Brik Schotte to be remembered.

the GP Briek Schotte racing past a photo of Iron Brik.

The Tour of Flanders is more than a bike race it is also a celebration of Flanders and all things Flemish. In keeping with this sense of community each year a town on the route is chosen as the “village of De Ronde.” This year the race will be held on 4th April which is the anniversary of the death of the Alberic Schotte who died on the day of the race in 2004 and as a tribute to Brik the organisers have chosen his home village of Desselgem as the Dorp of De Ronde.

The connection between De ronde and Brik is absolute and the fact that he died on the day of the race only reinforces the link. Brik was known as the Last of the Flandrians, perhaps prematurely, as the Lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw, rode his last Ronde on the day Brik died. But even Johan with three wins and eight podiums is not as closely associated with the race as Brik. Schotte won twice in 1942 and 1948 and stood on the tribune eight times but remarkably he started De Ronde twenty times and finished sixteen.

Brik’s family moved to Desselgem when he was a baby and his father farmed on the edge of the village. As the eldest boy it was Alberic’s duty on leaving school to help his father on the farm regardless of the detriment to his fledgling career as a biker. But Flandrian solidarity and love of the bike is not merely an idea, it has practical expression and remarkably the villagers agreed to pay the wages of a hired farm labourer so that young Brik could blossom as a rider. He repaid their support by bringing two rainbow jerseys home to Desselgem.

You may have wondered about the varied spelling of Alberic’s name. It is my understanding that the normal shortened version is Briek but the tough Flandrien adopted Brik.

Alberic Schotte was born in Karengem on 7 September 1919. He was a professional cyclist from 1940 to 1959. He died at Kortrijk on 4 April 2004.

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