Bourges is a household name in pigeon racing. Whereas Barcelona is the most important race for the extreme long distance fanciers, Bourges is the flight every longer middle distance fancier looks forward to. It is their most important classic! Pigeon fanciers from all over Belgium look forward to this race every season, but it has gained international prominence as well. With the old birds’ and yearlings’ race in May and the young birds’ race in late July (which is due in the first week of August this season), Bourges has become the opening classic of the national racing calendar, which comprises a series of seven and six consecutive national races (compared to two series of seven races in 2013). This is the first important flight of the longer middle distance at national level so every renowned fancier wants to be well prepared for this day!
No less than 46,721 pigeons were basketed for Bourges last weekend, which was a great success for the organising Brabant Union. Most pigeons had been able to complete several warm up races earlier this year so the organisers had expected to see a large number of participants. The racing conditions were near perfect as well: great weather with a slight wind coming from the north, and sometimes even northwest. The first pigeons were expected to land in the eastern part of Belgium.
Both national winners were clocked in the province of Flemish Brabant, with Louis Mattheus clocking the fastest pigeon from Bourges of a total of 46,721. The national winner of Louis arrived home at 14:13’38”, completing 467.213km with a velocity of 1250.46m/min. This was the second national win from Bourges for Louis Mattheus, after he claimed the national first prize in 1993 as well.
This is not the first time that his hometown Baal is in the international spotlight though. Most cycling fans will be all too familiar with cyclocross champions Sven Nys and Niels Albert, which both live in Baal as well. In addition, this town is the birthplace of Pater Damiaan, an important figure in the history of Belgium.
An impressive performance from Bourges by Louis Mattheus
The old birds of Louis won an impressive six out of six from Bourges:
Bourges club 552 olds: 1-31-94-136-148-159 (6/6)
Prov 1,994 olds: 1-115-358-522-595-659 (6/6)
Nat 22,654 olds: 1…
Most of the pigeons in the loft of Louis Mattheus were either given to him or were obtained from exchanges with other fanciers. His fresh national winner from Bourges originates from such a crossing as well. Louis told us she is the best hen in his collection and yet he did not have much confidence. The pigeon had been behaving rather strangely last week. When she was being released, she would rather stay around the cocks’ aviary where Louis had to chase her away a few times. She did not appear to be very interested in her partner when being basketed either. She seemed to pay more attention to the fancier than to her cock, Louis explains. What is it that motivated her? Hard to tell.
-Vale duivin BE12-2110524
In 2014: Bourges Nat 22,654 p. 1 Soissons 366 p. 2 Soissons 462 p. 6 Vierzon Prov 1,826 p. 7 Lorris 1,241 p. 8 Sourdun 1352 p. 30 Blois Prov 1,711 p. 41 In 2013: Orléans 166 p. 1 Prov 3,717 p. 28 Angerville 212 p. 2 Bourges Nat (z) 2,882 p. 76 Nat 11,883 p. 200
V: Vale Wouters 09
Comes from his good friend Jos Wouters from Heist-Goor. The two fanciers share a passion for cycling. Pigeons of Jos are transferred to the loft in Baal almost every year and approximately 80% of the breed of Louis consists of pigeons of Jos Wouters.
M: Blauwe 06-2160835
A hen that originates from the invaluable Vandenabeele bloodline, from his neighbour Willy Claes.
Hens in classic widowhood
Louis (69) is a passionate and old fashioned pigeon fancier. His wife told us she always knows where to find Louis if she is looking for him. He would spend hours and hours in his loft, amid his pigeon collection. His pigeon family means everything to him, besides making training rides with his bike.
The old birds’ team consists of hens that are raced in classic widowhood (the partner stays at home). He has a team of 12 hens for the longer middle distance, as well as 10 hens for the shorter middle distance. They bred youngsters in winter, after being paired around 25 November. They were paired again 14 days before the start of the first training flights and widowhood was started after they had brooded for five days. They will usually be basketed every week. However, if they had to complete two to three consecutive longer middle distance races, they are sometimes basketed for a shorter intermediate flight in the following week.
The pigeons are released in the morning for 45 to 60 minutes, which means they are locked in their boxes during the day. Louis prefers to have them train at least 30 minutes straight and he would not mind waving a flag to force them to continue training. When they are called back they have 15 to 30 minutes’ time to eat and drink, before being locked in their boxes again. The pigeons go through the same steps in the evening, and they have about 30 minutes’ time to eat and drink as well. When the pigeons are basketed, they can see their hen for 15 to 20 minutes.
Louis says this is not all that difficult but he believes some fanciers make things overly complicated. He likes to keep things simple and straightforward. Every day, his pigeons get the same mixture composed by his neighbour Raymond Dehaes, which Louis thinks is the best fancier from around the region. On the day of basketing, they get a full tray of sports mixture, as well as some peanuts for additional fats. When they come home, there will be a drinking bowl with electrolytes. Some Aviol is added to the water as well in the next few days (until Tuesday). Some syrup and beer yeast is added to the feed on Tuesdays; a mixture of electrolytes, vitamins and dietary elements is added to the water on Wednesdays. The pigeons get to drink pure water on Thursdays, the day of basketing. Louis thinks there are no secrets here.
A modest man
Louis Mattheus is very modest when he talks about his pigeons and we would start to think that any other fancier has better pigeons than him. However, his pigeons have been able to win several important prizes and victories already. He really enjoys winning prizes but it is not something he would boast about. He has always been a modest man, even after claiming an impressive win in the first national classic of the season from Bourges. Congratulations!