Posts Tagged ‘Omloop Het Niuewsblad’
Beer, bike racing and Trappist monks. Nothing weird about that.
With Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Sunday’s Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne just days away, we raise a glass of Trappist beer in toast and hail the stellar efforts of Dutch brewing. After all, you gotta wash those frites down with something. Budweiser would just be bad form, like showing up to race the cobbles on a Schwinn Varsity.
Belgium is not just bike race crazy, they’re bonkers about beer. Belly up to the bar and you have your choice of a wide range of styles from lambic, Flemish red, abbey, Oud bruin, pale and amber lagers to saison, dubbel and tripel. (No quadruple but here are the top 25.)
When it comes to making beer with religious fervor, the Belgian Trappist monks are the masters. Trappist beers are considered by beer critics to be among the finest in the world.
Here’s the six pack: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. That last one was named best beer in the world a few years back and the monks are now forced to ration sales. But Boonen is always good for a extra case.
There is no one Trappist taste profile and each of the abbeys brew their own distinctive recipes. The classic Chimay has aromas of malt, apricots and black currants. While the famous, deep chocolate colored Westvleteren 8 brings to mind figs, plums and raisins. Reviews of the Rochefort Ten mention a port-like complexity of raisins, plums, hard candy and sherry.
All Trappist beer is “bottle conditioned” which means, like wine, it’s only going to get better with age. Not like that six pack of Corona you had left over from last summer. For a wonderful little Belgian beer tasting blog, check out Mr. Cook.
For a beer to qualify for Trappist certification, the brewery must be in or near a monastery, monks must play a role in production and all profits must support the monastery or outside social programs. Would sponsoring the Quick Step team quality? Of course it does. Manager Patrick Lefevere backs the team bus up to the monastery loading dock after every big race.
The monks take the three vows of stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience. At least two of those vows guarantee you a fantastic beer because you know they’re paying attention to the brewing process.
Throw in a near vow of silence and you have a fiendish focus on producing the heavenly elixir. God is watching and he hates Michelob Ultra — this despite Lance Armstrong’s claim that it “complements my active lifestyle.”
Those of us back in the states owe Belgium many thanks for inspiring the fabulous beer coming out of Fort Collins, Colorado. The New Belgium Brewery began as a wild idea after the founder took a bike trip across God’s gift to cobblestones. In fact, they even took back the Belgian power source — it’s the only wind-powered brewery in America.
Okay, we’ve saluting all things Dutch to in preparation for the cobblestones. We’ve waxed musical about Golden Earring and the classic Radar Love song, we’ve examined the Belgian fascination with frites and plumbed the mysteries of the Dutch Bike craze.
In other words, we’ve worked up quite a thirst. It being Friday, it’s time for a run to Beverages & More for a few sixers of the monk masterwork.
The Belgian racing season is just about to kick off this weekend with two semi-classics: Omloop Het Niuewsblad on Saturday and Sunday’s Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. As the young kids in Norcal say, awesome sauce.
We decided to celebrate this auspicious occasion with some Dutch treats for the rest of the week. First off, a musical tribute from the most famous Dutch rock ‘n’ roll outfit there is. Golden Earring, baby, and their legendary, one-bass-note-thumping, monster hit, Radar Love.
The GE boys just celebrated their 49th anniversary — how is that possible? Because George Kooymans and his neighbor, Rinus Gerritsen started this thing at ages 13 and 15. And it’s the same four original guys, no line-up changes! Rock on, Dutch dudes.
Fascinating tidbit: the band was originally named The Tornados — yes, just like Belgian superstar and King of the Cobbles, Tornado Tom Boonen. A quick look at their song titles and it’s clear these guys know what it takes to win a bike race on the stones in miserable Belgian weather.
The Devil Made Me Do It, Something Heavy Going Down, My Killer, My Shadow, Temporary Madness, This Wheel’s on Fire and Another 45 Miles. Sounds like the dramatic soundtrack music to a long, hard, ball-busting, leg-breaking day in the saddle.
But if you’re Golden Earring, those kinds of brutal sacrifice are worth it. You’ve shared the stage with the Kinks, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Kiss and Aerosmith. So you tell me right now Golden Earring don’t know who’s winning Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
“It’s my baby calling, says I need you here, And it’s half past four and I’m shifting gear.” Pump the tires, oil the drive-train and blast Radar Love. It’s almost Belgian time. In fact, why not invite GE to join Phil Liggett for the TV coverage?
(TS note: Dingle in South Africa reminded me that Thys Van Leer and Focus was the greatest Dutch band. Yes, I did have their first disc. Awesome sauce.)
Gert Steegmans of Radio Shack suffered a concussion five days ago in stage three of the Volta ao Algarve. Not surprisingly his participation in this weekend’s Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne is questionable.
Perhaps even more questionable is the reaction from Radio Shack Directeur Sportif Dirk Demol, who told sporza.be “The headache must be completely gone, otherwise I won’t let him start.” Uhh, we’re dealing with far more than a headache here — gobbling a few extra strength Aspirin is not the solution.
This kind of quote reminds Twisted Spoke of the old school football coaches — “get the hell back on the field, kid — you just had your bell rung, ya pussy.” After years of stonewalling on the subject of concussions, the National Football League is finally taking it more seriously. The same can’t be said for professional hockey which is witnessing the early retirements of star players afraid of the long term consequences of multiple concussions.
We can appreciate Demol’s Belgian hard-man attitude. Top athletes are genetic freaks blessed with incredible physical capacities including recovery. Their bodies can simply do and in this case undo things mere mortals can’t. After a crash like that we’d be in full traction mumbling like a vegetable and eating food from a baby jar.
The International Symposium on Concussion in Sport defines a concussion as a “complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces.” Like slamming into a parked car then smacking your brain on the road like Steegmans.
Experts say recovery time is variable depending on the severity of the concussion and the individual althlete but they all agree on the symptoms associated with ‘post-concussion syndrome.” The after effects include “dizziness, fatigue and problems with concentration and memory, which can persist for weeks, months or even years after concussion.” Given that timetable, a physically grueling bike race sounds like a bad idea even if the “headache” is gone.
Is dizziness an asset when riding at high speed over brutal cobblestones? Is lingering fatigue a plus for handling the rigors of Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne back-to-back? Isn’t a problem with concentration a serious liability when racing for hours and hours in a tight pack of aggressive riders going full gas? Another bad crash would put Steegman’s entire Spring campaign in danger, besides the scary consequences of a second concussion.
Seems like Gert Steegmans and Dirk Demol should agree to skip this weekend’s races. A no-brainer, really. Sure, that’s a headache for Radio Shack but the alternative sure sounds worse.