From jousting with ‘Kermesse King’ Mario Willems to shelf stacking at Tesco, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster week or two for Glasgow Wheelers’ 20 year-old, Dougie Young. We caught him between shifts to give us tales of a summer spent in a land where cyclists aren’t a nuisance and bike racing doesn’t induce blank stares or shakes of the head.
How does it feel to be back in Glasgow?
“All right, but it took a bit of getting used to, and I miss being able to race whenever I want and the fact that life is much more chilled in Belgium.
“Here you can only road race on a Sunday – and riding a bike is part of life for everyone in Belgium.”
Tesco, Uni — reality!
“I load shelves at Tesco; it keeps me going and they are understanding about swapping shifts for training or racing.
“I’m waiting to go back to university and my fire risk engineering course.”
What was your best result in Flanders?
“In the under 23 without contract races I was getting into the 30’s but there are also VWF — which is a different federation — events, they’re not as hard as the U23 races but they’re much harder than a Super Six — I got 19th in one of them despite my chain coming off.”
With your light build wouldn’t France or Italy be a better bet?
“What made Belgium so attractive was the fact that we had the use of Callum Gough’s accommodation; if I was to go to France then I’d have to know someone who knew someone and it would all be a lot more complicated.”
What was the toughest race you rode?
“When I first started to race out there I was giving it everything just to hang on.
“The day that Michael got his 20th place I just couldn’t hang on.
“Then the day that Michael was eighth there were only about 40 starters but it was very hard – Ruaraidh McLeod was riding that day — Mario Willems was lining it out across the cobbles through the start and finish and I was bouncing all over the place.
“Then it began to rain and it was like riding on ice — I retired and was so tired that I feel asleep in the café waiting for Michael to finish.”
Lessons learned from your time there?
“I should have rested more and had better structure to how I did things.
“There are so many races that you end up just doing races and recovery rides.
“I actually found it hard to rest; because there’s nothing else to do it’s too tempting just to go and ride another race — next time I’ll be less keen to sign on!
“That’s the thing about across there, you can race three or four times each week, no problem — against once, in Scotland.”
How did the bike fare?
“Apart from a broken chain and having to replace the gear hanger and rear mech as a result, it held out well — I didn’t have any crashes.”
How was the kermesse music?
“Not bad, the Euro Pop creates a good atmosphere; the tune of the moment is ‘Dos Cervesa por Favor’ — they had a conga train going to that in one of the cafes one night.
“The Venga Boys ‘Boom, Boom, Boom’ is big there too — it’s a different world.”
“Mario Willems, he smashes it at every race.
“There was one day we were racing, lined out along the canal side, flat out and a canal boat appeared, full of tourists — Willems was riding along waving to them!
“He’s driving a nice car — he wins a lot of prize money.”
Michael was unimpressed with some of the cooking, how was his?
“Quite good, he does a good fish pie.
“Michael likes to cook, we only had to do it once each week so the way he looks at it is that you should do a job of it, make the effort.
“The guy he mentioned, who served the hard potatoes and raw sausages which Michael was unimpressed with, he cooked spaghetti another night but he burned it — that was so bad that I went and ate in the pub that night!”
Did you make any fans?
“The guys who organised the races were really friendly and helpful.
“Sign on is meant to close 15 minutes before the start but there was one day we got lost on the way to the race and we arrived with just five minutes to go but they let us ride.”
Will you race the year out in Scotland or quit before the end of the season?
“I raced on Sunday but I wasn’t going on the climbs, I’ll see how it goes but I may stop for the year soon, I feel pretty tired.”
“I’m not sure about Belgium, it cost my mum and dad a lot of money; I’m thinking that next season we’ll try to organise a proper Wheelers campaign to the Premier Calendars with me, Robbie Hassan and Rab Wardell.”
We understand that you lived a life of sobriety out there, but wonder if you heard about any good beers?
“Sloeber pale golden ale at 7.5% is nice, and so too is Ename Triple Abbey Ale at 8.5% – and of course there’s Jupiler at 5.2% the most popular beer in Belgium.”
A good knowledge of Euro Pop and Belgian beer, not to mention battling it out with Mario Willems three times each week — VeloVeritas likes this boy !
With thanks to Dougie and Michael for their time; and a big ‘well done’ for getting their act together and doing what many only ever dream about.