Being able to deliver in the big races, right when the major classics take place. That is what really sets a champion apart in any sport. And it looks like Etienne Meirlaen was more than ready for the openings classics of the 2020 extreme long distance competition. He had a total of 20 pigeons in the national top 100 in Pau, Agen and Marseille. Who can do better?
A rather unusual racing season
The extreme long distance season looks quite different compared to previous years due to corona. First of all, the races took place later in the season, and all races are packed into five weekends, with sometimes two races in a single weekend. We saw a change of schedule that required a dramatically different approach and preparation for the pigeons. The national stars in the extreme long distance, including Etienne Meirlaen, had to go back to the drawing board.
The fancier from Deurle quickly knew what he was up to. The majority of his pigeons would have to focus on just one international race, in an all or nothing approach. A second race would only be a viable option for the pigeons raced from the nest. This would not be feasible for the widowers: they cannot be darkened since they live in a large barn. Basketing pigeons for the extreme long distance in mid-August, after they have already shed four or five primary feathers, is quite a gamble. It could jeopardise the future of the racing birds and even the fancier. Etienne knew what to do: only his pigeons from the nest (racing hens) would be basketed for the Perpignan-Narbonne combination.
The team was mostly aiming for the first three weekends of the extreme long distance season, whereas a group of widowers was scheduled to compete in Limoges-Limoges-Souillac. Meanwhile, a team of yearlings would be racing Limoges-Souillac. Call it racing on the back-burner, although Souillac could still give useful insights into the level of quality of his yearlings, and their race potential. The rest of the team was spread across Agen and St. Vincent. There will be a different team for Barcelona.
And Etienne Meirlaen has clearly done his homework, judging from the fantastic results in the first two weekends of international extreme long distance racing. His overall results were quite impressive indeed.
The Agen festival
As the pigeons of Meirlaen arrived home, it almost looked like a sprint race, with no less than 15 pigeons arriving home in 24 minutes, all finishing in the national top 100. And that was not the end of the story. The overall results were astounding, phenomenal!
All one year old racing hens were basketed for this race, alongside a number of one year old cocks in widowhood (the other cocks did Limoges the week before, and will be racing in Souillac the following week). The racing team from Agen completed this race cum laude. And they even claimed the first ten prizes at club level! This inevitably led to several early arrivals at national level as well.
For the old birds' race, Etienne had basketed a total of 10 old birds in widowhood and 7 hens raced from the nest. All 10 cocks were able to claim a top result. In fact, the entire team was outstanding, especially at national level. We run through the numbers:
Agen club 248 yearlings:
Agen National 5,955 yearlings:
We introduce you to the stunt team that was responsible for these incredible results:
19th Nat. with BE19-4113090: a half sister of Provincial Pau (3rd + 10th Nat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance KBDB, 1st Prov. Pau, 1st Prov. St.Vincent), half sister of a 2nd Nat. St.Vincent in 2019 and a daughter of Superbreeder BE11-4312214 x Mona Invictus NL18-1084534 (from a joint breeding Meirlaen-Batenburg).
23rd Nat. with BE19-4113036: half sister of 1st Intnat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance YLs 2018 and 2nd Nat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance 2017, from Ace Mix 99 (son Kimi Barca-Didden) x Princessia (dam of 1st Intnat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance 2018 and daughter of superstar Old 7 Barca).
Provincial Pau: himself a champion in the extreme long distance, and now the sire of a 45th Nat. Agen YLs and a 57th Nat. Agen old birds.
Diamond Anita: a 1st Nat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance KBDB 2017 and the dam of a 45th Nat. Agen YLs
45th Nat. with BE19-4113084: a daughter of the ‘National Ace-pair’ with Provincial Pau (3rd Nat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance KBDB ’17, 10th Nat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance GF KBDB ’16, 1st Prov. St.Vincent, 1st Prov. Pau) x Diamond Anita (1st Nat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance KBDB ’17)
51st Nat. with BE19-4113197: a granddaughter of such iconic Meirlaen birds as Superbreeder 214, golden stock dam Yelena and Marco (1st Nat. Pau).
Olympic Monar: 1st best extreme long distance pigeon of Belgium 2018 across 3 international races, 4th Olympiad Pigeon Cat. E Poznan 2019
51st Nat. (bis: two pigeons clocked in a single second) with BE19-4113087: a daughter of superstar Olympic Monar BE13-4077054 (1st Best pigeon of Belgium across 3 international races and 4th Olympiad Pigeon Cat. E Poznan 2019) x Dochter Super 80 (Besseling)
60th Nat. with BE19-4113186: a daughter of Son Starlight (Starlight wins a 2nd Intnat. Tarbes) x Montalisa (92nd Nat. Narbonne and a daughter of Montali x Daughter Cor - Perpignanlady)
63rd Nat. with BE19-4113335: a full sister of the 23rd Nat. Agen, bred from Ace Mix 99 x Princessia
78th Nat. with BE19-4113113: bred from Brother Fenomeen (Fenomeen was the 1st best long distance pigeon of Belgium across 5 national races) x Daughter Yelena (from Superbreeder – a grandson of Yelena, paired to golden stock dam Yelena).
In the old birds' race, only an outstanding Loobuyck pigeon family (1st Prov. and 2nd + 4th Nat. Agen) was able to keep the Meirlaen pigeons from finishing in first place. No less than 7 on a total of 17 basketed Meirlaen birds finished in the national top 100.
Agen club 189 olds:
Agen National 5,140 olds:
The strongest cocks of this racing team were basketed, and they did not fail to deliver: they were among the first to arrive back home:
7th Nat. with BE17-4214224: a cock that had already won a 128th Nat. Libourne 4,605 p. ‘19, a 299th Nat. Gueret 8,517 p. ’18, a 111th Nat. Libourne 2,893 p. ’18, a 39th Vierzon 869 p. ’19, and a 609th Nat. Limoges 9,661 p. ’19. He is a son of Ace Agen BE11-4278445 (1st best pigeon of Belgium across two seasons Agen ’15-’16 - PIPA-ranking) x Feno 114-hen (a granddaughter of top breeder Marseille 612 – the sire of Fenomeen, Kleine Fenomeen etc., and a granddaughter of Euro Diamond Brockamp).
10th Nat. with BE18-4216081: a very promising bird and winner of a 40th Nat. Souillac 4,056 p. ’19 and a 130th Nat. Limoges 10,783 p. ’19. He comes from Hooymans-doffer NL11-1911801 x Miss Agen BE13-4077154 (winner of 1st prov. and 3rd Nat. Agen 3,180 p. and a daughter of top breeder Montali x daughter Ace Pair).
31st Nat. with BE17-4214143: a super class hen and winner of a 33rd Nat. Narbonne 3,873 p. and a 47th Nat. Agen 4,076 YLs ’18. Bred from the foundation bloodlines: a daughter of Son Marseille BE10-512 (sire of a 5th Nat. Jarnac, a 57th Nat. Montauban and an 82nd Nat. Souillac) x Ace Starlight 794 BE10-794.
49th Nat. with Miss Narbonne BE18-4216097. In 2019, she won a 1st Prov. and 3rd Nat. Narbonne of 3,580 YLs and a 12th Internat. Narbonne of 5,282 hens as a one year old. She originates from Son Olympiad Marseille BE12-197 (from 1st Olympiad Pigeon Continental Cup Budapest ’11: Super Nat Marseille x stock dam Yelena) x Mother Miss Narbonne (the lines of Fenomeen and Monar).
57th Nat. with BE18-4216051: this racing cock won a 193rd Nat. Souillac of 4,056 p. last year. He is a son of superstar Provincial Pau BE12-314 (3rd + 10th Nat. Ace Pigeon extreme long distance KBDB in ’17 and ’16) x Mona Prov. Agen BE15-4240121 (1st Prov. and 6. Nat. Agen 2,932 p. in ’16 and a full sister of Miss Agen (bred from Montali x daughter Ace Pair).
76th Nat. with BE18-4216060: a son of Marco (winner of 1st Nat. Pau in 2014) x Daughter Superbreeder (and a half sister Provincial Pau, of Provincial St.Vincent – 2nd Nat. St.Vincent in 2019, of All-in one etc.)
91st Nat. with BE17-4214223: a full brother of a 7th Nat. Agen, making him a son of Ace Agen x Feno 114-duivin.
A total of 42 racing hens were basketed for Agen, which led to the following results at national level:
Agen National 3,273 hens:
14-18-23-32-46-49-50-55-57-64-118-139-143-145-160-162-202-270-301… or 19 pigeons per ten and a total of 25 prizes with 42 basketed hens.
This has been quite an impressive overall result from team Meirlaen in Agen; this is without doubt a world class pigeon breed!
Victory bouquet from Marseille
Later in the evening, the Meirlaen birds also claimed victory at club level from Marseille. At provincial level, only three birds had made it back home in the early evening in East Flanders (and not a single one in West Flanders). One of them was a Meirlaen racing bird:
Marseille club 29 olds: 1-3-5 (3/7) – Prov. 222 olds: 3-22-27 (3/7)
Marseille National 2,102 olds: 22-189-213 (3/7)
The winner (a racing cock) is Grandson Monar BE15-4240066, a talented racing bird with a 20th Nat. and 34th Internat. St. Vincent of 11,515 p., as well as a 270th Nat. Perpignan of 4,620 p. to his name. He is a grandson of Monar, bred from Golden Monar Boy BE11-4312130 paired to Daughter Super 80 NL13-1372510 of Daan Besseling (Super 80 won a 1st NPO Mont de Marsan 4,144 p.).
It made this weekend even more memorable.
successful streak starts in Pau
A group of hens raced from the nest had been basketed for Pau the week before. And four of these Meirlaen ladies managed to finish in the national top 100. It showed that the racing team was in great form. Here are results of his racing hens in Pau:
Pau club 93 olds: 2-3-6-7-20-22-29 (7/11)
Pau National 2,919 olds: 24-47-60-66-400-430-657 (7/11)
After the race from Pau, Etienne is hoping to have some of his racing hens back in the nest in time for Perpignan, while trying to get the other birds ready for Narbonne, the closing race of a short but intense covid-19 racing season.
Meirlaen pigeons: internationally renowned in the extreme long distance
The many great results in recent weeks have only added to their international reputation. These pigeons have clearly not missed the start to the extreme long distance season. Such an overwhelmingly strong racing team, it is not something you see every day. These pigeons are Etienne's main team. They were basketed for Pau and Agen-Marseille, and are planning to complete a second international race this season. This will pose a problem to the cocks raced in widowhood, taking into account the state of their primary feathers (as we already pointed out). As such, Etienne will now be focusing mainly on his racing hens, that are now in full preparation for Perpignan or Narbonne, from a new nest bowl. Etienne considers brooding a maximum of 5 to 6 hens for about 8 days for Perpignan, with the others brooding 14 to 15 days (the hens from Pau) or 8 days (the pigeons from Agen) prior to the race from Narbonne, if all goes according to plan. Since the timing of a new round of eggs depends a lot on the pigeons' ability to recover after a race.
We are eager to see if the Meirlaen girls will be in great form in the next races as well, although we would not really be surprised. The Etienne Meirlaen birds are a world class breed, always ready to deliver national or international top results. In about two weeks' time (after Narbonne on 14th of August), the 2020 season comes to a close for him, and then it is time to look back. We reckon his season is already a big success, judging from his achievements so far. Congratulations!