The competition was raced on roads that had been left in an almost non-existing condition because of the war. The scenery had been recreated into a pockmarked, barren terrain. A no man’s land, consisting of potholes and bumps, one pool of disaster, misery, debris and destruction. Not one tree was growing anywhere.
On 28 April 1919, 87 participants from Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Tunisia and Switzerland were standing ready at the starting point. Nice, spring weather was at the order of the day for this first stage, but only after a few kilometres the nice weather predictions abruptly turned into a severe spring storm. Bad roads in combination with rain, snow and wind did not predict anything good.
It became a race in memorable conditions, with abhorrently cold, pelting rain, sticky mud, treacherous slippery conditions on broken roads that were shot to pieces.
Only 21 participants reached the finishing line on 11 May 1919.
In August 2019, 100 years later, this race will be organized once again.
With respect for the competition regulations at the time, at most the original track, with the same control points, and an almost identical self-sufficiency that the participants had to show 100 years earlier. It will not be a race, but a commemoration and an experience ride as a sign of the victory that symbolizes ‘peace’. The unique ride that will be held from 19 to 30 August 2019, with its start and finish in Oosteeklo, will be open to a maximum of 187 participants and hopes to attract an international field of participants from as many nations as possible affected by the First World War.
In its entirety, it must, after all, become a tribute to the 9 million soldiers who had met their demise.
The organization is in the capable hands of the local historical society ‘De Twee Ambachten Assenede’ and the ‘Order van de Smoutpot Oosteeklo’. Gent-Wevelgem, in Flanders Fields, is supporting this wonderful initiative.
Registrations open – symbolically - on 11 November 2018 at 11H00 via the website www.wielerroem.com