Good friends Stefan Steenbergen (r) and Benny De Kerf (l) teamed up as Team Koningshoeve
Excellent health, peak condition
This year 327 fanciers sent a total of 1,434 birds to the Krakus One Loft Race in Brzesko, Poland. Just like in the previous editions, race owners Waldemar Paruch and Andrzej Grodny and manager Aleksandra 'Ola' Grodny had two goals: healthy pigeons and a final taking place on the date scheduled at the start of the season. "Travipharma and COBA Diagnostic (vets, ed.) help us keep all pigeons in good health and they are doing an excellent job, if I may say. As far as the final race date goes, we have always succeeded in sticking to our originally planned date and just wanted to keep it that way. Weather permitting of course", says Ola. Those two goals were reached this year as well, with about a dozen fanciers present at the basketing confirming that all 803 remaining pigeons were in excellent health and had reached their peak for the 530 km final.
Big loss on the first race, practically no losses afterwards
It wasn't all roses, however. "Four hundred birds didn't return home from the first prize-winning race of 100 km. We analysed everything in detail over and over again and, after talking to several of our participants and awaiting the results of future races, we can now conclude that the loss was to be contributed to the lack of experience", says Andrzej, who is also the race organiser and loft manager. A conclusion which is stressed by the fact that only eleven birds got lost in the last four races leading up to the final. Just extraordinary.
Relaxing atmosphere at the lofts
The final of the 2018 edition, which started at 7.45 am in Luckau, Germany, was characterised by different types of weather, starting with a partially blue sky, turning into rainy weather and ending with clouds and light rain. Fanciers from different European countries were packing onto the race's premises in the meantime, enjoying a typically Polish barbecue, Polish drinks and the cheerful and festive mood. No better place to spend your entire Saturday, that's for sure!
Belgian bird outsmarts the rest
At around 2.20 pm people started running towards the fence surrounding the lofts. A flock of five pigeons had appeared up in the overcast sky, three of which went straight down to sit on the roof. The other two did one tour around the loft in the very light rain after which one was smart enough to immediately enter the loft since fourteen other birds had been spotted from a close distance. The organisation announced Team Koningshoeve as winner of the 2018 Krakus race but no-one jumped for joy. They then called out the winner's name a second time and it was Belgian agent Stefan Steenbergen who started shouting: "It's me, it's me. Jesus Christ!" He was eating his lunch and hadn't understood the name the first time. For the second year in a row the Krakus One Loft Race is won by a Belgian fancier, or fanciers because Stefan had teamed up with his close friend Benny De Kerf for this year's race.
Stefan Steenbergen with 3rd prize winner SG Sehnke-Marzeion and race owners Waldemar Paruch (l) and Andrzej Grodny (r)
Lucky Second, winner of the Krakus OLR 2018
Proven breeders and winners
The winning bird is BE18-2050642 Lucky Second. She comes from the Iron Man bloodlines on her sire's side and a crossing of Van de Wouwer x Linda (Steenbergen) on her dam's side.
Sire: BE15-2295793 Ghost (Stefan Steenbergen)
Ghost is the half-brother of Stefanie (1st Prov. La Souterraine), Stella (1st Prov. Salbris), Blue Power (3rd Nat. Châteauroux) and the winner of a 1st Prov. Argenton. Ghost's sire is BE01-6497413 Robert (Van Camp-Govaerts). Robert won a 3rd Nat. Bourges and, despite his age of seventeen years (!), still fertilises up to today. His dam is a M&Y Vandersmissen bird. Ghost's dam, BE14-2065175 Sister Iron Man (Stefan Steenbergen), is also the dam of Iron Narbonne (1st Nat. Narbonne 2017 for Stefan) and full sister of ace racer Iron Man (1st Nat. Zone Montauban, 4th and 5th Prov. Brive) and other superb racers.
Dam: NL12-1696415 (Dr. de Weerd Pigeons)
She is a gift from Henk de Weerd, with whom Stefan has a good understanding. Her sire is BE08-6364024 Brother Bourges Raket II (Gaston Van de Wouwer). That cock is grandchild of Kaasboer and full brother of Bourges Raket (3rd Nat. Bourges and sire of 1st Hot Spot Car Race Million Dollar Race) and New Superbreeder (sire of Laura, 4th Nat. Ace Bird Middle Distance Youngsters). The dam of NL12-1696415 is BE06-5115199 Linda (Stefan Steenbergen). Linda won the 1st Nat. La Souterraine and moved to Henk de Weerd's lofts afterwards. She is the granddam of Lichte Rocket (1st NPO Poitiers) and dam of other top-prize winners. Her sire Super Walter is also sire of another 1st Nat. winner.
One week after Lucky Second's win in Poland a relative of hers, BE17-6077454, won the 1st Nat. Châteauroux in Belgium for Nicole de Weerd, the daughter of Henk. The winner's granddam (dam's side) was bred by Bourges Raket x Linda (mentioned as Miss La Souterraine on the pedigree). We all know how the saying with the apple and the tree goes. Have a look at the national winner's descent here.
Good friend Benny De Kerf
In the past few years Stefan has developed a close friendship with Benny De Kerf (Kortenaken, BE): "Apart from my 17-year old cock Robert which is staying at Benny's attic, Benny's lofts also house fourteen of my breeding pairs. It is from those pairs, which have the blood of sprint racers running through their veins, that I selected ten birds for the race. Last year was a very hard race and I therefore wanted to add some sprint to the two teams Benny and I eventually sent to Poland. In fact the name Koningshoeve refers to Benny's horse stables. I'm glad to say that Benny is more than just a pigeon friend. He has a heart of gold and I'm therefore happy that he won fifteen first prizes this year, which was only his third racing season."
The first Krakus race was held back in 2015, making the 2019 edition the fifth anniversary of the race. "We will prepare something special", say father Andrzej and daughter Ola. "What? Let that be a surprise." Next year's race will also so a slight difference in prize money and a longer period of bird intake, starting 1 March. "We're also ready for a population of 1,500 pigeons in our lofts. We'd be happy to reach that number but we're not in a hurry. We need to assess the organisational and health aspect of an increase in birds first because the primary goal was, is and will be to have the best loft climate and offer the best care to all pigeons participating in our race", Ola concludes. It doesn't matter to them which nationality next year's winner is but being a bit patriotic it would of course be nice if Belgium succeeds in winning three in a row.
The Krakus OLR is all about being at ease and feeling at home
The ever-friendly Krakus team with this year's winner Stefan Steenbergen (Benny De Kerf wasn't present in Poland)