On the seventh day of Christmas…
Join us as we return to our favourite episodes from the 2018 season, one for each of the twelve days of Christmas.
In Search of The Pink Panther – Friends of the Podcast 2018
One day Richard, Daniel and I were throwing around a few ideas for potential Friends of the Podcast episodes and we wondered out loud who the last Belgian Grand Tour winner was. I had to admit I didn’t know without looking it up. If pressed, I’d have guessed it was Lucien Van Impe at the Tour de France in 1976.
But it turned out that 2018 was the 40th anniversary of the last Belgian Grand Tour win – by Johan De Muynck at the Giro d’Italia.
A quick Google told me that he was nicknamed De Roze Panter and so the idea of a trip to Flanders in search of The Pink Panther was born.
With the help of Belgian journalist, and Friend of the Podcast, Jan-Pieter De Vlieger, we made an appointment to visit De Muynck at his home. The moment when he went off to get his silk time trialling version of the maglia rosa delighted the cycling nerd in me.
I love stories like this. I set off without any preconceived ideas about how it might go. But I got a good vibe from the moment I arrived outside the Eddy Merckx velodrome on the outskirts of Gent and bumped into Koen Beeckman, who is trying to identify the next Flemish Grand Tour champion among the region’s army of talented young riders.
It wasn’t until De Muynck answered the door that I was convinced we’d get to see him. On the way we had lunch with De Muynck’s teammate Roger De Vlaeminck, aka Monsieur Paris-Roubaix, and, one of the many surreal moments was to hear him deny outright that he had ever owned a llama – ruining one of Daniel’s favourite anecdotes.
I’ve been travelling to Flanders to watch and report bike races and interview riders for almost 20 years but I know I’m still an outsider. But trips like this chip away at the layers and reveal a little bit more of what keeps the pedals turning.
by Lionel Birnie
Become a Friend of The Podcast
Become a Friend of the Podcast to access our library of special episodes. It’s just £15 to subscribe in 2019- for the price of a couple of afternoon cappuccini you’ll get eleven feature-length in-depth episodes. Past-highlights include Inside the team car, The Rise and Demise of HTC-High Road – The Team of the Century, The Lionel of Flanders, and Meeting Jean Bobet.