Since the begining, the Liège province has been the ground of the long distance racer, from the racer of the 'simple' long distance race to the marathon lovers. A few lofts or, even better, their pigeons became legends. For example, we remember the late Ernest Gurnay, famous fancier of the post world war who built a superb loft on the roof of his house in Verviers, a racing loft that was still used after his death by the late Henry Mornard who won there the 1st International price of Perpignan back in the days. There was also the famous 'El Torro', world champion Versele Laga and property of the tandem Kaelen-Broers from La Calamine in the '90’s, or still 'L'exceptionnel', 1st National Ace Pigeon Long Distance KBDB by J & T Bruwier from Bolland. Now, these are storiies from the past but they still deserve a place in the ‘pantheon’ of the racing pigeon sport in Liège..
Dieter Ballmann is actually the worthy successor of this champion loft and he gives them credit in each of the International races in which he baskets his pigeons, now feared by the biggest lofts of Flanders and Europe. In fact, since the beginning of the new millennium, the Ballmann pigeons were often in the spotlight in the marathon races. Dieter focuses exclusively on the long distance competitions because these are hard, but fair races where the geographic location of your loft is less important than in speed or middle distance for example. For these distances, its quite simple: in Amel, they are considered as training races in preparation for the long distance calendar. Anyway, these disciplines are not really popular in the east townships of Belgium, just a matter of fancier density or… temperament of the fancier. When the virtuosis of Amel goes to the club to basket his racers, you can be sure that the pigeons are top and are all able to bring back victory. Nothing is left to chance. That’s what we can consider as the difference between a simple fancier and a fancier that races to win. Dieter is a part of this last category. If he is not really well known by the greater public, his name has been familiar to our ears for a few years. His performance list at the national level is the main cause for this:
- 1 National Perpignan 2004 6.489 pig.
- 2 National Pau 2009 1.984 pig.
- 3 National Barcelona 2007 12.612 pig.
- 3 National Marseille 2011 3.179 pig.
- 4 National Perpignan 2005 7.611 pig.
- 5 National Montélimar 2011 8.040 pig.
- 6 National Beziers 2003 6.336 pig.
- 7 National Marseille 2011 3.179 pig.
- 8 National Barcelone 2003 11.785 pig.
- 9 National Barcelone 2011 12.170 pig.
- 10 National Montauban 2007 6.187 pig.
So, 11x top 10 national since 2003 with, as an average, a top 10 once every 4 years from Barcelona !
Barcelona, let's talk about it! It is rightly one of the favourite races of our friend. Over these last few years, Dieter became one of the biggest european specialists in this supreme race. Figures never lies. Just have a look:
From 1994 until 2011, Dieter basketed 143 pigeons for Barcelona and 100 of them won a prize, good enough for an average of 78% prize in 18 years of participation! In 2007, he won 8 prizes with 8 basketed with the 3rd national and he does it again with the 100% in 2007 with 7 prizes from 7 basketed! Finally, this year was also really good with a superb 6/7, the first pigeon being in 9th place at the national level.
You must make your own conclusions about this!
If you want to be so regular, you have to own birds of high quality. The early pigeons in the marathon races must fly alone against all the elements for numerous hours. Eleventh top 10 national, it can’t be a coincidence. As a marathon lover, Dieter was obliged to adapt his method. His main principle is quite simple: ''A marathonian must be familiar with his future work and, in order to do this, he has to acquire experience progressively.''
Nowadays, the trend is to make the yearlings fly the long distance, Dieter chooses another way. ''Due to my geographic situation, I can race with the luxemburg fanciers. My yearlings are then basketted over there as well as in a few interprovincial events. They are flying like ten races of 650 kilometers per year.
The unique thing about of these races, is that there are thousands of pigeons but the lofts are separated by dozens of kilometers. The pigeons must fly alone if they want to get back to their loft. By doing this, they gain a lot of experience for their future job without being to 'sharpened'. I have the habit of racing my pigeons until they are really old, that's really perfect for me.''
You should know that the yearlings are raced in celibacy. In fact, Dieter thinks that he earns a year exctra for their career because the widowhood 'burns out' the pigeons.That's how he managed to win the 3rd place national on Barcelona with a pigeon which was 7 years old.
If everything begins to become more serious when the pigeons are 2 years old, the real career of the Ballmann pigeons begins really at the age of 3:
''In fact, at this age, they are entered for the races that I really live for, namely Barcelona and Perpignan. I don't want to say that the previous races on which they are basketted are not important to me but these two races are my main objective. In fact, i think that my 2 year olds can still be improved on and not really ready for the international classics. At least, i prefer to give them more experience before being sent to Spain. At this age, I want to familiarize them with the tough work and they are basketted for the Rhône line with races like Montélimar and Orange before being entered for Marseille or Narbonne. Most of the time, these races are really hard and raced in painful conditions with heat and the mistral that is blowing a lot. I think that it is an excellent test and, for once, our geographic situation is perfect for these races! I also think that the Rhône line forges the best pigeons.''
And we can't put him in the wrong! This year he won the 5th prize National Montélimar as well as the 3rd and 7th prize National Marseille, both in the category of the 2-year old birds. Concerning the care and the method, everything is as simple as possible. The racers are coupled twice before the season: the first time in January, the second time in April, always with a brooding of 10 days, they never raise a youngster (at least before the begining of the season). The first training is scheduled for April and, when they return, their hens are removed from the loft. The cocks return to their nest until they leave it themselves. The widowhood can now begin. They come into form progressively.The pigeons reach their peak during the month of July. ''Perfect for my objective!'' . The old racers are housed in a loft built in the attic and the form appears when the temperatures are rising. Dieter won't get rid of his dry loft for nothing in the world. ''I can see differences in the condition between my old birds, which are housed there, and the yearlings and youngsters, housed in the garden loft.''
While checking the information he gave me to write this report, I came to realize that our friend was the owner of two breeders of international class, let's say breeders whose descendants are shining in the races up to the fourth generation. I'm talking of the '820/94' and of the '707/94'. These two pigeons filled their eggs until an advanced age but they unfortunately passed away last year. During their breeding career, they were coupled with pigeons coming from Berthus Wijnacker (NL), Nouwen-Paessen, the late Jules Flagothier, Emiel Denys, Yvon Deneufbourg and finally P. and Dr. H.P. Brockamp (GER).
The result ? An ultra performing loft! Important detail: these two pigeons were... nest brothers! Let's talk about the better of the two, the '820/94':
- The '820/94' (BE 94-1006820)
This exceptionnal breeder is one of the very few to have bred two different national winners, in two of the most fancied races of the racing season, with the 1st National Brive 22.026 p. in 2001 and the 1st National Perpignan 6.849 p. in 2004 !
In addition, and it's a massive asset when you talk about a 'top breeder', the 1st National Brive 2001 was won in another loft (by Joseph Schmitz from Baelen). Being exported somewhere else with an equal success: is that not what separates the top breeders from the rest ?
Talking about the pedigree, this '820' comes from the '197/88' which won two years in a row the 1st local from Barcelona. This pigeon was the offspring of a crossing of the 'Witslager' from Descender x Paul Gilmont, former international winner of Barcelona. His mother is the '909/88' by which we found the line of the 'Supercrack Crusson' x Paul Gilmont again.
Talking about the references, a book would be preferable to list all the prizes won by his descendants in second, third and even fourth generation! Here is a taste of the best results.
- He is father of:
1st National Brive 22.026 p. '01
1st National Perpignan 6.849 p. '04
10th National Montauban '07
8x top 100 National & International since 2000
15x top 250 National & International since 2000
- He is grandfather of:
17th National Béziers '04
19th National Marseille '09
7x top 100 National & International since 2004
15x top 250 National & International since 2004
- He is great grand-father of the:
2nd National & 9e International Pau '09
7th National & 23e International Marseille '11
14x top 100 National & International since 2008
27x top 250 National & International since 2008
No doubt about it, it's one of the best kept secrets of the Belgian pigeon sport! The efficiency of his descendants since 2008 is simply unbelievable when you know that they are also raced in the long distance races (ten a year for the whole program). It's probably one of the best lines of marathonian in the world. The fact is even more clear when you know that the nest brother of the '820', the '707/94', is also a proven breeder!
- The '707/94'
- He is father of:
3rd National & 15th International Marseille 2011
4x top 100 National et International since 2001
9x top 250 National et International since 1999
- He is grandfather of:
5th National Montélimar '11
4x top 200 National since 2005
- He is great grand-father of:
4th National & 24th International Perpignan '05
17th National Montélimar '08
5x top 100 National & International since 2005
13x top 100 National & International since 2004
Last but not least, the '820' and the '707' are brothers of the following pigeons:
28th National Limoges '92
105th National Narbonne '94
132th National Barcelona '94
196th National Barcelona '95
220th National Narbonne '93
Despite the huge references won in the hardest races on earth, the descendants of this strain are also able to win top prizes in the races of heavy middle distance, and even during the sprint races... provided that the conditions are hard enough with low speed and high temperatures. Their terms of choice. The pigeon which reflects this perfectly is the famous 'Avignon', a bird that was classified as 11th Ace Pigeon National Extreme Long Distance KBDB with a 2nd national Pau in '09, and able to win a 1st prize from St Dizier.
Year after year, Dieter strenghtened his loft with prestigious origins but we can conclude that his main basis is simply comes from his own stock, because these two brothers were bred out of an old racer from Ballmann. Dieter didn't have to go far to become the owner of pigeons from superior quality, no. He had them in his loft! By combining his talents as breeder and manager, Dieter was able to improve the quality of his results! Let's specify that our host is only 42 years of age! He still has a lot of time ahead of him to become famous abroad, that's why he is possibly one of the more promising fanciers of Europe, probably the new 'coming man' ! Our warmest congratulations on all these years of mastership and good luck for the future!