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Twelve Days in Belgium:
 The Northern Classics 2002

Story and Images by Tony Szurly
Copyright (c) by Tony Szurly 2002. All rights reserved.


Editor's Note: DP Reader Tony Szurly spent 12 days in Belgium watching the great races, touring and riding the courses. In the first installment, Tony tells us about the Ronde van Vlaanderen. This is the second of his reports for the Daily Peloton.

Part Two - Mapei, Merckx and Chocolate


I found out that the Mapei team was staying in the Park Hotel in Kortrijk, so I hopped on the train and headed over. Half the team was scouting out the World's course in Zolder and the other half were lounging away in tracksuits at the hotel. Andrea Tafi signed a replica of his Italian National Champion's jersey from 1998 and a photo from Sunday's race for me. You could tell he was still pumped up. Mapei had a big dinner planned with champagne in honor of his win. Mapei owner Giorgio Squinzi was there as well. There was a carnival in town and he headed out with a photographer to try his hand at the carnival games. Het Nieuwsblad the next day showed him with an air rifle shooting away for prizes, but he had already claimed maybe the biggest prize of his career. Mapei DS and former Ronde winner Eric Vandaeraarden was spending the afternoon taking his wife and kids around the carnival. The town square was filled with people at cafe tables, enjoying the spring sunshine.

The giant Mapei bus and their gaudy mobile service course were parked outside the hotel. Inside, Michele, the team mechanic, was working on bikes in a veritable Aladdin's Cave of Colnago bikes, Mavic wheels and gear. Also in town were Alessio, CSC-Tiscali and Big Mat.

Mapei Service Course

In the truck - Tom Steels' frame, No. 76

Eric Vanderaerden, Mapei Directeur Sportif and former Ronde winner

 Next on the agenda was a visit to Eddy Merckx's factory, arranged for us by Hendrik Redant, Lotto assistant DS and former teammate of Merckx's. The factory was in the middle of a quiet little neighborhood in Meise, outside of Brussels. Eddy lives in the house attached to the factory, there was a soccer goal set up in the backyard. Inside, we were given a nice tour of the assembly and finishing of the frames. We saw Eddy in one of the offices right on the factory floor, the workers told us he was here nearly every day. One wall was lined with boxes of various aluminum, steel and titanium tubing sections of all shapes. Working in the factory were many of Eddy's former Molteni teammates, including an unassuming gentleman named Eduard Janssens, who had once finished in the top ten in the Tour de France. The paint shop was immaculate. The Domo team bikes were the big seller; they couldn't build them fast enough to keep up with demand. After the tour, Eddy came out of his office, which held a big case full of trophies, cups, medals and other memorabilia of his great career. He shook hands with everyone and I watched my hand get engulfed by his huge paw. He asked a secretary to bring out some photo cards, he stepped outside for pictures and autographs and thanked us for stopping by.

In the Eddy Merckx factory




Eddy Merckx


Next - Tuesday


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