Whilst chatting with Jo, Alan and the rest of the HCTB crew post three peaks, I briefly explained the origins of my (un)healthy obsession with that most bureaucratic of European destinations – and hence what attracted me to the club in the first place – Belgium. According to our family genealogist (my Uncle Bill) the origins of our family name lie in Wallonia, the French speaking region of this great state. At this point I rather unexpectedly encountered some Flemish snobbery (the cheek!) so in the interests of club and nation building, I thought I’d set the record straight and put together a list of some essential Belgian facts(1), thus offering a brief guide to our club’s spiritual homeland. Footnotes have been provided for clarity.
1) Belgium is approximately the same size as an annual area of Amazonian deforestation.
2) Belgium is renowned for its culinary nous with Moules Mariniere and Brussels waffles holding a special place in many European gullets.
3) Belgium gets more hours of sun per year than San Tropez(2).
4) The national sport of Belgium is our very own cyclo-cross with riding over cobbley bits a close second. Football barely gets anyone excited since Jan Ceulemans hung up his studs.
5) Belgium is hillier than the alps(3)
The Koppenberg provides proof positive: They don't fall uphill on the Ventoux.
6) Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium(4).
7) Belgian cycling kit designs are pretty bloody good but not as good as Duncan’s (Pure class Duncan and I won't be giving away the latest consignment to other family members - I got the sizes right! My mum will have to buy her own).
8) The best beers in Belgium are largely still made by monks(5) and of these beers, Rochefort #10 is generally agreed to be the best.
Monks deliver heaven on earth; the ultimate beer.
9) Walloons are considered to edge the Flemish, being really nice people, great cooks, amazing cross riders and fantastic lovers.(6)
10)The best film ever made in Belgium is ‘In Brugges’ however Colin Farell is quite mean about this beautiful medieval city and frankly, deserves everything he gets.
Really, this is about all you need to know about Belgium other than it gets a rough old time when European superpowers square up around it, that you can get a train at St Pancras and hop off in Brussels two hours and 7mins later and that a night on the Belgium beer should be approached with respect and caution.
With water streaming down my office window, battleship grey clouds overhead and a lunch of bread and cheese in front of me, it feels like I’m in Belgium currently. I’ll try and hold that thought until Sunday for Round 2 of the Welsh Cross league at Risca and see if I can’t find some of those Belgian genes during the race.
Good luck to all HCTB riders this weekend.
1 some of these ‘facts’ have been embellished and/or are lies.
2 bit of a fib.
3 Or at least it feels that way at the end of the Tour of Flanders.
5 Monks also make great cheese and if they could ride bikes without catching their habits in the chain, would also probably do cyclo-cross.
6 Ok a bit of bigging up there.