Ronny holding his 1st nat. Bourges, which was also the fastest overall
The so-called Bourges der Krijgsgevangenen (Prisoners of war) is the second most important classic for Belgian fanciers after Barcelona. Everyone looks forward to this race every season, from amateur to professional, from sprint fancier to long distance champion. This year's winner is none other than Ronny Menten from Rummen: his Olympic Princess beat 10,110 yearlings and she was also the fastest racing bird overall against 45,507 pigeons, which had been released at 7:30 in the morning.
Ronny is a perfect example of a successful modern-day pigeon fancier. The younger generation of fanciers no longer considers our sport to be a part of Belgium folklore, a small hobby for people that have to work hard during the day. Today pigeon racing has developed into a highly competitive sport. As in many olympic sports, a mere second or a single centimeter can make the difference between winning or losing. Only the very best pigeons will make it to the finish line first. Ronny Menten is not just a pigeon fancier but also a pigeon manager. He wants to know everything about pigeons, about incoming and outgoing transfers (some successful and some disappointing), and about training, diet, and medication. He wants only the best for his racing birds, and he wants to support his team in the best possible way. You have to be determined to win, since pigeon races are often won and lost in a matter of seconds. Ronny Menten is determined to win every time he baskets his pigeons, and this mindset makes him one of the leaders of his generation.
The 'manager' and his close assistants: his parents and his wife
The currrent generation of pigeons is mainly built around the Golden Pair, which consists of Roberto (a direct Robert van Eycken) x Paulette (a direct Deno-Herbots). Basically every descendant of this pair has been capable of winning top prizes. In fact, these prize winners know what it means to be leading a race, which is quite important for pigeon fancier Ronny. This foundation was further strengthened with sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of Paulien, De Zoon and Primo, which are all Albert Derwa pigeons. The pigeons that were obtained from Derwa were all direct descendants of these three champions. In addition, they purchased a full round of young birds from Vanoppen-Luyten (Herk de Stad, BE) for two consecutive years, and three of them were so successful that they got a spot in the breeding loft. Ronny has also bred quite a number of prize winners from a pigeon of Jos Thoné, which originates directly from the line of Avril.
Olympic Princess (BE15-3050843)
A few years back Ronny met Gino Clicque from Wevelgem during a pigeon exhibition in China. They got along very well and it was agreed that a group of pigeons from Gino's first round of youngsters would get a place in Ronny's loft in the next couple of years. Gino's national winner is in fact a direct Gino Clicque that moved from Wevelgem to Rummen just last year. You can never expect a pigeon to win a race on command but Ronny was expecting a lot from this pigeon. First of all, the entire team had shown some great form in the provincial race from Vierzon shortly before Bourges, winning a 2-3-4-9 (14/24) against 765 pigeons. Olympic Princess finished in 41st place, which showed that she was quite ambitious for Bourges. The racing team has been doing great all season long, as you can tell from their best results at club level, which is always a good indicator:
Chateauroux: 123 olds: 2-4-6-8-11-13-16-17-19 (14/28) 138 YLs: 3-4-8-9-12-24-25 (14/26) La Souterraine: 241 YLS: 2-4-5-10-12-16-29 (12/42) Argenton: 177 olds: 1-3-5-6-19-23-25-26-29-31 (15/31) 141 YLs: 1-11-15-20-22-30-31-33 (13/25) Chateauroux : 243 olds: 1-2-3-5-6-13-15-16-17-18 (26/46) 252 YLs: 3-5-6-8-9-14-16-22 (25/54) Bourges: 279 olds: 3-4-6-7-10-11-12-15-16-19 (27/49) 273 YLs: 1-10-15-18-20 (17/31) Sens: 345 olds: 7-8-9-10-12-20-21-22 (25/51) 318 YLs: 1-2-4-15-20-28 (19/35)
Olympic Princess won a 16th prize against 9,579 opponents from La Souterraine, which was reason enough to make her the first nominated for Bourges. And she did not fail: she followed in the footsteps of her famous great-great grandfather Figo (BE99-3020065), which won a 1st nat. Bourges against 12,266 pigeons. This illustrious pigeon became an invaluable breeder in pigeon families all across Belgium. We can only hope that Olympic Princess will become just as valuable as a breeder. She is related to Figo from her mother's side as well, but from a generation further down. You can find the full pedigree of Olympic Princess here.
Gino Clicque and Ronny: two successful fanciers who met in China
Olympic Princess earned her place as first nominated thanks to a number of excellent results this season, including her 16th national place from La Souterraine. She also won:
29th interprovincial Argenton 2,259 p. (472nd/12,449 nat.) 77th interprovincial Chateauroux 2,663 p. (555th/9,540 nat.) 140th provincial Chateauroux 3,386 p. (3,332nd /29,591 nat.) 92nd interprovincial vierzon 1,854 p. 461st zone B2 Argenton 4,393 p. (2,157th/18,363 nat.) 626th interprovincial Montluçon 2,875 p. (2,487th/10,753 nat.)
The breeding loft
We wanted to know what the pigeon collection of Ronny, who is arguably a top class fancier, looks like. Well, he started the 2016 season with 40 breeding pairs, with a combination of proven pairs, successful racing birds and pigeons that have yet to show what they are capable of. The best racing birds of 2015 were given a spot in this year's breeding team as well. This group of pigeons constitutes 50% of the breeding team. The other 50% of the team consists of sons and daughters from proven breeders and racing birds from his own collection, which are often closely inbred. At the moment some of the best breeders are still raising a pair of youngsters. These youngsters are put to the test for one season, and the best ones will join the team of breeders. The team has a few recent transfers as well, usually sons or daughters from a proven breeder or racing bird. Every newcomer gets three seasons to show his worth.
The eye of the national winner
Ronny has a team of cocks and hens, which are both raced in classic widowhood (the partners stay home). One thing that we noticed about his approach is that there is only one cock for each pair of hens. A first group of hens can spend 30 minutes with their cocks before being basketed. When the first group is basketed the second group can in turn spend half an hour with their male partners as well. The first pigeon to make it back home will also be the first to be reunited with her partner. This means the other hen will often have to wait a few hours before she gets to see her partner.
Ronny organises two training flights every day, without the flag and usually for about an hour. If the pigeons are not motivated enough on Wednesday they will not be basketed that week. The pigeons get a portion of Galaxy Light (Beyers) for 60 minutes every morning and evening, but he switches to Galaxy Energy in the final four feeds before basketing.
We asked Ronny about his ambitions for the future, and he said: "Next weekend's race from Argenton". We look forward to it.