Since March 5, 2016, three cyclists have been honored on a traffic circle on the Breeweg in Bredene. They are the local cycling gods Charles Verkeyn, Oscar Goethals and Marcel Seynaeve. In unveiling the large bicycle placed in front of the men, Mayor Steve Vandenberghe said, "There may come a time when our children and grandchildren will no longer know who these great personalities were, but they did put Bredene on the map.

As a municipality, we must take care of our cultural heritage. We will honor not only athletes, but also residents who have dedicated themselves in other ways. Therefore, a monument for these three cyclists”. Even for our readers they may not be familiar names, which is why we are introducing the three men. They made Belgium famous far beyond its borders. All three have their own story and have left their traces for posterity.

Charles Verkeyn 1897-1973

The Bredener who was a professional cyclist from 1917 to 1935 left by boat for America in 1920 to fulfill his dream on the track. Although he did not win any major titles, he was one of the biggest earners in the métier. For example, he was the fastest in “The Golden Wheel” of Boston (1921), the Championship of America (1923) and in 1925 in the Derbies of Boston and New York. “VeloGotha” (2005 edition) still records: Verkeyn, however, went down in history as the author of the longest pursuit match in the history of cycling. A duel with the Italian Madena that was fought in Providence (USA) in 1923. The stakes were $3,000. Verkeyn won after a fantastic duel that stretched, always behind the bike, over no less than 127 km. He covered that distance in 1 h.46′. After his active career as a track rider, he was a pacer for 15 years, winning several titles with other riders, including Oscar Goethals. Verkeyn had no children, but three colossal cups, recalling his American days, are still preserved at the family in Bredene. For our visit, the 1925 and 1927 cups are neatly displayed with a neutral background. He received the large cup on Sept. 5, 1925 after winning the 50 miles at the New York Vélodrôme. These are cycling memories of great museum value.

Oscar Goethals 1920-1989

In the garden of son André in Bredene, together with son-in-law Gilbert, we look back on the cycling life of Oscar Goethals. On the table is a thick book with photos, newspaper clippings and you name it. You could start writing a biography right away! As a 17-year-old, he rode his first race in 1938. The following year he won 19 victories, the best of which was the unofficial championship of Belgium in Wondelgem. In early 1940, he became a soldier and even spent several months in captivity in Germany. Afterwards, he resumed racing in 1941. In the middle of the 1942 season he transferred to the professionals. In his “In Memoriam,” which appeared after his death, there is a beautiful passage: Impressed by the Bredener’s astonishing cycling year and the bravura with which he delivered each race, he was rightly hailed as a promise of great stature by cycling expert par excellence, Karel Van Wijnendaele. But it was not all victory. In early 1943, he was forced to work in Germany. After a period of illness, he came home totally weakened after five months. After the war, he picked up the thread. Both on the road, on the track and in the field he was present. He noted all his results in a booklet, along with the amounts earned. Nice to see that again decades later. He was regularly paired with Rik Van Steenbergen in team races on the track. Goethals also operated a café on the corner of Nieuwstraat and Elisabethlaan. A recreational cyclist, he was killed in the harness when he crashed between Dutch Sluis and Oostburg on July 20, 1989. The municipality of Bredene intends to name a street after Oscar Goethals.

Marcel Seynaeve 1933-2015

The professional career (1959-1963) was different from that of a “normal” cyclist. He stopped racing on October 1 each season and did not start training again until January. In the meantime, he worked in construction. Seynaeve put his name in the history books in big letters during the 1961 Vuelta a España. He wins the 4th stage Benifar-Barcelona over 199 km in 4h49’05” on May 2. On May 4, after the 6th stage Tortosa-Valencia, he becomes classification leader. After the 11th stage Madrid-Vallodolid, won by Arthur De Cabooter, he hands over the leader’s jersey to teammate André Messelis, who loses it in the final stage to final winner Angelino Soler Romaguera. Seynaeve finally finished 19th at 26’49”. A year earlier he had also been active in the Vuelta as a domestique of Frans Demulder, who then won the overall. In his last year as a professional (1963) he rode his only Tour de France, but gave up in the 14th stage Aurillac-St. Étienne. In that year, he also stops active cycling. After being hit by a car on his bicycle, he suffers a brain hemorrhage and dies two years later from the aftermath of that accident. Seynaeve is founder of the Royal Veloclub Duinensprinters and the Cycling Club Bredene.

Just a village, just three local heroes. Cycling is full of stories!

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