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Claessens Ludo wants to 'stunt' with only 30 pigeons in the lofts! (2008)

At the end of the sport season 2006 we visited the 'miracle man' from the border region, Ludo Claessens from the Dutch Putte, near the border with Belgium. The man who says what he thinks, is not afraid to speak the truth… and in particular, every sentence is backed up by the 'miraculous performances' that his colony of 'super pigeons' has achieved over the years. No nonsense, no being secretive…but showing the evidence! One of Ludo's most well-known sayings is without doubt:
"I can do anything with 60 pigeons…". Something that he never diverts from, because every year only 60 to 70 pigeons maximum are kept for the following year, 20 racing pigeons and 10 breeding couples. This is how he tackled the 2007 season. A season where Ludo stood for the great challenge; to equal the 2006 season which, in Ludo's own words was the "best season ever" in his 30 years as a fancier, or even to better it. It seems like an impossible task when for 2006 the end balance was (in the provincial Middle Distance races for old pigeons) that from the 132 nominated pigeons, 109 had prize (per 4), 94 per 10 and 38 per 100, with the 1st prize locally every week ! What's more, if you study the total end result of the last 3 seasons (period 2004-2006), with in total 356 nominated pigeons, wherefrom 285 prizes per 4 (or 80% prize), 232 per 10 (or 65%), and no less than 92 per 100 (or nearly 26%), then I know a lot of fanciers that faced a lesser challenge at the beginning of the 2007 season! Figures that allowed us to call Ludo Claessens the 'Best Middle Distance racer in the world' at the end of 2006! We made the statement that anyone who thought that they were entitled to this title due to 'better results' should call us straight away! Don't worry… the telephone remained quiet for a year!

The 2007 season
The perspectives at the start of the 2007 sport season had never seemed as good. The 'talent' of the 20-head team of widowers had never been as big! All the ingredients were there… and the beautiful April weather made everything perfect for the preparations. The training races in the sprint were promising, never before had his pigeons done so well in these opening short races… it had to happen now. And it happened… but not what everyone expected… because the very first middle distance race in the middle of May from Pithiviers was a catastrophic ramp… one of the biggest disasters ever in the history of the Dutch pigeon sport. The course of this race was so dramatic, the ramp scenario so large, the W.O.W.D. commission later ordered a special investigation. But this doesn't help you if you're one of the affected fanciers. Ludo Claessens had basketted his 20 widowers for this Pithiviers… the consequenties here were incalculable. Pigeons that took days to return home… and finally no less than 9 widowers (together good for no less than 36 x 1st prizes from regional to provincial level) in this ramp, and up until now still haven't returned home. If you are called Ludo Claessens… and you are the 'best middle distance fancier in the world' … then you are completely powerless!
The season was over before it had even started! A 'sledgehammer blow' that many fanciers never recovered from. The motivation by Ludo dropped nearly as much as by his halved racing team. Years of work and effort were abruptly reduced to nothing. We know a lot of people that would have given up for much less. We just can't imagine it, a Ludo Claessens without pigeons is like… a Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka and other Beckhams without a football… as a Bettini, Boonen or Boogerd without a racing bike. After a few weeks of reflection… he decided to carry on where he left off and take a chance with the youngsters. Because Ludo's motivation had dropped to freezing point, he had let 3 races for the youngsters pass him by… they hadn't been prepared, and were thrown to the lions without any motivation, preparation or routine, with only 1 trainings race from Strombeek in the wings. Anything but ideal. A few good prizes were achieved during the first few weeks (Bouillon 2.280 p 4,6,7… Arlon 2.175 p 5…), but the chain results, which were the trademark of Ludo Claessens, didn't occur for a while due to the fact that the pigeons hadn't been prepared properly. We write 'for a while' … because the motivation grew week by week, the (pigeon) switch in the head once again stood in the right direction… the passion, the 'winners instinct'… slowly but surely returned. The curve form of the racing team shot up like a comet.
The provincial victory from Chantilly brought an extra load of new courage and hope ! For the penultimate weekend of the 2007 season with the 2nd race from St.Quentin, real pigeon weather had been forecast, and 'fireworks' were expected from the Claessens pigeons in these circumstances. For that matter, they have a patent there… and the pigeons lived up to the expectations, take a look:

St.Quentin 938 p. 1,4,5,8,9,11,14,16,18,20,23,24,25,26,27,28… and total 20/24
Prov RI 3.889 p. 1, 4,5… etc. Real stunt work that caused an adrenaline-rush by the 'boss', because the following week the favourite race from Ludo… the closing National Orleans was on the programme! Ludo wanted to shine here once more.
It was a hectic week with a lot of mental preparation, and the stress that went with it... it was now or never for 2007! The release that followed was enormous, because once again the Claessens team made 'short work' of the competition, just like we have come to expect of them over the years:

Orleans Prov RI 2.087 p. 1,2,3,5,6,10,13,20,30… and 20/23
Nat NPO 9.096 p. 1,3,5,9,16,38,57,60… and 19/23
Ludo had here the quickest pigeon against more than 20.000 pigeons with a velocity of 1206 m/min. By the 38th prize nationally, the first 5 nominated had been clocked! Phenomenal… or should we say: a result 'à la Claessens'! Straight away the 19th Provincial victory in 'District 1' and the 7th National NPO victory in his chosen Orleans race! Try and copy it! A 'direct hit' to close the 'turbulent' pigeon season, even though we know thousands of people who had to be satisfied with much less in 2007, take a look at the 'Highlights 2007'!

 


Whoever thought that all the 'grief' from May was now forgotten, was wrong. The incident of the 'catastrophic Pithiviers' deeply affected Ludo… and left traces that can't be wiped away. The urge to perform well, the feeling of 'wanting to win'… brings daily the 'mental preparation', and often causes 'physical stress'. During the last autumn and winter months Ludo took stock of everything, and was in doubt as to whether he still gained as much pleasure from the pigeon sport as he had done in the early years. During the previous summer months he discovered that there was a whole range of other nice things and other challenges in life than success in the pigeon sport. That is why in the future he will try to find a better balance between the 'sacrifice' (which is demanded for performing at top level), the 'stress and tension' that this brings, and the pleasure that he experiences. The fact that the past classics from Chateauroux and Bourges are no longer flown, and that the 2 remaining Orleans races at the end of every season could possibly be replaced by an NPO race from Chantilly… has convinced him to keep 'even fewer' pigeons in the future. The selecting at the end of 2007 was carried out in the same way as previous years, and at the moment there are 70 pigeons in the loft, which still weren't coupled by February. Seeing the fact that Ludo can't race the pigeons in the way he would like, he made the bold decision to halve his team of 'super pigeons', and only keep 30. Two of the three compartments for widowers will be emptied, and a team of 12 old pigeons will be raced. He is convinced that he can still be successful with just one team of pigeons, but then in a more relaxed way. He wants to stop with the weekly compulsion to perform well, and on a nice summer's day be able to take a bike ride with his wife, take a trip, or go away for a few days…

Stunting with 30 pigeons in the loft
A brave decision during the top of his pigeon career. It is a public secret that the 'quality' in the Claessens lofts is extremely high, that the 'World class' that his pigeons have, can't be equalled. We don't have to draw a picture to demonstrate that Ludo is being driven crazy deciding which 30 pigeons he will keep for 2008.
The difference between them is oh so small. It is a difficult and sometimes heartbreaking choice between proven racing pigeons and the breeding capabilities of the pigeons, in order to come to a definite decision. A lot of people will think: pick the best 30 and that's it. It's not that easy, not only because it was so difficult to get down to 70 pigeons, a recurring yearly phenomena… but also…the 30 pigeons that Ludo keeps will form the foundation for his future in the pigeon sport… let us explain. When Ludo only has brothers and sisters, half brothers and half sisters or cousins of each other then he will be signing his own death treaty… and the top performances will soon come to an end. At the moment there is a lot of inbreeding (especially to the 'Late Donkere' 375/93 and the 'Supercrack 69') in his pigeons. That is why it is difficult to find a suitable partner for some of the toppers… because of the danger of sitting 'too close'. Last season Ludo discovered that percentage wise he bred more 'Cracks' with crossbreeding than with inbreeding or strain breeding.
This is not only the case by Ludo, but also in other lofts… because real 'Super cracks' come for 90% out of crossbreeding! An identical scenario in Putte where a crossing of the basis strains "Late Donkere" and "Supercrack 69" with the 'strange blood' of the "Bliksem", from "Mister Tours", and recently with the "Vedetje"… have produced 'super cracks'. Ludo has to keep this in mind when making his definite selection. Ludo also has a difficult decision to make in the racing lofts because, so as we mentioned earlier, the 3 racing lofts will be reduced to 1 compartment. And then there is the problem that certain 'supers' have housed themselves in the same 'box' (albeit in different lofts). Putting them in the same loft could lead to some bloody fights, and can seriously disturb the peace in the racing loft during the racing season, and that is something that Ludo wants to avoid like the plague, so here it is often a question of "Which of the 3"? Should he keep the best old pigeon (meaning the one with the best results), knowing that he may only be able to race it for one more season… or should he opt for the 'talented younger crack', who he can keep in the racing loft for a few years? When a fancier, like most of our fellow sportsmen, only own 1 or 2 toppers, the choice is easily made…but when 70 equally worthy pigeons have to be reduced to a group of 30 so as by Ludo Claessens… it's a big problem! Ludo has already made an important choice, and that is that he will auction the 35 remaining pigeons through the services of Pipa! It is a pleasure to see the over-indulgence of 'CLASS', exceptional '1st prize winners', magnificent 'Crack pigeons' and excellent 'Star breeders' that Ludo will be offering on the Pipa internet site (www.pipa.be). One thing is certain, this will be a Ludo Claessens auction like never before. Or to describe it in the words of the 'Michelin guide': a "5-STAR AUCTION"! We are eagerly looking forward the 2008 season, to see whether Ludo is as successful with his 30 pigeons in the short middle distance races as he has been in previous years! Maybe after the 2008 season, in which we hope we are spared the 'bird flu' and other 'Pithiviers'… we will be able to confirm that Ludo Claessens has grown into the 'national hero' with the 'biggest performances', but with the 'smallest number' of pigeons in the lofts.

A few Toppers being auctioned: