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History

Written by Wicky (2005-03-01 00:00)
Translated by DZI (2006-02-10 00:00:00)



When The ProTour saw first daylight, the UCI invited the Tour of Holland organisers to broaden their look and see if that race could be organised through Belgium and Luxembourg as well, thus earning a ProTour status for their race. The Dutch who only had the Amstel Gold Race as a classic to their name were very happy to comply. Eneco, an energy company for the general public, stepped in to fund the race, so the near future would be covered as well.


After the UCI’s “calendar shuffle”, the Tour of Benelux is now the prequel to the Vuelta a España. Lacking any history except for the 2005 edition, the race through the Netherlands and Belgium has all the signs and potential to become a great Tour race. The character of the race is much like many spring classics, mainly because the parcours runs along the same roads and mountain ranges those classics do. “Mountains” is probably exaggerating it a little. The characteristic climbs in the Ardennes and southern Limburg are usually short, but can be very steep and act as an executioner in the race.


The first edition saw Bobby Julich get his Danish CSC team the victory. The final stage a time trial was the decider for Julich who won the general classification by only seconds over Erik Dekker (2nd) and Leif Hoste (3rd).


That 2005 Tour had its share of problems. The organisation is a co-hosting of a Dutch and Belgian group that found it hard to direct the peloton and the media through a tense week of cycling. The parcours in the first stages saw some frightening scenes in the finales. Many twists and turns, U-turns and narrow village streets made the high speed mass-sprints very hazardous to say the least, but also very thrilling to watch. For the riders’ safety it would be better to make some track changes in the future.


Not only safety is a concern, also guidance through the race is proving to be difficult. The fourth stage was a display of how to NOT lead a race. Veikkanen, McCartney, Dockx and Vandevelde had a lead on the pack of around six minutes, Bruseghin and Mugerli on the chase, four minutes behind the leaders. The peloton, also escorted by police motors, had to make a left turn just after entering Belgium, but were lead straight on for a few kilometres. In fact, no-one knew where they were and the peloton comes to a complete stop.


Panic sets in with the organisation. The four leaders are made to stop by the police, resulting in a demonstration by Belgian Bart Dockx, sitting down on the tarmac in the middle of the road in protest. He did have a point in stating: “It’s not my fault that the peloton was on the wrong track. We (the four leaders) should have been able to carry on, but just couldn’t!”
Fortunately Rik Verbrugghe, who’s in the peloton and knows the region like his back yard, leads the large group back to the right track, adding about twelve kilometres to their day’s journey. The race resumes, of course the early leaders were cought and were probably robbed of a chance to the stage win. Let’s just hope the organisers have learned a lot from that first Tour of Benelux.


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