Some of the best marathon fanciers from The Netherlands had been preparing their best pigeons for the first ZLU race from Pau, including Cees Suykerbuyk (Lepelstraat), Ko van Dommelen (St. Philipsland) and Jelle Outhuijse (from Harlingen, which means an extra 200km!). However, it was Hans van de Gruiter who took an impressive win. He is a steelworker with a great passion for long distance racing and high quality stock pigeons. In other words he is a fancier with a day time job; he has to get up at 5:30 to have some time to maintain his loft together with his father. The NL11-3006885 Karel turned heads in his first ZLU race by arriving home at 19h43 after a race of almost 959km. The pigeons had been released at 6:45 so he had achieved a velocity of 1231 m/min, which resulted in a fifth International prize.
As with all yearlings of Hans van de Gruiter, Karel has covered the program races as a yearling. He managed to win top prizes from La Souterraine and Argenton. In 2013 he has been basketed weekly. In the week before Pau he was kept aside for the first time to get ready for the ZLU classic. It seems he has put all of his energy into the race on 14 June, because no other Dutch pigeon was capable of following him. The sire of Karel has the bloodlines of Jac de Ridder & Sons and the Blokker partnership. His dam is a 100% Cas van de Graaff (an uncle of Hans), whose pigeons have had a significant influence on the Gruiter pigeon family. Hans has two sections of widowers and a group of nest hens which are paired to his breeding cocks. He only breeds about 20 youngsters per season; these are trained in the natural races. He prefers quality over quantity and he carefully selects the pigeons in his collection.
This was not the first ZLU victory for Hans van de Gruiter, who had already won the race from Bordeaux in 1991. This was quite some time ago of course but his victory from Pau 2013 illustrates that his loft has always housed a collection of great quality pigeons. This collection allowed him to win a first, a 19th and a 66th prize with three pigeons against 3,124 birds. They all arrived home within 50 minutes’ time. The winner of the 19th national Pau (NL09-3900134) was basketed for a ZLU race for the first time in 2012 and he achieved two national top 100 places right away. The oldest of the three basketed pigeons (NL08-3800733), which achieved a 66th national from Pau 2013, has already won several top prizes as a racing pigeon.