Hugo Batenburg (left) and Joost De Smeyter (right), two grandmasters and international stars in the extreme long distance
If there had been some form of award for the most successful Belgian extreme long distance fancier over the past few years, Joost De Smeyter would definitely be one of the potential winners. Needless to say, it takes a lot of hard work to achieve so many great results. Even an international star as Joost De Smeyter has to be committed every single day. Pigeon racing is about being able to adapt to changing weather conditions, to changes in fitness and about getting the most out of your racing team.
Many lofts were hindered by the ever-changing weather conditions and the low temperatures throughout May and June this year. It resulted in postponed races and difficult racing conditions, which meant that the pigeons needed more time to recover, especially those that arrived home very late. These pigeons need extra care, especially because inadequate recovery can really affect their level of fitness. This can in turn have an impact on the team's training schedule and your overall level of performance.
Joost's racing team has had some difficult times as well. Joost De Smeyter is particularly focused on recovery, rest and build-up, training schedules and diet and food supplements, and the influence it has on his racing birds. In fact, he learned a lot about this in his career as a professional cyclist and today as a teacher at the cycling school in Ronse, Belgium.
Joost considers pigeon racing to be a straightforward affair. You need a top class breed with innate orientation skills. It is then up to the fancier to get the most out of their qualities through diet, training, recovery and observation. Last year PIPA sat down with Joost to discuss each of these aspects. You can reread our interview here (Dutch only).
The mircale of Perpignan
Just like any other extreme long distance fancier Joost De Smeyter wants to excel in the international classics. Getting your pigeons in top form on the right time is one of the major challenges for a fancier. The two most important international classics of the extreme long distance, Barcelona and Perpignan, were the two most important objectives for the hens' team of De Smeyter-Restiaen. The racing birds were basketed for Barcelona with a youngster for Barcelona and with an egg for Perpignan. Joost had prepared 40 hens and 5 cocks for Barcelona, and they were all in great form apparently:
02/7 Barcelona 159 olds: 1-2-3-5-7-10-14-15-17-20-21-22-23-37-38-… (19/45) Nat. 7,693 olds: 30-34-40-91-138-210-289-296-307-406-407-429-461-… (19/45) Internat. 17,729 olds: 78-90-111-232-384-582-777-792-809-… (19/45) Internat. 5,538 hens: 38-43-48-85-200-267-272-279-354-355-… (18/40)
Five out of six nominated pigeons finished in the national top-461, only the third nominated was yet to arrive home. Team De Smeyter-Restiaen really dominated the race at club level with 13 pigeons in the top 23. They were all clocked within 2 hours and 50 minutes, while many Belgian fanciers were still waiting for their first pigeons to arrive home. It shows that they were in excellent form indeed. However, the rest of the team struggled through the day as well. Two more pigeons returned the same day, but the rest of the team arrived home much later, if at all. Barcelona turned out to be quite a disastrous race, with many clubs having to wait an entire week before they could award their prizes. The team of Joost had a rough day as well but most of them eventually made it back home, most of them even by the end of the first day, which was quite a relief.
The pigeons had clearly been working really hard. Joost's main concern was to make sure all pigeons had enough time to recover and to regain fitness. This was particularly important for the upcoming race from Perpignan. Joost knows that recovery and training build up are crucial in trying to reach pik fitness. It is fair to say his team managed to get in peak form for Perpignan as well!
Joost had created a team of 22 hens for Perpignan (most of which had successfully competed in Barcelona), along with a group of 25 cocks that were successful in Pau, St. Vincent and Marseille as well.
Joost clearly knows how to get his pigeons in peak form for an important race. His performance in Perpignan has amazed pigeon fanciers both at home and abroad. Let's take a look:
29/7 Perpignan 106 olds: 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-13-15-18-19-20-22-23-24… (23/47) Nat. 4,191 olds: 12-18-19-20-21-24-33-64-85-101-115-139-169-175-183-195- 226-246-287-319-337-340-383… (23 prizes per 10 and 28/47) Internat. 12,689 olds: 23-35-36-37-38-44-61-122-165-191-220-260-322-330-344- 363-422-463-539-618-656-661-784-1038… (24 x per 10 and 28/47) Internat. 2,915 hens: 4-10-11-12-13-38-43-51-66-142-391-574 (12/22)
This is without doubt the most impressive performance of 2016, with pigeons arriving home in quick succession, as if it were a sprint race. The first six pigeons came home within 5 minutes' time, winning a national top prize. The first 23 pigeons returned home within half an hour. This is quite an astonishing performance.
In most basketing clubs the prizes per ten were won only in the course of the evening; just over 10% of all pigeons from Perpignan (at national level) had made it back home by then. However, the basketing club in Ronse had been able to publish its official results (per three) by 9:35pm, simply because team Joost De Smeyter-Restiaen had dominated the entire race! The first four nominated pigeons finished within the top-139 national and top-260 international. In addition, three of the four first clocked hens from Barcelona (30th-40th-91st national) were also among the first four pigeons from Perpignan, winning a 19th, 20th and 12th national respectively. All three racing hens will be winning a prize in the national ace pigeon championship KBDB as well; they are currently expected to finish in 3rd, 4th and 7th place in the National Ace Pigeon championship extreme long distance KBDB 2016. We will come back to this subject when the official results have been published.
Simply the best
Joost is an allrounder who does well in every discipline, from longer middle distance to extreme long distance. However, he really started to become an internationally renowned player thanks to his results in the extreme long distance, where he managed to perform at a high level season after season. His impressive palmares includes a 1st International Pau against 9,052 pigeons in 2015, a victory in the Western European Super Marathon, the title of Euro Diamond and a 2nd National Ace Pigeon extreme long distance KBDB in 2015. He relies on an exceptional team of racing pigeons, which have done really well in the international classics of 2016 as well. The race from Narbonne shows that his team of yearlings has great potential as well.
It takes more than just one talented racing bird to achieve so many great results. It takes many years to assemble such a strong team, many years of breeding, pairing, filling the gaps, and looking for opportunities to strengthen your breed. As a fancier you have to put your new introductions to the test, to try to get them to perform at full potential. You can only become successful by basketing your pigeons often, and by keeping only the very best ones in your team.
This is how Joost De Smeyter has been able to excel in the extreme long distance. His hard work has paid off.
An overview of his best results of 2016
19/6 Pau 82 olds: 5-7-12-17-19-21-22-26 (8/15) Nat. 1,661 olds: 28-64-126-183-190-343-389 (7/15) 26/6 Agen 130 olds: 3-4-6-11-13-18-23-28-30-31-33-34-38-39… (18/48) Nat. 3,648 olds: 24-62-113-202-218-280-389-447-460-478-481-487… (18/48) Nat. 2,932 YL: 9-105-118-122-205-268-312… (16/31) Internat. 2,011 hens: 5-28-52-96-111-112-126-195-250-271-287-293… (14/25) 02/7 Barcelona 159 olds: 1-2-3-5-7-10-14-15-17-20-21-22-23-37-38… (19/45) Nat. 7,693 p.: 30-34-40-91-138-210-289-296-307-406-407-429-461… (19/45) Internat. 17,729 p.: 78-90-111-232-384-582-777-792-809… (19/45) Internat. 5,538 hens: 38-43-48-85-200-267-272-279-354-355… (18/40) 08/7 St.-Vincent 50 olds: 3-4-5-6-10-11-15-16 (8/19) Nat. 2,562 p.: 120-134-153-194-244-247-356-372-461-603-605 (11/19) Internat. 10,643 p.: 342-369-424-532-653-666-945-978… (13/19) 09/7 Limoges 153 olds: 1-9-13-32-36 (5/10) Nat. 6,492 olds: 10-227-451-945-1130 (5/10) 15/7 Marseille 17 olds: 1-2 (2/6) Nat. 2,166 p.: 38-411 (2/6) 16/7 Jarnac 64 olds: 1-3-4-12-13-20 (6/19) Nat. 4,167 p.: 12-68-89-330-341-524-717-844 (8/19) 24/7 Narbonne 74 YLs: 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-9-10-11-13-16-18-20… (18/33) Nat. 3,173 YLs: 9-25-34-42-57-79-242-284-327-330-337-427-490 (17/33) Internat. 7,811 YL: 24-65-86-108-144-192-606-717-807-817-838… (18/33) 24/7 Brive 150 olds: 5-6-13-16-20-26-32 (7/16) Nat. 5,952 p.: 91-124-224-281-438-639-903-1379 (8/16) 29/7 Perpignan 106 olds: 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-13-15-18-19-20-22-23-24… (23/47) Nat. 4,191 olds: 12-18-19-20-21-24-33-64-85-101-115-139-169-175-183-195- 226-246-287-319-337-340-383… (23 prizes per 10 and 28/47) Internat. 12,689 p.: 23-35-36-37-38-44-61-122-165-191-220-260-322-330-344- 363-422-463-539-618-656-661-784-1038… (24 x per 10 and 28/47) Internat. 2,915 hens: 4-10-11-12-13-38-43-51-66-142-391-574 (12/22)