As in previous years, Kristof was a prominent name in the provincial championships of the long distance in 2018. He won the following titles in a very demanding long distance season:
1st Ace Pigeon Marathon KBDB PE Antwerp 2018 (with Ludo, BE15-6204628) 2nd General Champion long distance old birds KBDB PE Antwerp 2018 3rd General Champion Marathon KBDB PE Antwerpen 2018
Jelle, the leading name for team Mortelmans
The best racing birds from the past several years are increasingly making a difference in the breeding loft as well, and one of them is Jelle (BE12-4019141). Jelle claimed a 1st Provincial (Libourne) and two 2nd provincial prizes (Limoges and Montauban), and today he is regarded as one of the stock breeders of this team. He is the grandfather of the two brothers Kobe (1st Prov. Marseille 2017) and Spolle (1st Prov. Montauban 2015 & 1st Prov. Libourne 2015).
Racing bird Spolle (BE14-6193174) was transferred to the breeding loft after a fantastic racing career. Three promising yearlings bred from Spolle have stepped up in 2018, and Kristof's expectations are high: "I'm about to breed quite a few youngsters from Spolle this season, because he looks to be quite a promising breeding bird, just like his grandfather."
Kristof showing breeding bird Spolle, who is breeding youngsters in the boxes behind him.
Kobe (BE14-6193173) will still be part of the racing team in 2019! Kristof explains why: "Kobe was the 11th Ace Pigeon Marseille across two seasons. All I want from him this season is that he completes the race from Marseille." Kobe claimed a 1st Prov. Marseille of 248 p. in 2017, which resulted in a 19th Nat. of 1764 p. Besides, he also won a 10th Prov. and 79th Nat. Pau that season.
One thing that caught our attention in the pedigrees of Spolle and Kobe, is the fact that Jelle's bloodlines were successfully crossed with the lines of Witpen bont koppel NL11-1583973, a direct Verweij-Castricum, which Kristof's wife Debora obtained. It was an instant success! This Witpen bont koppel is pretty much at the same level as Jelle in terms of breeding value. In fact, the two cocks feature in the pedigrees of many of Kristof's best racing birds.
The pigeon lofts
The lofts of Kristof Mortelmans are starting to become quite legendary. They are really quite simple, and we talked about them in a number of earlier reports. Its rather unusual layout received a lot of attention, perhaps because many fanciers struggled to believe that this loft produces so many great results. However, the lofts are tangible evidence of Kristof's philosophy as a pigeon fancier. He believes that keeping your prize winners in excellent health is key. He competes in his favourite competitions with talented pigeons that are in perfect health, and the lofts themselves are designed to promote their health. The pigeons toughen up here, especially during the winter, with the "wind sometimes roaring through the loft", Kristof explains. Even in spring and in summer this loft is a well ventilated, non-isolated environment, although he does use a windbreak mesh to cover the lower, open sections of the loft.
A section that is still in winter mode, with the lower half open and exposed - some pigeons are still breeding.
The other sections did have a windbreak mesh installed, in the run-up to the 2019 season.
Kristof's approach also reflects in the way his pigeon breed was put together: he is always targeting specific investments. He is particularly fond of pigeons that excel in long distance competitions in (very) demanding conditions. In fact, almost all of his investments consist of pigeons that have delivered in tough races.
The breed itself
Barcelona 2010 is a good example: this was a very difficult race, in which only the first nine pigeons at national level had a speed of over 900 m/min. The race was dominated by Raemdonck-Ruys (Hamme, BE) and Paul & Dave Vets (Broechem, BE), among others. Kristof went on a mission, and he came home with a daughter of the two prize winners from both teams.
Jean-Pierre Raemdonck, who won the title of Silver Wing that season, sold Kristof a daughter of his 7th Nat. Barcelona 12,641 pigeons. This daughter soon became the dam of Dannie Narbonne, a great racing bird and even better breeder: he is in turn the sire of Jamie (1st Prov. Agen 413 yearlings).
This is the palmares of Dannie Narbonne's youngsters:
1st prov. Agen 413 jaarse (Jamie 114/14) 5th prov. Marseille 322 oude ( Eddie 983/13) 8th prov. Cahors (Kenjie 631/13) 14th prov. Libourne (Kenjie 631/13) 17th prov. Libourne 512 jaarse (Eddie 983/13)
Kristof also obtained a daughter of Alexander, 9th National Barcelona 12,641 of Paul & Dave Vets in the 2010 classic. The daughter of this Bronze Wing winner is Donker Vetsje, and she was paired to Dannie Narbonne, a grandson of the Silver Wing winner we just talked about. Donker Vetsje happens to be the dam of Jamie, which shows that all the pieces fit together.
Besides Dannie Narbonne, Kristof obtained a second pigeon from Jean-Pierre Raemdonck as well: the dam of Barcaras Red Ace, 1st Nat. Ace Pigeon KBDB Extreme Long Distance 2016. This Halfsister Staart BE11-4010716 was then paired to Rode Cramers NL11-1066309, and that proved a brilliant move.
These pigeons proved the backbone for Kristof's successful long distance breed. Unsurprisingly, many of these bloodlines are also prominent in the pedigree of his best racing bird of last season: Ludo.
Ludo (BE15-6204628), 1st Prov. Ace Pigeon Marathon KBDB Antwerp 2018
The new star of this loft is undoubtedly 'Ludo'. He claimed a title of 1st Prov. Ace Pigeon Marathon KBDB Antwerp after a terrific 2018 season.
Also included on Ludo's palmares of 2018 are a 1st Prov. 431 p. and 7th Nat. 3966 p. from Perpignan, which was one of many hard races last season.
Ludo's origins were quite promising already, and he did deliver over the course of the 2018 season.
His sire is De Wittekop (BE13-6202950), which is a son of Witpen Bont Koppel (NL11-1583976) and Meeuwke Jimmy Brands (BE11-6155795). De Wittekop is the sire of Spolle (1st Prov. Montauban and 1st Prov. Libourne 2015) and Kobe (1st Prov. Marseille 2017), among others.
The dam is none other than Zusje Jelle (BE12-6079884), which is a full sister of De Jelle. She is herself an excellent breeding hen as well.
Kristof shows where Ludo is currently breeding. Once completed, he will be moving to a dedicated breeding box, just like Jelle and Spolle and other breeders.
Another racing cock that showed his potential in 2018 is Ferre BE16-6240375, a slightly pale coloured cock that claimed an 8th place in the PIPA Ranking for best pigeon from Narbonne across seasons 2017-2018. The pedigree of Ferre also features many of Kristof's best breeding birds, including Jelle, Spolle, sister Jelle 884-12, Rode Cramers, daughter Jelle and Witpen bont koppel!
Over the past two seasons, Kristof tried his luck with a rather limited team of hens in the long distance. He will be a lot more committed to his hens as of 2019: he is keeping eight old hens from the previous years, and they will be joined by about 40 one year old widower hens. The goal will be to basket a team of hens for Barcelona in a few years' time. The one year old hens will probably complete the combination Agen-Narbonne, to build up towards the big classic from Spain.
Kristof had no more than 20 hens in his collection in 2018 but from now he will have almost as many hens as he has racing cocks: he intends to start the 2019 season with 70 old and one year old widowers.
Unconventional yet successful approach
Veterinary surgeon and pigeon fancier Kristof Mortelmans is not your average or traditional long distance player by any means. Kristof demands a lot from his pigeons: "my racing birds need to prove their worth already at the age of one." Most traditional long distance fanciers allow their pigeons three or sometimes four seasons to get up to speed but Kristof is not quite that patient. "My youngsters get some solid training, after which they complete at least one provincial race or even a national race, depending on the season. But I do put them to the test in their year of birth. And I expect them to produce some decent results at the age of one", Kristof continues.
He has a demanding work schedule and a young family, which means Kristof cannot spend too much time in his loft. "Caretaking needs to be quick and hassle-free to me. That is why the breeders and the young birds are kept in a large avairy. I also ordered a type of feed silo for birds, which is particularly useful in the breeding season. That way, the pigeons can eat as much as they want, and the youngsters are always content. I used to fill the feeding tray every morning but they would always make a mess after they had finished eating, and they would get hungry again in the evening. With this approach they can eat as much as they want, and nothing gets spilled."
"Besides, the racing lofts are equipped with manure conveyor belts, which means there is not a lot of work to be done", Kristof explains.
Unlike other seasons, the one year olds did have some outside training flights during the winter. "I used to keep my pigeons quiet until March, but this season I continued to release the yearlings throughout the winter, if the conditions allowed."
In other words, he did make a few adjustments towards the 2019 season, in comparison to previous years. He continues to innovate, and he is always thinking about possible innovations and improvements. He will never change anything without thinking things through but he does not mind making small adjustments along the way. This is something that many great champions have in common: they always want to improve themselves and their pigeons. He has a growing number of long distance champions both in his racing and breeding loft, so we reckon his opponents will have to watch their backs.
Kristof is letting in his widowers. During our visit, he was all set to build three new landing boards and entrances, another novelty for 2019.