“This bike dates back to about 1974, I believe, and was made in Belgium. It is a special edition from Freddy Maertens who was the main competitor to Eddy Merckx. I know what the bike is and I paid the full price for it. I just like it. It has a certain patina that you do not find in new bikes. You look at this and you see – most people see – vintage, but I see a part of the history of cycling in Belgium. That is what I like about it. It is what gives it value to me.”
Photographer’s notes: There are few Belgian brands that evoke a history akin to Flandria. The bike manufacturer has been around for ages, always visible in the racing circles.
At one time, the bike was one of the most sought after names, ridden by the super-heroes of Belgian cycling, including Freddy Maertens, considered the greatest sprinter of all time.
The world knows Eddy Merckx. In terms of the Tour de France, many are aware of Raymond Poulidor, the eternal second. The name Freddy Maertens may be less known around the world, but, for Belgians, he was on par with Merckx when racing a one day classic. Only a fool would have bet heavily for one over the other.
In one season, Merckx won 54 professional races. Maertens won 56.
In the seventies, the politics surrounding riders, their fans, the extremes of animosity and blind support was at its peak.
The Merckx/Maertens exchanges were highly visible and widely reported. And they both felt they deserved their place as first amongst equals. It was at its peak in 1973 at the world championships where their inability to work together cost them both the title.
It was a point of animosity that was only resolved over three decades later.
Maertens was a larger, stronger rider who profited from his size in one day races. However he was too large to be a great threat in the grand tours for overall classification. He compensated by sweeping up stage wins.
He was one of the forces that would drive the change to modern cycling in Europe, refusing to accept the patronage driven era of the elite riders who controlled cycling at the time.
The Maertens story, both professional and personal, is both shocking and fascinating.
Today, Flandria remains a brilliant bicycle using modern components. But the classic frames, the vintage designs, still create a moment of joy when seen on the roads to this day. A reminder of the days of hard races and harder riders.
If you do not know Freddy Maertens, you should. Here are some links
Wikipedia entry here…
Bike Race Info: The Freddy Maertens interview article here…