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