Thursday 04 March 2021

Georges Ronsse, the very first Belgian world champion

115 years ago on 4 March 1906, Georges Ronsse was born in Antwerp. In 1928 Ronsse was present at the start of the second pro cycling World Championship in Budapest. On a scorching August 16, 16 riders came to the start for a 192 km race, partly on unpaved roads, in and around the Hungarian capital. The top favourite that day was the Italian Alfredo Binda, who was reigning world champion.

After 45 kilometres two Belgians, Georges Ronsse and Jules Vanhevel, accelerated. In no time, the duo had a 10 minute lead, but 35 kilometres later fate struck. A pack of oxen stopped in the middle of the road. Ronsse was in the lead and could only just avoid the obstacle. Vanhevel was not as lucky and crashed right into the obstacle. Despite the heavy crash, the Belgian was able to rejoin Ronsse a little later, but it was only a stay of execution. The fall had left its mark on Vanhevel, leaving Ronsse alone at 70 kilometres from the finish. The man from Antwerp had a hell of a job to do under a burning Hungarian sun.

There was no cooperation at all in the background. The Italians did not want to give each other the victory, so to everyone's surprise Ronsse raced away even further. After 147 kilometres of attacking, the Belgian was the first to cross the line in Budapest with a lead of more than 15 minutes, the biggest lead ever at a World Championship. Ronsse crowned himself the very first Belgian pro world champion. A year later the man from Antwerp would extend his world title in Zurich.

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