Jelle Jellema is the undisputed number one champion in marathon racing in The Netherlands, but he likes to put things into perspective: “It is usually nearly impossible for fanciers from the northeast of the country to win a prize in the international races over long distances. We do not often get the opportunity to win a top prize in these races, but this year’s Barcelona was a unique chance for us. We basketed pigeons that had already been racing through the night and in the early morning in other races, and so we were quite optimistic. Winning a first and third international was not something we had hoped for, but it was of course a wonderful moment!”
Jelle told us you never get used to winning, even with such a list of victories. He had expected to see a number of early arrivals, and so he went to the loft at 4:45 in the morning. The arrival of his pigeon NL11-1292679 Kleine Jade was an exciting moment. She was clocked at 5:14, before immediately going back to her nest with 15 days old eggs and a youngster. This amazing hen developed from a caring mother to the winner of the international race from Barcelona over 1258km in just one week's time.
A member of the 12 strong Barcelona team, Kleine Jade was basketed every week, and her first test of the season was the overnight flight with afternoon release from Brive on 31 May. It was an excellent opportunity to show her qualities, and she was able to win a 38th NPO. She was then given some time to recover and to brood eggs before being basketed from Quievrain the week before Barcelona. It was a final test before she was being sent to the capital of Catalonia. Kleine Jade, which was successful in the NPO Orange and the national race from Perpignan last season, originates from a number of top quality pigeons. She was bred from Dirke (5x top 100 National) and Jade, an amazing daughter of stock sire Zwart Goud.
Jelle’s second pigeon in the race was the experienced hen NL09-1783772, which had been clocked at 4:45 in last year’s Perpignan. That was the reason why Jelle basketed her as first nominated. She arrived at the loft in Nijverdal at 5:38, only just missing the international second prize from Barcelona. She had to be satisfied with third instead. This hen originates from the old Jellema breed as well, based on the high quality bloodlines of Orion and Klein Kweekstertje. 8 of a total of 12 basketed pigeons had made it home by 11:10, which made this race a great success. Pigeons of three years old and older get a chance of being basketed for Barcelona. Jelle’s young birds are preferably basketed for races of 500km, while the one year olds are basketed for two or three marathon races. Some fanciers might think that this is quite a demanding schedule, but Jelle argues that his best pigeons have never had any problems with that.
Some fanciers like to make a distinction between afternoon and morning releases, but Jelle has proved them wrong. “I alternate between morning and afternoon releases with the same team of pigeons and the exact same bloodlines, and I have been successful in both disciplines.” Jelle moved to Nijverdal in 2008, and his team of 60 racing pairs appears to be going very well now. Jelle has been able to win prizes in almost every race, and his international victory from Barcelona does not mean he will take things easy for the rest of the season. His racing loft will soon welcome back the excellent Romée, today’s best long distance pigeon in The Netherlands with an impressive five teletext prizes, and looking to win a sixth prize soon. Many fanciers had never expected this to be possible, but it appears that one of today’s great champions is about to achieve this one day soon.