When 2 dogs fight for a bone... Briek Schotte runs off with it
Friday 06 August 2021
There were just two favourites prior to the start of the 1948 UCI Road World Championships in Valkenburg: Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. The rest of the pack had almost resigned themselves to the situation. But a race is there to be raced.
And that is exactly what Briek Schotte said to himself. The young Belgian attacked early on in the race, in which the pack had to climb the Cauberg no fewer than 26 times. He hoped to build up a lead over the two Italians.
The West Fleming had already won the Tour of Flanders twice and his stamina was considered legendary. It also earned him the nickname “Iron” Briek. Schotte was joined by 8 other riders in his breakaway. Because Coppi and Bartali refused to work together and the rest of the pack looked to them to lead the chase, the group of nine was able to widen the gap very quickly.
Ultimately Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali never crossed the finish line. The two riders both dropped out of the race once they realised they would be unable to catch up with the breakaway group. They were dead set on not letting each other become world champion, even scuppering their own chances of becoming world champion in the process.
In the meantime, Briek Schotte continued to power on during every climb of the Cauberg, effectively breaking up the lead group. Everyone gave up, barring one rider: the Frenchman Lazarides. The race ended with a sprint of the two riders but Schotte did not give in. The Belgian rider became the world champion for the first time in his career, a feat he would repeat two years later on Flemish soil.
And the two Italian competitors? The Italian cycling federation suspended them both for several months.