A double interview with two Dutch NPO stars from 2011: Vredeveld-Leemhuis and Sangers-Ung discuss the one day middle distance season of 2012

It was phenomenal how the lofts of Marcel Sangers & Paul Ung (Eefde, NL) and Vredeveld-Leemhuis (Coevorden, NL) dominated the one-day middle distance competition in 2011 in The Netherlands. Shortly before the start of the NPO classics in 2012, PIPA had an interview with the two favourites. What is their secret to being so successful?

2011 was another phenomenal season for the racing teams of Vredeveld-Leemhuis and Marcel Sangers & Paul Ung. It is no surprise then, that they have gained worldwide fame as their renowned pigeon families have been leading the pack of Dutch pigeons, making great results in all of the NPO one day middle distance races. It seems nothing can stop these two fanciers.

Top results of Marcel Sangers & Paul Ung 2011

      1st and 3rd Dutch middle distance pigeon Europa Cup 2011
      4th Nat. champion one day middle distance NPO 2011
      3rd-11th-34th Nat. pigeon champion one day middle distance NPO 2011
      3rd-15th-26th-80°-83°-100° Nat. ace pigeon Best of the Best 2011
      1st-6th-14th-16th-20th ace pigeon one day middle distance district 8 GOU 2011
      1st-7th-8th-19th-42nd-50th-51st-83rd-84th-86th-94th NPO Chateauroux 2011 (678 km) 2,957 pigeons
      2nd-4th-20th-26th-28th-35th-55th-62nd-63rd-75th-79th-82th NPO Blois 2011 (619 km) 4,212 pigeons
      Also 4th and 7th National sector III Blois (619 km) 27,491 pigeons
      2nd-28th-87th-88th NPO Bourges 2011 (627 km) 6,518 pigeons
      5th-6th-15th-24th-27th-30th-58th-59th-73rd-95th NPO Chateaudun 2011 (572 km) 5,000 pigeons
      30th-34th-50th-53rd-59th-60th-93rd NPO Orleans 2011 (564 km) - 5,406 pigeons

Top results of Vredeveld-Leemhuis 2011

      1th-2nd-4th-21st-26th-58th-71st-84th NPO Troyes 3,999 p. district 10 Zuid
            5th-6th-8th-35th-43rd-96th-etc. NPO against 8,721 p. district 10
      1st and 2nd NPO Pommeroeul youngsters 8,056 p.
      2nd-3rd-10th-12th-15th-16th-29th-42nd-53rd-87th-88th-89th-90th NPO Pithiviers 7,749 pigeons district 10
      9th-21st-22nd-37th-38th-39th-43rd-51st-69th-76th-78th-80th NPO St. Quentin youngsters 7,567 pigeons
      27th-33rd-41st-42st-48th-52nd-59th-96th-97th-102nd NPO Breuil le Vert 9,786 pigeons district 10
            56th-57th-73rd-77th-80th-81st-82nd-83rd-84th-87th-90th-91st Boxtel 12,123 pigeons
      1st-4th-11th-22nd-36th-37th-58th-66th-94th-96th-97th-98th St. Truiden youngsters 9,103 pigeons district 10
      1st-4th-6th-15th-etc. Isnes against 2,457 pigeons
      1st-2nd-3rd-22nd-24th-25th-26th-27th-28th-30th-37th-39th-43rd-52nd-54th Epehy 2,181 pigeons
            8th-9th-10th against 8,927 pigeons district 10 Zuid
      2st-5th Ravenstein youngsters 9,158 pigeons district 10

PIPA was wondering how it all started and why these pigeons are now in the form of their lives. They seem to do it effortlessly. Is it thanks to the quality of pigeons or do these fanciers use special methods? In short: what is the secret of success and how do you get the pigeons to peak performance for the important races? Many fanciers would like to know. If these two fanciers have any secrets PIPA is eager to find out about them.

Similar methods. 
Whether a secret or not, Marcel Sangers and Vredeveld-Leemhuis have a number of important similarities when it comes to pigeon racing. Pigeon fancying is a family business both in Coevorden and in Eefde, with partners and children as involved in the sport as the head of the family himself. The 42 year old Marcel Sangers is supported by his wife Christel, his son Brian (who helps in the loft whenever he is needed) and his good friend Paul Ung from the Philippines. Sixty two year old Harm Vredeveld has a lot of support from his wife Lenie and his daughters Chantal and Angelique and of course from his companions Robert and Henriette Leemhuis, where the racing team is housed. The both of them have started out with a small loft and have each made it to the top with a great family of pigeons. They have always had pigeons that could fly really hard.

Marcel Sangers got to know Paul Ung through pigeon racing. Paul is a successful businessman from the Phillipines and a real pigeon fanatic, but pigeon racing in the Philippines was not enough of a challenge for Paul and he was very glad to hear that Marcel wanted to race in partnership with him. “It is a token of friendship and Paul is very committed. Basically I take the important decisions and Paul enjoys the races. Isn’t that wonderful?" Harm Vredeveld has been in a partnership with Robert Leemhuis since 2009. “I think Robert is the perfect person to take things to a professional level, we can divide the tasks between the two of us. In 2010 we started out with a new loft that we built ourselves. The pigeons seemed to adapt pretty quickly and we raced well right from the start. We focus on the NPO races: one day middle distance and the NPO young bird races. These are the most challenging races and there is a lot of competition here."

We will run through the racing season in a chronological order to get an idea of how they approach pigeon racing. Marcel Sangers (M) and Harm Vredeveld & Robert Leemhuis (H & R) answer our questions which only relate to their pigeons of course.

Question 1:
How do you give your birds a rest after the season? Do they sit in on nest, do you let them breed a round of youngsters or do you separate the cocks and the hens after the last race? Do you release the birds once in a while and do you treat them for anything?
(M): After the season we let the pigeons raise a round of youngsters. I think this is very important for them because widowhood is not a natural process. To reduce stress we let the pigeons raise one round of youngsters to let them feel comfortable. After that I separate cocks and hens and then it is time for the winter break. They are fed once a day and the lofts are cleaned once a day. The floor is covered with straw and the pigeons sit on the perches. Last year was the first time we released the pigeons throughout the winter. In previous winters we noticed that some pigeons had muscular problems caused by hard training races after a long rest period in winter. This year I had no problems and I think that is because the pigeons could fly regularly throughout the year. In winter I do not treat my pigeons against anything. I think it's very important for the pigeons to moult without any problems so I feed them with small seeds and a feed rich in fat. Throughout the year I give them a bath every week.
(H & R): In the first week after the last race (mid September) I stop letting the pigeons out, I separate the hens and cocks and transfer them to the loft of the youngsters. I have done most of the work in advance: the lofts are cleaned up and the floor is covered with a layer of straw. The pigeons are given a good quality moulting mixture and I add some herbal tea to their drinking water a few times a week. They are not given any medication. Pigeons with health problems are inevitably left out, but we think it's important that the pigeons can take a daily bath in the aviary in front of the loft. In addition we give them Forta Vita, a herbal tea from Travifarma in winter.

Question 2:
The pigeons have passed the moulting period without problems. What comes next? Do you prepare for the pigeons to breed or do you place them in their boxes?
(M): About four weeks before they are paired the cocks can choose a box in the racing lofts. I always have more cocks than there are boxes. The cocks that do not manage to get a box are transferred to the empty compartment of the youngsters’ loft where they are coupled with the youngsters. When the youngsters have grown the cocks go back to the cocks’ loft. There they have to find a place on the shelf since all the boxes are occupied.
(H & R): As I said we started the 2010 season with a newly built loft and it appears that the pigeons were successful right from the start. Soon we had a 1st champion with the youngsters and several national teletext results. So the pigeons stayed in the loft during the moulting period, of course separated. The youngsters of 2010, which were yearlings in 2011, were paired before the racing season to couple for about fourteen days. They are raced in the same way as they were raced as a youngster, but they sit in the section that was created for the widowhood cocks and hens since we race all of our pigeons. For the 2010 season we paired the pigeons to get a better structure.

Question 3:
When do you pair the racing team and what about medical guidance at this point in time?
(M): We pair them early January, the racers raise one round of youngsters and are not paired any more after that. This means they are in widowhood rather early, but the yearlings need this to learn this method. The motivation they have from seeing their hen before the race only starts at the first NPO race; this is the first time the cock and the hen can try to motivate each other before the race. They go straight from the breeding loft into the basket.
(H & R): We have paired our pigeons in such a way that the youngsters were one week old on the first of March. After that the youngsters are raised by breeding couples. There was no need for medical care: the pigeons looked healthy and the sick pigeons were simply left out.

Question 4:
When do you begin regular training tosses and how? At what time of day, which teams and how?
(M): In the first three weeks of the season there are no regular training tosses. Before the first one day middle distance race there are usually 5 to 6 training tosses which equates to one toss per week. But my pigeons have two tosses per week! When my pigeons fly in the Minderhout region on Saturdays they also fly on Tuesdays in Minderhout. In the following week they race Duffel both on Saturdays and on Tuesdays. This means that a pigeon with a normal schedule has covered 1,100km before their first one day middle distance race whereas mine have covered about twice that distance! Two weeks before the first NPO race I train the pigeons twice a day on a regular basis: in the morning I train the cocks first and then the hens. I do the same in the evening: the cocks first, then the hens. When the hens are back home I release the cocks again. Meanwhile I have been feeding the cocks (they are given a feed with supplements) after which they are off for another training toss of 30 to 45 minutes. This means the cocks fly for more than two hours in the evening. I increase the duration of the training from one to one and a half hours in the two weeks before the first NPO competition.
(H & R): We value a good and thorough training programme for our pigeons and we pay much attention to it. We have a bird of prey in our neighbourhood; that is why the pigeons do not fly in winter for five months. So we are careful in the beginning. Initially we only release them once every two days. After a week we release them once a day, but in case of a strong wind we keep them inside. As you can see we are very careful. Two weeks before the first NPO race we release them twice a day. Still, some of our pigeons fail in the first races because of problems with the wings. We think this has to do with overtiredness. We attribute this to the fact that the pigeons cannot be released in winter. Even after winter has finished we have to look out for birds of preys.

Question 5:
The season starts with a sprint/training race; do you race all of your pigeons? And what are the criteria to decide whether or not a pigeon can be entered for a race (besides good health and fitness of course).
(M): We race all of our pigeons: I do not select and none of them stay at home. This race is an eliminator: the strongest and the best pigeons remain! But this is only the case in good weather conditions of course. Once in a while the weather is so bad that even your best pigeons can get lost. This can happen to any fancier. But for me the only reason to keep a pigeon at home is because it is sick.
(H & R): For the first race we usually send all of our pigeons. One of the reasons is that after five flights we already have a first one day middle distance race of 500km, so our pigeons need a lot of training. We organise training tosses on weekdays: sometimes we release the pigeons 100km away from the loft and sometimes we basket them for Duffel for a distance of 250km. We make sure that the pigeons are in a good shape.

Question 6:
Do you pair the racing pigeons again before the one day middle distance/NPO competition?
(M): No. As I mentioned earlier they raise one round of youngsters after which they are not paired again.
(H & R): We do not pair our pigeons again because we want the birds to be doing training tosses as soon as possible.

Question 7:
The first NPO race is in three weeks; what are the final preparations and why?
(M): Well, as I said, we train our pigeons quite a lot these days and on a regular basis. We do not darken our old birds anymore. We have done this in the past but at the end of the season I sometimes noticed how half bald pigeons were winning prizes. 2011 was the first season for a long time that I did not darken my pigeons anymore and it proved a very successful year, but I still darken my youngsters and both the youngsters and the old birds are lightened.
(H & R): Usually the pigeons race with the union every week with a gradually increasing distance. We lighten our old birds fourteen days before the first one day middle distance race for old birds. The youngsters are lightened by the end of June. In the racing season all of the racing pigeons are given a tricho pill every month. Nanne Wolf checks the pigeons once in a while. If necessary, we give the pigeons a product from Schroeder against ornithosis and protein powder of Brockamp, for instance after a race with a lot of rain. When the pigeons arrive home we add electrolytes from Herbots to the drinking water and there is a mineral mixture in the loft as well, something our pigeons particularly like. We try to fill the grit dish with a variety of grit types and let’s not forget some soluble grit.

Question 8:
If one of your better pigeons does not seem to feel very well in the loft about 1,5 weeks before basketing what do you do? Do you basket the pigeon anyway?
(M): If a pigeon does not feel very well in comparison to the other birds there is probably something wrong with the bird. So we look for a medical treatment. It is likely that the pigeon in question will have had less training flights, which means he is not well prepared, so I won’t let the pigeon race either. In principle I only want to enter birds for the NPO competitions that have a chance of winning prizes. So if a pigeon does not feel well I would keep it at home until one of the next races. If the bird’s condition does not improve there is probably something wrong. In that case I would only use him or her as a partner.
(H & R): Every season we have to wait and see how fit the pigeons are. We think every season is different to a pigeon. Everything should go well right from the start of the season, if not it could be a different story. But in any case we are very careful with our pigeons and if necessary we consult our vet. He or she decides what to do. Our pigeons get a medical checkup before the season anyway.

Question 9:
How about medical guidance before and during the NPO competition? Medical guidance or preventive treatment?
(M): We leave nothing to chance. I want to make sure that the pigeons are treated against paramyxo and sometimes paratyphus before the season begins. We also treat them against coccidiosis and worms. When they are in the nest they are treated against tricho and during the racing season they are given a tricho tablet every few weeks. We also give them something against head diseases. As well as this we feed them supplements to make sure they recover well.
(H & R): In the second half of March there is a checkup and we noticed a slight infection of tricho amongst one of our pigeons. The vet advised us to treat the entire family of pigeons against tricho, but we decided not to do this because there was only a very slight infection and because the pigeons looked very healthy. At the moment we have had four sprint races. After the first race we have given our pigeons a tricho tablet and on Sunday and Monday we added a medicine against tricho to their drinking water as well. This did not affect the pigeons: in the second race we won the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th prize with the entente against 2,500 pigeons. We have also won 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th against 11,000 pigeons.

Question 10:
How do you decide which pigeons are entered for the one day middle distance or middle distance races?
(M): In principle we race all of our pigeons at the middle distance. This is our main focus so we do not split up the racing team. We race all or nothing! Pigeons that have been away for a few days are sometimes raced in a few middle distance races as well, but only if it is a very talented pigeon that is worth the extra effort.
(H & R): In principle all of the pigeons that are in a good shape and that are healthy. A few years ago I was more careful about this because I was afraid that some pigeons were not ready for a one day middle distance race, but now I am convinced that a pigeon can excee my expectations if it trains hard.

Question 11:
Do you split up the racers and do you race them every week after that? What does a schedule for the one day middle distance team or the middle distance team look like?
(M): The pigeons race as often as possible, every week if they can. But if there is hot weather and strong wind three weeks in a row for races of 600, 400 and 600km respectively we sometimes decide to give a pigeon a week’s rest. After the first NPO flight I do not take the pigeons away for a long training flight anymore, even if they have a week’s rest. But a week’s rest does not mean that the pigeons do not fly at all. For these weeks I give them a purifying mixture and a feed of Zoontjens and I train them a bit during the week. On Saturdays I increase the training again for the next NPO races. They can rest as much as they want in winter of course. 
(H & R): We are hard on our pigeons and they race every weekend. As I said before we sometimes give them an extra training toss during the week for some extra kilometres.

Question 12:
There is a one day middle distance race of 680km on schedule. Temperature is around 24° and there is a northwesterly wind -3: rather demanding circumstances. How do you feed your pigeons in the week before the race and how do you prepare them?
(M): I use Beijers feed. Their premium line is of excellent quality and it gives a fast digestion of the seeds. This is perfect for my pigeons as they have to train a lot. I always give them a full feeding tray with some extras such as Thravipharma (Forte Vita and Omega Olie Mix), Vincent Schroeder, Brockamp (Actief Eissen, APF90, Proback Energy and Proback 1000) and Nanne Wolf. I start the season with a five day treatment against tricho (with Tricho groen Vincent Schroeder). After that I give them a tricho tablet after each one day middle distance race on Sunday, alternating Magics, Nanne Wolf and Schoreder. I give my pigeons Vincent Schroeder products against head diseases as well. They get a mixture of cheese, peanuts and sheep fat from Sunday to Wednesday, but not on Thursday (the day of basketing). I also feed them Frutin, a type of sugar water from Re-Scha which I pour over their feed. The supplements stick to this sugar water very well. I also make use of Re-Scha’s PT12.
(H & R): Our approach is rather simple. For the races up to 200km we give our pigeons a light mixture with about 20% barley. They can eat as much as they want: they eat a lot but the feed is easily digestible. We give the pigeons Günter Prange mixture of Beyers, which we think is a good quality feed. In the run-up to the NPO flights we give the pigeons as much feed as they want: we give them a full feeding tray and they do nothing but eat, train and rest. We make use of a lot of supplements which we consider invaluable in pigeon racing. We try every new natural product (probiotics). For the NPO races we also feed them cheese, peanuts and sheep fat. If we do not manage to get the pigeons in a good shape we do not hesitate to consult the vet. Usually we ask him to check a group of pigeons so we can draw a conclusion for ourselves. The week before the first NPO race the pigeons have a bit more time to rest and a few less training tosses.

Question 13:
There is a one day middle distance race of 670 on schedule. Temperature is around 20° and there is a southern south eastern wind -3: it will probably be a fast race. How do you feed your pigeons the week before the race and how do you prepare them?
(M): I always feed my pigeons the same, irrespective of a NWW -3 or a SSE-2.
(H & R): We do not change anything. When we think the pigeons have had a bit too much we sometimes tend to give a bit less feed at the beginning of the week.

Question 14:
What do you do to let the pigeons gain their best form? Or do you think there is no such thing as a ‘best form’? Do you think a good form comes with regular training and taking care of the pigeons?
(M): It is definitely our goal for the pigeons to find their best form. At first I try to make the loft a bit less comfortable, for instance by opening the windows. In the approach to the one day middle distance races I place heating panels in the lofts and I maintain the lofts a bit more regularly than before. Thanks to this it seems that the pigeons gain more fitness. In addition they have more training shortly before the NPO races, so we do try to reach a peak. I think small details can actually improve your pigeons’ fitness, it does not happen just like that.
(H & R): We try to improve the pigeons’ fitness through training and the goal is to have them perform very well in the important races. We hope that the pigeons reach a peak by giving them two training flights per day and by adding more supplements to the feed when the important competitions approach.

Question 15:
What possible reason could you have not to basket a pigeon?
(M): If a pigeon is sick we don’t basket it of course, but in any other circumstance we would basket the bird, unless it has had a very hard race or if it arrived very late. We never let the weather conditions decide: we are confident that the race organisers make the correct decisions. This might sound a little naive; sometimes it looks as if the pigeons have to be released on Saturday at any cost, sometimes at the end of the day, despite bad weather. This has caused a lot of losses, especially with youngsters. It has also caused a lot of trouble for our old birds. Why not wait another day to release them?
(H & R): I would not basket a pigeon if there is obviously something wrong with it.

Question 16:
When are you satisfied with a pigeon and why?
(M): When he or she wins a first prize NPO. I try not to place too much confidence in one particular pigeon, this will only lead to disappointment. During the week we put a lot of work in to perform well in our favourite races. It is very satisfying to see one of your pigeons take a prize.
(H & R): It is an indescribable feeling to win a important classic race, the sort of race which is said to be a flight for the really excellent performers, but there are not many such races in a season. A good example was the flight from Orleans in 2006 with a strong head wind and a 33° temperature. I was sitting in the shade with the entire family. I thought most of my pigeons would not do very well in these circumstances. Someone asked me which of my pigeons might be in for a good result and I answered the 04-2235605, which was later renamed Silver Boy. And indeed it was Silver Boy who took the first prize against 15,855 pigeons with a lead of 5 minutes. I become emotional by just telling the story. Silver Boy is now one of my best breeders!

Harm Vredeveld: It is an indescribable feeling to win a important classic race, the sort of race which is said to be a flight for the really strong ’ … It happened to him with his champion Silverbloy, which is a direct Martin van Zon, winner of 1° NPO Orleans against 8,626 pigeons in a 33° temperature and with a strong head wind. Silverboy eventually became one of the main breeders in the loft.

One of the leaders in the racing lofts of  Sangers-Ung is the hen Edani. 1st prov. ace pigeon one day middle distance district 8 GOU 2011, 3rd Nat. ace pigeon one day middle distance NPO 2011 and 3rd Nat. ace pigeon one day middle distance Europa Cup 2011. In 2010 she was 3rd prov. ace pigeon one day middle distance district 8 GOU 2010 and has since won a 1st NPO Chateauroux in 2011 (2,957 pigeons), 6th Nat. Blois 2010 (4,788 pigeons), 15th NPO Chateaudun 2011 (5,000 pigeons), 17th NPO Bourges 2010 (6,936 pigeons), 24th NPO Chateauroux 2010 (3,046 pigeons), 40th NPO Chateaudun 2010 (3,675 pigeons), 56th NPO Blois 2011 (4,310 pigeons), 60th NPO Orleans 2011 -(5,406 pigeons). Edanii stems from a full brother The Golden Crown (2 x first against against 14,000 pigeons) x Queen (a 100% Koopman).

We continue our questionnaire with a few basic questions that should add to the understanding of the methods of the two fanciers.

Question 17:
When do you allow a pigeon to stay in the racing loft?
(M): In the last few years I had to keep my youngsters in the loft early in the season and this results in a lack of experience, so you should not expect too much from them as yearlings. It would be good if they survived the season. Basically a pigeon should be the first back at least once. It does not matter if the rest of the season is not so great as long as he or she has had at least one early arrival. Of course we prefer an early arrival in one of the NPO races and preferably in tough conditions: hot temperatures and a strong head wind. That is kind of my favourite weather.
(H & R): If he or she gives a good performance. Sometimes we give a pigeon with a strong pedigree a second chance if it has not been doing very well. But that does not happen very often and only in a season with bad weather conditions. If three out of five NPO races have good weather a yearling should be able to show its strength at least once.

Question 18:
When do you keep an old bird in the racing loft?
(M): If he or she performs well, but results from the past do not guarantee a place in the racing loft! An old bird should win at least one first prize and should be able to have three decent results in five races. This only applies in a regular season of course, not in a season with heavy winds or irregular weather. Such conditions make it hard to select pigeons.
(H & R): For old birds we are a bit more strict, but every fancier has his own methods for the selection of pigeons. If you are careful and you only keep your best two or three pigeons each year you can slowly increase the quality of your loft. But then you have to be strict for your breeders as well.

Question 19:
Do you pay attention to the appearance of a pigeon or is performance the only thing that matters?
(M): ): For me the achievements of a pigeon are what matters the most, its origins are less relevant. I do not pay attention to the appearance of a pigeon. I have a certain type of pigeon in my loft which performs very well in races from 560 to 700km. This is the result of a careful selection over many years. My pigeons are medium sized, they have soft plumage and a strong character. I think a strong character is especially important in the one day middle distance, which is a demanding discipline. This is also what I am looking for when I purchase new pigeons. Let’s take for example Pigem: this pigeon did very well as a youngster in hard weather and since then it has become one of my best breeders in the loft. When I buy youngsters they should be from a top class pigeon. In fact I do not often buy new pigeons. Most of the pigeons I buy come from the loft of Bertus Camphuis; his old lines form the basis of my successes. In 2008 I bought a round of pigeons from him, just like this year. His lines are still successful and I wonder what they are capable of in my stem.
(H & R): When it comes to pigeons I am very demanding. I think some fanciers do not pay enough attention to the quality of a pigeon. But I know that the best pigeon in your loft is not always the fastest. We look for pigeons that can do well in the NPO races, we look for winners. We try to breed good quality pigeons from these winners. Talking of the appearance of a pigeon; I think a good pigeon will always have a good appearance as well.

Question 20:
What is a good loft? What are the important features of a good loft?
(M): The pigeons have to feel comfortable. I have seen many lofts in my life, everywhere in the world. Pigeons can perform well in many circumstances. Good air ventilation is important, you can tell by the pigeons’ behaviour. I favour clean and tidy lofts, but some fanciers prefer to use deep bedding in their lofts (‘droge mestmethode’) and have good results as well. Basically you have to opt for the type of loft that suits you and your pigeons.
(H & R): The layout of the loft is often discussed. I think there are many types of lofts where pigeons can perform well. We have opted for a loft with a lot of possibilities which we can adapt to any type of weather. If the pigeons arrive home after a rainy flight and they enter the loft all wet we can put on a heating device. This system heats the loft in less than a minute which is faster than a loft with underfloor heating. We can also adjust light and darkness very easily. I have been a fancier for a very long time. I have seen many fanciers who decide to change something about their loft when the results are not as they should be, but usually that does not make a lot of difference. I think it is still the quality and the talent of your pigeons that makes the difference, not the loft.

Question 21:
What is the most important requirement to be successful in NPO races?
(M): I think you have to specialise in one discipline: you cannot let your pigeons do sprint races, middle distance races and one day middle distance races at the same time. Your pigeons have to recover once in a while: if a pigeon races every week you cannot expect it to beat the one day middle distance specialists. It is important to make choices and not to panic if the results are not good. You continue on the choosen path and you pick a few races where you want to excel.
(H & R): To take pleasure in the sport as a fancier, together with my wife, who helps me a lot and who is a sports fan as well. We take an interest in many sports and we try to apply our experiences to pigeon racing. It is important to embrace new developments in pigeon racing: things will look a lot different in twenty years’ time, but I think it all comes down to having a good team of talented pigeons! You can improve their strength with training and taking care of them but that is not an easy task, but that is what makes pigeon racing so interesting: nothing is certain.

Question 22:
What pigeon do you think is the best one day middle distance pigeon ever?
(M): Difficult to tell as you cannot compare pigeon racing today with the sport of 10 years ago, so I don’t want to make any statements. You also have to consider that some very good pigeons do not perform very well because their fancier does not get the most out of it.
(H & R): It is hard to tell which one is the best, but I can tell you which one is the most expensive: Pieter Veenstra’s Dolce Vita.

Question 23:
Is there anything else you would like to share with us, something that might help us to get better results in the NPO races?
(M): You have to dedicate your life to your sport to reach a high level and it is sometimes an expensive hobby (sometimes you have to buy new pigeons) but most of all it takes a lot of effort. However, I think every fancier has to enjoy his hobby in his own way. It is great to be working with living creatures and it it continues to amaze me that pigeons can find their way home. Some fanciers enjoy working with pigeons, others also try to get the best results possible. I think we should all respect each other as fanciers; we all experience our sport in a different way.
(H & R): I have been a fancier all my life and I have been successful in all disciplines. That is why I was not afraid to start again from scratch from a new location. Before we started some would say that our new loft was not suited at all: it was made of iron (which we think is low maintenance), the floor is made of concrete, it has a southwest orientation etc. However these remarks come from old fashioned fanciers. We think that there is a solution for any problem, no matter where you live. But it is important to have a positive mentality and to think things through and of course you have to be mad about pigeons, otherwise it is not worth the effort. Every Saturday we enjoy the excitement of pigeon racing with the entire family. We do not panic if the results are not good. The pigeons are very important but you have to put everything else in perspective as well.

Marcel Sangers: “When I buy new youngsters they should always be from a top class pigeon. In 2008 I have only bought pigeons from the loft of Bertus Camphuis; his old lines form the basis of my successes.." These pigeons have bred for instance the top hen Black Label, 1st ace pigeon one day middle distance Europa Cup 2012. In 2011 she was for instance of 3 x first; she has already won five first prizes in her career. Her best results are 5th NPO Cahteaudun 2011 - 5,000 pigeons (1st against 479 pigeons), 16th NPO Orelans 2009 against 15,500 pigeons, 25th NPO Blois 2011 against 8,496 pigeons (65th national 27,491 pigeons), 30th NPO Orleans 2011 against 5,582 pigeons (1° against 162 pigeons), 55th NPO Blois 2009 against 10,274 pigeons, 57th NPO Blois 2010 against 4,229 pigeons, 83th NPO Chateauroux 2011 against 2,957 pigeons.

NL10-4796285 Fergie of Vredeveld-Leemhuis has been bred very carefully. Her father stems from the top class pigeon Novastar (1st prizes against 3,134 - 1,219 - 405 - 267 pigeons and winner of the Klokkenvlucht Pithiviers 2006) x a daughter of Silver Boy. Her mother is a direct Martin van Zon, bred from an inbred family of winners. This pigeon was the result of a careful selection of breeders. In 2011 Fergie has won a 4th NPO South Troyes against 3,999 pigeons (8th NPO against 8,721 pigeons), 12th NPO Pithiviers 7,749 pigeons, 24th NPO Arras 10,735 pigeons & 42nd NPO Breuil le Vert 9,786 pigeons.

Marcel Sangers: “I think a strong character is especially important in the one day middle distance, which is a demanding discipline. This is also what I am looking for when I purchase new pigeons. One of my new pigeons, Pigem, performs very well in tough weather!" This cock has become a top breeder and is father of for instance of Tom and Amber. Tom was winner of the 1st national Orleans 2010 against 6,023 pigeons and was 2nd provincial yearlings one day middle distance 2009, 5th provincial ace pigeon one day middle distance 2011. He never missed out in 15 one day middle distance races. Amber was 1st youngster ace pigeon district 8 GOU 2009, 6th ace pigeon one day MD district 8 GOU and has also won a 2nd NPO Blois against 8,496 pigeons (4th national Blois against 27,491 pigeons) and 4th NPO Mantes La Jolie against 4,024 pigeons (8th national Mantes la Jolie against 12,995 pigeons).

Harm Vredeveld: We always look for pigeons that excel on the longer distances". Space Shuttle is a good example: he was 1st national ace pigeon middle distance WHZB 2009 and 1st Dutch middle distance pigeon in the West European countries cup. He is also invaluable in the breeding loft: space shuttle has bred NL10-5011629 Space Girl. In 2010 she was 18th and 21th NPO as a youngster and in 2011 she took the first place NPO South Troyes against 3,999 pigeons (5th NPO overall against 8,721 pigeons), she was 2nd pigeon champion over all the races. In 2012 she is 1st ace pigeon sprint in the club up to now.