Some Place Called Belgium: II

Sponsored by Chris King

By Jennifer Haare and Luke Batten

Storytelling

Starting a story at the ending instead of the beginning is of one those things you do when discussing some iniquitous act to your parents as a child because you do not want to fess-up to some hard facts at the beginning that may incriminate you. Another reason for starting at the ending is that you find complexity in living along the dirt paths that connect prequels and sequels. It is also just plain mysterious to follow bread crumbs from the destination to the beginning of the dotted line on the treasure map. So begins our trip in Belgium a month ago where the Tenspeed Heroes ponied up 500 Euros and are now proud sponsors Belgian Youth Cycling Team, KSC Denderstreek Labiekes!

 

Mr. President, Mr. President

The Tenspeed Heroes were in Europe to watch the World Championships (which we bailed on, but that is another post for another day). Our main goal was to follow Dean Goessens and Nicolas Van Der Hoeven around their first year racing the Belgian Junior Calendar. A year earlier we had met the boys on the side of the road during the Tour of Flanders Sportive, coming to their aid with some spare tubes and mechanical support.

After eating some Vlaamsche Stooflees with Dean’s Mom and Dad before the race, we mentioned how great it would be to sponsor their team, KSC Denderstreek Labiekes. Phone calls were made, numbers were quoted and after the boys’ race in Herne (another post for another time), Dean’s father, Jan Goessens drove us in a little blue Citroën Berlingo and we bounced our way towards the Team President’s house.

This is the point where we must stop the story. On three occasions, on the day we were about to hand over 500 Euros to apply the TENSPEED HERO logo to the sleeve of the Jersey, we were asked if we would like a beer. The first was at lunch, the second was at a cafe in Herne after the Junior race, and the third was when we arrived at the President’s house. Nothing unusual right? Except as soon as our hosts poured out beers they quickly poured themselves a soda. We asked our Belgian guide Dean what was up and he offered only a wry smile.

Back in the Berlingo we asked the boys what the president’s name was and they giggled, “Ah…just call him The President, he is a very powerful man, a shrewd business man. Be careful Heroes! Or you will end up sponsoring the whole team!” From then on, the man that ran the KSC Denderstreek Labiekes loomed like a James Bond villain, which only increased when Nicolas spoke in a low voice ususally reserved for a dungeon master rolling the dice during D & D: “The PresidentThe President also…raises pigeons…champion pigeons.”

There will be Pigeons

What bird is more associated with the common man, with the streets of Mike Tyson’s Brooklyn–where, he confesses in an early episode of Animal Planet’s “Taking on Tyson” that he was, in fact, bullied, and took to birdherding (the real word, we learned, is pigeon keeping) to escape school (not that we condone it) and to escape bullies (may they be reprimanded)–yet, what bird is closer to the dove? In fact, in a surprising turn of events, pigeons and doves are actually from the same family: the hallowed columbidae. And while both doves and pigeons come in several species, one could say that the common city pigeon is merely a city sleet splattered, garbage bearing dove of peace.

We arrived at the President’s house and were ushered quickly to the President’s pigeon coops. These were no urban survivors, but racing pigeons well cared for and housed. Of course The President was not the Dr. No we feared. He handled the birds in a gentle but quick and firm manner as to not injure their fragile wings. This captain of a youth road team spoke about his birds with affection amidst the sound of flapping wings, all of us colored by a cyan-hued evening light. For the Tenspeed Heroes knew we had found our team, in fact, we found our President. Over more beer, our contract was signed, certified by stamp, and 500 Euros were exchanged for our new joy. Such joy! The Tenspeed Heroes will be bringing you all the news of the 2013 KSC Denderstreek Labiekes-Tenspeed Hero Racing Team, featuring not only Dean and Nicolas, but also the Flanders National Champion.

5 (other) ways to use 500 Euros in Belgie

500 Euros is roughly 655 USD. We found that 500 Euros of sponsorship buys you a patch on the sleeve of a Belgian junior racing bike jersey. 500 is the highest denomination of Euro banknote available, and if you’re not riding around with briefcases of them, a la Jay-Z in his controversial (to USD fans) video “Blue Magic”, you might be using 500 Belgian Euros one of the following ways:

1) At the Meetjeslandse Pompoenweging, sponsored by Sleinse Pompoenvrienden & Intratuin in Lovendegem, Belgium, 2nd place in the “biggest pumpkin” category will win you 500 Euros (but be sure to register between 10 am and 12 pm!)

2) If you’re the country of Belgium, 500 Euros is the daily fine for an unhoused asylum seeker.

3) As an experienced contractor in Belgium, you can make at least 500 Euros a day!

4) 500 Euros can buy food for a two-person household for a month!

5) You can get a studio apartment in the center of Brussels for 500 Euros a month.

But to we the Heroes, 500 Euros buys more than all these things. 500 Euros buys pride for a little American website, a pride in a little Flemish team with a big heart. Thank you Dean, Nicolas and The President for letting us come aboard.