A bicycle of three-time Ronde winner Tom Boonen. The bike with which Fabian Cancellera crossed the line of his last Paris-Roubaix. A bicycle that has ridden ki-lo meters with the Lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw. These are just a few gems from the collection of Stephan Willers that you can view with us. Where one collects stamps, Stephan has the more for bicycles with a story.
Cat pee? We have heard!
Stephan, born and raised in Münster, Germany, but bitten by the cross-border cycling bug. The bicycle is also omnipresent in Münster, but mainly for recreational purposes. With the second largest university in Germany, students are making good use of it.
In terms of atmosphere and mentality, Münster and the Münsterland are comparable to Ghent and Flanders. A picturesque city, Renaat Schotte can confirm. During the Tour of Germany in 2006 he stayed close to a popular student turn, so a local beer in the evening should definitely be tried. The next day, while commenting on the prologue from Düsseldorf to Bielefeld, he described his experiences from the night before. Assuming that no people from Münster were listening after all, he described the beer tasted as cat pee. That was beyond Stephan ...
The love for the Ronde
Stephan's love for the Ronde started when he was about nine years old. In Münster there was a big competition, the EWG-Fernfahrt. A course for enthusiasts, starting in Enschede (the Netherlands) and arriving after 163 km in front of the buildings of the Germania brewery in Münster. This match was the last match that a young Eddy Merckx won as a promise.
Cycling in Germany did not receive much attention. A short report of no more than five minutes of a cycling classic was the highest achievable. In stark contrast to Flanders, the paradise of cycling with Flemish cycling heroes such as Roger De Vlaeminck and Freddy Maertens. Every year, little Stephan looked forward eagerly to the day when the riders entered Münster on their steel steed, impressed by the long distance they had already covered.
During his studies in 1983 in Münster, he worked as a taxi driver - or was it rather studying in between the many taxi rides? In any case, he took care of one night shift after another, every night brought him a little closer to his dream: his own racing bicycle. The money was one thing, the purchase of the bicycle was another. Buying a racing bike in Germany was no mean feat, and apart from a love for the bike, he didn't know much about it.
Eventually he ended up at a bicycle shop in Bocholt, Germany. A distributor of Italian frames from Gios and Colnago. It became a Colnago, in the colors of the DelTongo team. The team of Cippollini, Fondriest and Ballerini, among others.
In 1989 Stephen got a job in Aachen, now very close to his Flemish cycling paradise. Now he could not only see the matches on the VRT, but he could also effectively encourage his heroes. The cycling bug never let him go. The magic of waiting at the starting place for the teams to finish - that finish saw Stephan evolve from the front row. Where in the beginning they arrived with regular trailers, they quickly became buses and now they are converted buses with showers and all necessary facilities, the mechanics having the bikes ready. We have to wait for the riders and everyone is looking at the bikes. Every bicycle differs, however minimal. Gradually the riders get out of the buses. A final check of the bike, exchange a few words with the staff of the team, make time for the supporters and the press and then quickly place a signature on the start sheet. Just under eight minutes to the start, the nervousness increases, both among the riders and the audience. The helicopter flies low to be able to take beautiful images and then the shot of the starting pistol follows. You hear the clicking of the shoes in the pedals and they are off. One of them will be the winner today, but after six hours, he won't just get that victory. He will have to fight hard for it, he must be smarter and stronger than his opponents and he must be spared from fate. His racing bike is his faithful horse that will carry him on this road to victory and honor.
It seems to be a bit poetic, but those bikes stand as permanent witnesses to this one euphoria and drama of cycling. Witnesses who deserve to be seen. That is why I exhibit my bicycles in the Center Tour of Flanders. - Stephan Willers
Erik Zabel got his bike on the hook in 2008, after a rich career. Four-time winner of Milan-San Remo, 12 stages in the Tour de France and no less than six times he was allowed to wear the green jersey in Paris.
In his last year he already worked for the German team MILRAM. The team rode white Colnago bicycles, but Erik received two blue bicycles, the color of the German dairy manufacturer MILRAM. The most beautiful bikes in the peloton, according to Stephan.
In mid-June 2009, Stephan was looking for a cycling guide for the upcoming Tour de France somewhere in the Netherlands. Once he had obtained it, he saw an advertisement in it for cycling shop Van Tuyl in Zaltbommel, the Netherlands. Once there, it turned out that it was not only possible to buy new bicycles, but also old (er) professional bicycles. Wham! That couldn't be true, could it? A photo of Erik Zabel's blue Milram bike was also in the catalog. Stephan was determined. That bike would become his. However, it turned out to be easier said than done. After contacting the owner, he was asked for his bike sizes. Still strange, Stephan thought. Because why did they now need his bike buddies if he wanted to buy a bike from Zabel? Ultimately, the seller turned out to have taken over a large lot of bicycles from Rabobank and Milram and he wanted to offer a bicycle with the correct bicycle size from Stephan. Because who wants a bike that is not his size? After a lot of mailing back and forth it finally became clear and the bullet was through the church. Zabel's bike was finally in Stephan's hands.
The second blue bicycle is still owned by Erik Zabel himself. But which bike is now the reserve bike and which is the competition bike of the Tour? No one can say it now with 100% certainty, not even Erik himself. Although some details point in the direction of this bike. The bike is still in its original condition, except for the Dura-Ace manifolds. They have replaced the SRM-Powermeter cranks. Stephan found remnants of adhesive tape with which the data cables of the SRM were glued under the bottom tube, so that it would normally soon be clear that this was the competition bike because for most riders their training bike was not provided by SRM. But not with fanatic Erik, both bikes were equipped with SRM. At the time, the riders usually only had their racing bike equipped with an SRM. At the time, those riders usually only provided the racing bike with SRM. Different with Erik, his spare bike also had SRM. The scratches on the bike, however, indicate falls, which means that there is a good chance that he rode this bike in the Tour of Flanders on April 6, 2008, his last. He then turned 67ste.
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