GHENT - 'The Farm', is literally an old Belgian farmhouse outside of Ghent. From the seventies onward it was the operational base for young promising international riders. Michael Tvardovskiy lived at The Farm for eight years, after deserting the Ukranian army. When he got deported from Belgium, both this story and the Flemish cycling era came to and end.
Staf Boone, manager of the Kingsnorth International Wheelers (KIW), saw hundreds of riders pass by The Farm. All of them wanted to become a 'Flandrien'. First came British riders, Australians and Canadians. After the Berlin Wall fell riders from Eastern Europe found their way to Belgium.
But the final sprint of the team was lost. The team used to have 40 riders. Now, for the first time, their is no team. The last veterans-mecanics have officially left building. In the bigger picture, we see amateur cycling is struggling in Belgium, where it has a longstanding tradition.
Most riders used to stay a couple of months at The Farm. Michael (31) from Ukraine called it home since 2014. He fled Kiev after president Yanukovitch got ousted and he didn't want to fight Russian kids in Donetsk. "During my service I dreamt about a career in Belgium. So I deserted." Last year Michael got deported from Belgium. "I moved in back with my parents and now work as an Uber driver."
PRINT (in Dutch)
- Epiloog van een wielertijdperk, Apache, 14/12/2020.