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Barcelona - The Marathon International...
Author: Liam O ComainTitle: Barcelona - The Marathon International
Date: 2005-01-07 16:28:54Uploaded by: webmaster
Twice winner of the Barcelona International.Because of obstacles like the Pyrenees mountain range and the intense heat of the Spanish sun plus extraordinary mileage the Barcelona International race is the marathon of all marathons. Even a so called blow home from Barcelona is a difficult encounter for in addition to all vagaries of the climate the pigeons have to face feathered and other predators as well as the uncertainty of nights out on roof tops, trees, and wire lines, etc..

The initiators of the Barcelona marathon like many initiatives in the history of the sport were from the European country of Belgium. In fact it is recorded that the sport itself had its origin in the former principality of Liege, in the east of Belgium, around 1780. What our winged heroes had to endure in those times of primitive transport, etc., we cannot imagine for as early as 1811 there were races from Lyon (375 miles) to Liege; and as the sport developed a Liege club known as Le Saint- Esprit organised a 850 miles race from Rome in 1856. Another Liege club, Les Combattants, organised the first national race from the subject of our article Barcelona (650 miles) in the early nineteen hundreds.

However, it was in 1924 that racing from Barcelona took a mighty step forward when the first of many races from the race point was organised. Until the 2nd World War most of the Barcelona winners were to be found in Walloonia in the south of Belgium. Research confirms that there were no races from Barcelona during the war years and beyond - 1939/1948. It began as an official international race however in 1951 under the auspices of the Belgium based Cureghem Centre although prior to this the Belgians organised races in 1949 and in 1950.

Following the first Barcelona race in 1924 the land of its origins provided the winners until 1957 (six years after it became an official race) when it was won by G.Staud of Germany. The latter nation has provided six winners since to add to the Staud achievement and Luxembourg is the only other nation aside from the Dutch to win (except the originators) when R. Christen was successful in 1977. The Dutch took an early interest in the race but participated for the first time in 1959. Thus the first national winner into Holland was a fancier called Beckers and he finished 18th in the International in the wake of the Belgian winner.

Eighteenth position in their first participation was an omen pointing to the impact that the Netherlands would in due course make in the International for Martin Krauth was the first of the latter nation to win the world's greatest pigeon prize in 1961. Since then the Dutch have won the race on 12 occasions and of late it appears that they are the favourites before the release. Because of the distance from Barcelona to the Netherlands the Dutch success is phenomenal especially when we consider that in a very hard race in 1980 Jo Hendriks beat 13,665 birds to win the race into the far north of Holland. Many were of the opinion that in such a hard fly weather wise it was impossible to win at such a large distance. But the courageous bird of Van Wanroy - Aarden bloodlines proved that it could be done. In fact many of the International winners and those to the fore in this marathon carry the Jan Aarden bloodlines.

In the earlier years we note the names of winners of the race such as Vandvelde (1925), Delbar (1937), and Hector Berlangee (1949); there is also the success of Andre Vanbruaene who won the race twice in 1966 and 1984. The most outstanding performance however must be that of the Belgium fancier Demaret whose 'The Barcelona Miracle' beat 3,300 birds in 1962 and won again in 1963 beating 3,599 pigeons. This fantastic representative of the Belgium distance fraternity was of the Bricoux strain and its performance may never be matched. But having said that it was a record nearly broken by the partnership of Deraedt van Grembergen who won the race in 1964 and the same bird was runner up in 1963 to Demaret's miracle.

There have been some near misses in the race for example Cees Boeters won the race into Holland in 1985 but would have won the International also but forgot to fill in necessary documents therefore he lost out although his bird had a higher velocity than the winner. The latter fancier is one of the group Gardien who won the race in 2002. But for his failure in 1985 he would have joined Demaret and Vanbruaene as a third double winner of the International. There is also the sad case of Albert Simons in Holland who found a bird in his loft which won the Dutch national and was 2nd International beaten by a few seconds. Alas he was not at his post to clock in a sure winner!

Apparently the oldest winners so far are no more than seven years and there have been a few of the latter. The youngest have been two year olds and then other ages in between. The Dutch fancier, Torremen, won with a seven year old which beat 28,094 birds in 1999. Interestingly the winner was a hen as was the winners for the years 2000, 2001, and 2002. Of interest was the 1992 race which because of strong tail winds saw the velocities shoot up to 1267 mpm for 1,011 kilometres with two birds arriving in Belgium on the day of release. This race also saw the first so called 'night bird' which was timed in Holland at 01.00am. The latter because of distance beat the two earlier arrivals which were timed at 21.19 and 21.27pm respectively but even this could not ensure Brasse the race for he in turn was beaten by his fellow countryman Martin Biemans whose bird 'Invincible Spirit' won from an even greater distance. Of course the Massarella Stud in England now owns this fabulous bird at a reported cost of about 110,800 English pounds. In fact the Barcelona winners are priceless!

Invincible Spirit

The largest number to participate in the race was in 1993 when 33,145 were released and the proud winner was J.Theelen of Holland with a velocity of 1,101 by a three year old. The highest velocity recorded so far is that of the 2004 winner who covered the course at 1358 for Vrosch-Meyers of Holland. In contrast the lowest velocity since the race became official is 896 by a two year old in 1997 for V. Vanheusden. The longest distance of a winner must be that of the 750 miles of Smaragd 2 in 1988 for Wim Van Leeuwen.

Barcelona International Winners (1951-2004)

(As An Official International Race)
Year – Birds – Owner - Home/Country – Velocity - Age
1951 2.397 J. Boels Stene-Oostende B-Wvl 1.075 -
1952 1.949 O. De Vriendt Moere B-Wvl 1.075 3 years
1953 - R. Vanden Berghe Michelbeke B-Ovl - -
1954 1.910 Leyssens-Lepreux Jette B-Bt 1.070 7
1955 1.480 Denis Adonis Baileux B-Nam 978 4
1956 895 O. Van Biervliet Soignies B-Hen 1.035 5
1957 3.350 G. Staudt - D 1.051 2
1958 3.756 G. Vande Weghe Olsene B-Ovl 1.068 4
1959 4.181 M Desmet Waregem B-Wvl 1.063 4
1960 4.441 A. Monin Cul-des-Sarts B-Nam 969 4
1961 3.578 M. Krauth Meerssen NL 1.095 7
1962 3.300 Ad Demaret Ottignies B-Bt 1.051 4
1963 3.599 Ad Demaret Ottignies B-Bt - 5
1964 3.845 De raedt-Vangrembergen Gent B-Ovl 1.081 6
1965 4.036 D. Van Dommel Rotterdam NL 1.191 6
1966 4.343 A. Vanbruaene Lauwe B-Wvl 1.044 5
1967 4.876 Mevr L. Blancquaert Gent B-Ovl 1.087 4
1968 5.348 J. Ross Sulzbach Main D 1.094 5
1969 8.217 M+J Opsomer Maarkedaal-Kerkem B-Ovl 1.057 3
1970 6.781 Desmet-Lippens Westkapelle B-Wvl 1.111 3
1971 7.384 M. Huls Maastricht NL 1.093 4
1972 7.293 D. Roelandt Lede B-Ovl 1.077 5
1973 8.515 J. Carlens Zepperen B-Lim 1.078 4
1974 10.273 E. Sutor Bad Homburg D 1.098 3
1975 8.301 A. Callebert Zarren B-Wvl 1.068 2
1976 11.016 R. Florizoone Nieuwpoort B-Wvl 1.080 6
1977 10.502 R. Christen Roeser G-d Luxemburg 954 4
1978 11.131 J. Gryspeerd St-Eloois-Winkel B-Wvl 1.052 4
1979 12.201 R. Gyselinck Merelbeke B-Ovl 1.073 4
1980 13.636 J. Hendriks Twello NL 1.240 4
1981 13.202 C. Willegers en Zoon Steenbergen NL 1.140 6
1982 15.605 Gebr Peersman Oppuurs B-Ovl 1.082 3
1983 12.146 P. Gilmont Houdeng B-Hen 1.018 2
1984 13.033 A. Vanbruaene Lauwe B-Wvl 1.044 5
1985 17.060 J+P Vervisch Kortrijk B-Wvl 1.050 4
1986 18.076 J+R Schlömer Mönchengladbach D 1.129 6
1987 21.736 Ch Vanoppen Hoeselt B-Lim 1.076 2
1988 21.194 W. Van Leeuwen Hedel NL 1.171 3
1989 25.502 K+D Böhm Da-Arheilgen D 1.068 4
1990 28.128 U. Hermes Hamm-Sieg D 1.121 2
1991 27.187 J-L Van Roy Ronse B-Ovl 1.045 3
1992 27.158 M. Biemans Teteringen NL 1.152
1993 33.145 J. Theelen Buggenum NL 1.101 3
1994 21.807 R. Verborg Marke B-Wvl 962 4
1995 20.925 Gyselbrecht Knesselare B-Ovl 1.084 3
1996 20.129 Willems-Thoné Eisden B-Lim 966 2
1997 24.908 V. Vanheusden Diepenbeek B-Lim 896 2
1998 24.139 Kipp+Sohne Althornbach D 955 3
1999 28.095 J. Torreman Rockanje NL 1.171 7
2000 26.597 Comb Houtekamer Oud-Sabblinge NL 1.139 2
2001 25.760 S. Heymann Beesel NL 1.141 3
2002 26.928 Gardien Loek RBB N-Maasdijk NL 1.241 4
2003 20.204 Fauche Frères Waret-L'Evêque B 1.048 4
2004 24.914 Vrosch-Meyers Heerlen NL 1358

Of course like all human enterprises things do not always go as planned and there have been occasions when entries have arrived home prior to the release of the convoy which is usually on a Friday morning. There are other stories of pigeons being found dead in the baskets and of other birds dropping dead shortly after the convoy's release and of course entrants obviously sick that should not have been let out of the loft let alone participating in such a massive task of endurance. But inspite of obvious human failings and perhaps fate the dream of winning the Barcelona International does not deter the European pigeon racing fraternity from sending year after year in pursuit of olympic glory. And just as one is likely to focus on the marathon racing event of 26 miles 385 yards in the Olympic Games the Barcelona Marathon is in the thoughts of every pigeon man and woman worth his or her salt. And that is why as Europeans we are the envy of the world's pigeon racing community. Viva Le Barcelona!

Liam O Comain

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