A Legendary Railroad Crossing
The controversy over Roubaix disqualifications in 2006 will go on for years. Discovery Channel's Leif Hoste disqualified (with Peter Van Petgem and Vladimir Gusev) after crossing a closed railroad crossing said “It's definitely against the spirit of the race.” One other lesser known railroad crossing added to the legend of Henri Van Lerberghe.
Van Lerberghe's legendary ride began four months after the end of World War 1. Arriving at the start line with a borrowed bike, Henri declared "I will ride you all to hell !!!" True to his opening declaration Van Lerberghe kept his promise and attacked on a hill in the Town of Ichtegem, hometown of race favorite Jules Vanhevel.
Steadily, in heavy North Sea winds, he rode away. Then with the velodrome finish line in sight Van Lerberghe stopped at a local pub and simply ordered a "Demie" (a demie is Belgian blond beer). It tasted so good he ordered another and then another. Race official Oscar Van Braeckel noticed "Ritte" sitting in the pub and he summoned Van Lerberghe's coach to fetch him.
After considerable persuasion Van Lerberghe's coach succeeded in dragging him from the pub. While "Ritte" was doing his “lap of honor” in the velodrome (walking because he wasn't able any longer to ride his bicycle) he cried out to the public: "You can all go home, I've got half a day lead on the others!!!!!" He had actually only 14 minutes left of his initial advantage because of his little stop at the Pub.
But there is more to this legendary story. The famous railroad crossing!
During his ride to the victory in Flanders 1919 Henri Van Lerberghe did not let anybody or anything slow his pursuit of victory (not completely true; the demie's really slowed him down!!!!). As legend has it, Henri came to a downed railroad crossing with a train blocking the road and rode straight through a train. Undeterred Van Lerberghe, and without hesitation, hoisted his bike on his shoulder, crawled through the train car and out the other side. He then continued on to victory.
The Tour of Flanders always passes through this small Flemish town and Van Lerberghe's legendary stunt came to life again in Lichtervelde during the Ronde of April 2004. On the Market Square , a gigantic train car was built; the peloton rode straight down Main Street and through it on Sunday April 4 th .
This proud Town of the Ronde honored their legendary hometown hero with a plaque opposite his birth place (butcher's Shop Hans).
If you visit Lichtervelde in the heart of Flanders stop by this charming pub on the Town Square and have a “demie” or two in honor of Henri Van Lerberghe.
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