Stefan Steenbergen (Herk-de-Stad, BE) dominated the yearlings' race from Bourges I

Last weekend's Bourges I was the first national race on the agenda, and most longer middle distance fanciers consider this the most important race of the season. Stefan Steenbergen was the big winner, claiming both a 1st and 2nd prize in the yearlings' race, while having five pigeons finish in the national top 20.

Left to right: his good friend Ludo, breeder Mark Janssens, Stefan, his wife Linda and their gardener Pieter

Cows and rabbits

"I hate this weather", one fancier said last Thursday while basketing for Bourges. "With these winds a cow could catch a rabbit", he said with an irritated tone. Perhaps this fancier knew what was coming and he tried to find an excuse for a disappointing result? By no means did the cow catch the rabbit: the national top 10 from Bourges includes not only the winner of multiple provincial ace pigeon titles but a former National Champion KBDB, a 16 time provincial winner and a former national winner from Bourges. The most important prize went to Stefan Steenbergen, whose top class racing birds managed to finish in 1st and 2nd, leaving behind no less than 21,482 pigeons. They were also the fastest of a total of 40,348 opponents. This adds to a total of 12 national, zonal or semi national victories for Stefan.

Zhao Qiang

"Stefan, your pigeons are in very good condition,", the wife of Stefan's Chinese friend said when commenting on the current form of his pigeons. She told this during a visit to Belgium in the weekend before Bourges. This explains why the national winner is named after Mrs. Zhao Qiang.

Stefan and Mrs. Zhao Qiang celebrating

Zhao Qiang did not complete the 470km that separated her loft from the release site in Bourges on her own. It was his good friend Ludo who first spotted three small dots in the sky, who landed on the board almost simultaneously. Apparently, they were so astonished by their own performance that they spent some time actually entering the loft. Zhao Qiang did not hesitate too long before eventually going inside but Nuno (BE14-2064724) first wanted to take another look at the other landing board. This cost her some time but it did not prevent her from taking a second prize. The third pigeon, the BE14-2064702, decided to make a few more rounds before returning to the loft. It reminds us of a cyclist who raises his arms too early. The 702/14 had just lost a certain podium spot but she still managed to finish in the national top 10. This 702/14 is quite a talented pigeon: she already won a 6th interprov. Vierzon against 4,639 pigeons two weeks ago, which is why she was basketed for Bourges as first nominated.

Zhao Qiang (BE14-2065070)

The national winner was bred from Stefan's good friend and colleague Mark Janssens, and she originates from Mark's top breeder Den Rappen' (BE03-5154302). Her grandfather from her father's side is Witpen (BE94-5054750), an excellent pigeon that won 9 clear first prizes from Momignies. The dam of Zhao Qiang is BE12-5154154, a full sister of the 018, 1st Prov. Ace Pigeon KBDB Limburg Sprint. Click here for the full pedigree of Zhao Qiang.

Zhao Qiang

Nunjo (BE14-2064724)

Nunjo was the second of three pigeons that crossed the board, and she is part of a family of prize winners. Bred from a crossing of Reverman-Voets-Draye-Limbourg, she has quite a few top class ancestors in her pedigree. The sire is Witte (BE08-5023476, Reverman x Voets), a great racing bird and winner of a 2nd prov. Limoges 1,152 p., a 5th prov. Chateauroux 2,018 p. and a 13th prov. 4,293 pigeons. The dam is Pritty (BE12-5023243, Draye x Limbourg), a full sister of La Souterraine Queen, 1st nat. La Souterraine 4,660 pigeons. Click here for the full pedigree of Nunjo.

Nunjo, 2nd nat. Bourges 21,484 yearlings

The head of Nunjo

The 900-hen and St. Antonius

Stefan bought the Asduiver pigeon from Mark Janssens a few years ago. This pigeon was initially infertile, so Mark decided to give Stefan a full sister of Asduiver as well, as compensation. This hen, the BE10-5115900, was later called the 900-hen. Even though she only joined the team in late May, Stefan wanted to get her in shape for some of the young birds' classics later that season. She had a flying start, with a 1st in the club from Momignies, after which she also won a 2nd in the club from Soissons, a 1st club, 15th prov. (1,689 p.) and 162nd nat. (22,442 p.) from Argenton, a 3rd club Soissoins, and a 1st club, 4th prov. (1,047 p.) and 56th nat. (17,017 p.) from La Souterraine. However, the flight from Gueret was one too many for this talented racing bird. Stefan would search the sky for weeks but eventually he had to accept that his 900-hen would never return home. Or would she? On a dark November day Stefan was making a trip to the city of Hasselt. His uncle Marcel jokingly told him to pray to the holy Antonius. "Who knows your pigeon might return home after all?" "There's no hurt in trying", said Stefan, and he prayed, putting a coin in the collection plate. Stefan then returned home and guess who was sitting on the board? The 900-hen. She is the dam of Stefan's fourth pigeon from Bourges, which is holding a 10th national place.


"If only our father could have experienced this", Stefan told us. His father Albert pased away in October last year, and the two were quite a successful combination for many years. No wonder Stefan had a few difficult moments when celebrating his impressive victory last weekend. Then again, we could not think of a better way to honour the memory of his father.