Belgium was still in the throes of conflict as the inaugural Omloop Van Vlaanderen rolled out of Ghent in March 1945. It’s hard to imagine a sporting occasion taking place at such a time, let alone in a place so central to the battles of World War II.
Sport has played a significant political role during wartime, either for morale, propaganda or a combination of the two. The Omloop Van Vlaanderen, now known as Het Nieuwsblad, was started, as many bike races were, to help shift copies of newspapers. On this occasion, the Flemish left-leaning paper, Het Volk.
The race was decided by a bunch kick won by Belgian sprinter, Jean Bogaerts. The top ten consisted of nine other Belgians. Not too dissimilar to the result sheet of a modern day cobbled classic.
Races such as this have been forgotten over time, but Prendas Ciclismo has produced an aptly named collection in their honour. The Omloop Van Vlaanderen jersey is one of three styles in the Forgotten Races trio. The other two jerseys commemorate Trofeo Baracchi and Bordeaux-Paris – two races that have disappeared off the calendar altogether.
The fellows behind the brand first fell for bike racing in the ’80s, way before anyone outside mainland Europe could watch any of the cobbled races live on TV. They recall the excitement of having to wait for two months for the VHS tapes to arrive at their local bike shop, Ridge Racing.
Both the Omloop Van Vlaanderen jersey – and cotton cap – have a cobble pattern as part of the design. They’re both produced in the colours of the Belgian flag, and the jersey, handmade by Santini, has three rear pockets and one zip pocket for valuables.
A classy jersey with a classy sentiment.