Wednesday, October 27, 2021
HomeInterviewsIan Whitehead - Gone Native in Belgium

Ian Whitehead – Gone Native in Belgium

-

I knew that Ian Whitehead had finally gone native when I received the email to inform me that his mail address no longer ended in “dot uk” but in “dot be” — that was the last link with the ‘old country’ gone.

However, English Christmas pudding was consumed on the 25th — so there are still links to the ‘old ways,’ despite what he says.

Ian is one of the men behind Kingsnorth Wheelers, the Belgian Team with an English name that’s been home to so many good Commonwealth riders over the years — the most recent success story being Endura Racing’s New Zealand champion, Jack Bauer.

I was supposed to spend a bit of time with Ian at the Gent six but the slot just didn’t appear — the Kuipke was hectic.

Instead, we recently gave him a ring to get the insider low-down on what’s going on in the Flatlands as 2010 fades away and 2011 shines on the near horizon.

Mario taking the win at Tielt in September.
Mario taking the win at Tielt in September.

How was 2010 for the team, Ian?

“Mario Willems was top kermis winner on 29 victories beating Guy Smet to the top spot — so it was a good year for us.

“Our Aussie rider, Dougie Repacholi had got a load of placings for us too — and Mario’s back for 2010, so we can’t complain.

“We’re not sure if Dougie will be back; he can be a bit of ‘party animal,’ but you never know, he’s liable to call us a couple of weeks before he gets here.”

Any ‘lows’?

“Not really, Mario had a bad crash in 2009 but he stayed healthy all through this year.

“Like I said, Mario will stay with us next year — and I’m involved in the start up of a new team for 2011, but I’ll still be with Kingsnorth. It’s for U23 and juniors the name is Don Fredo Cycling Team, he was a real person, his actual name was Alfred Hamerlinck and he was a pro back in the 20’s and 30’s – before that a prolific winner of amateur races.

“There’s a cafe named after him and that’s where the team is based, it’s not a new team but up until now they’ve concentrated more on sportiv type event.

“The bikes, staff and clothing are all in place and we have riders already — not just Belgians, we have Tom Black from the Isle of Man and Kiwis as well.”

Ian Whitehead
Jack Bauer stays with Endura, despite being courted by QuickStep.

And what of your big success story — Jack Bauer?

“We got an email back a month or two ago that Patrick Lefevre was trying to get hold of him to talk to him about a deal with Quick Step; but apparently he’s staying put with the Scottish team — that Lefevre connection was a big opportunity.”

How about your Kiwi lad Chris Macic, he was getting a few results?

“He stayed all winter, riding the track, to get a ride in the amateur Six — but as you know, that ended badly when he brought half the field down.

“Still, it got us lots of publicity!

“He had a lot of second places on the road but no wins.”

Chris Macic has had a few spills this season, but despite that lots of good results.
Chris Macic has had a few spills this season, but despite that lots of good results.

Any new sponsors for Kingsnorth?

“No, its status quo — the Augustijn brewery, Nico Sport clothing and Euro Premium dog food.”

Would you ever take the team Continental?

“No, we’ve no interest in that, it would be too expensive — and to go Continental takes a lot of admin, it’s all so regimented, now.”

Predictions for 2011?

“It’s hard to say — there’ll be new names from abroad; look at Jack Bauer, no one had heard of him when he arrived here.”

Ian Whitehead
The kermis at Waardamme in June saw 5 Kingsnorth riders in the top 30.

And you’re working at the Plume – Vainqueur shop, now?

“I was working for Dirk Dekeyser at Cycles Dirk in Drongen but things went quiet and he had to let me go.

“Plums have been going for 100 years, they’re not a really a racing shop any more — places like Van Eyck knock out the racing stuff at cheap prices.

“Gent is a university town and Plume has found its niche with the student bikes — they have plenty of business from there; there are thousands of knackered old bikes going about the city.

“Having said that they’re Trek and Merckx dealers; but if you came in to the shop it’s not changed since you first came to the Gent six in the 70’s!

“The Dosche Sport shop is still there too — but it’s not like it used to be.”

As a Gent man, what about Iljo winning the six after four months out?

“He’s a Gentenaar, a man of the city, it’s very important to the people of Gent for him to win; he’s very popular – the Boonen of the six days.

“But when he didn’t get to ride at Manchester it let you see how complicated it’s become.”

Ian Whitehead
Iljo won the Gent Six, but that may well it for him for a while.

And for young men seeking to find fame and fortune in the Flatlands you’re still the guys to call?

“Just go to our team website and get in touch with us.”

Thanks for your time Ian, and best wishes for a healthy winter and great 2011 season.

Thanks to Chris Macic and Heidi Lanoo for the use of their photos.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2016 Preview

The first weekend of the classic season is fast approaching, with the ‘semi-classics’, the 71st Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Elite 1.HC) on Saturday 27th Feb and 68th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne (1.HC) the next day; the heat and sun of the Middle East and Australasia being replaced with the cold and biting wind of the Flemish Heartland.

Craig Wallace – a First Season in Belgium

It’s not just Michael Nicholson who’s out there among the cobbles, crosswinds and kermises – there’s another Scottish name to be found on the Heartland start sheets, that of Aberdeen's Mr. Craig Wallace.

Gary Wiggins – a Legend with a Tragic End

The late Gary Wiggins’ sister Glenda Hughes, took to social media recently to remind us that some 13 years have passed since the big Australian died under mysterious circumstances. Wiggins had many sides – depending on how you knew him – which prompted us to re-run our review of his European glory to tragic end.

James Spragg – Back in the Groove with Strong European Results

“James Spragg,” now there’s a name which hasn’t appeared in our pages for a while - but he’s back in harness and doing nicely thank you with some solid performances. We first came across James back in 2010 when he rode for the Qin Cycling Team and he's with Continental Team, Champion System for 2015 and back in the groove with some good results – like 10th on GC in the recent Baltic Chain stage race in Estonia.

Mixing it with some Kermis Kings

Kermis Kings... Perhaps a combination of Mallorca, having a hectic time before getting out to Belgium, and a bit of illness and settling down in Belgium, but for the first few weeks certainly I have been feeling rather lethargic.

Dougie Young – Belgium is a Different World

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.

At Random

Shane Archbold – Fiorenzuola Summer Six Day 2013 Winner

We talk to Shane Archbold about the Fiorenzuola Summer Six Day. My favourite Shane story is the one where I pulled him in off the track at Copenhagen during the Six Day.

Mara Abbott – “I’ve always been very determined to forge my own path”

Mara Abbott is twice a winner of the overall GC in the Giro Rosa, picking up seven stages along the way not to mention two second places, a fourth, a fifth and 10th on GC. Abbott retired from the sport after finishing fourth in the Olympic Road Race in Rio, 2016. She took time to speak to us not long after her retirement; here’s what she had to say.

Dan Fleeman – About his Biological Passport

Oh no! Not another drugs article! Yes, but this one is positive - ah, no, not that kind of a 'positive!' Dan Fleeman texted me the other day to tell me that he'll be getting a bit of an airing on the Bike Pure site, due to his decision to continue with UCI Biological Passport level blood testing with Raleigh - at his own expense.

Coming Close in Merelbeke

Best part of 200 riders, good crowds, the music playing, the beer flowing and the kermesse burgers cooking... all the elements of a typical kermesse here in Merelbeke, Belgium. I made the point of being on the front from the start here, knowing like usual it would explode from the off and not wanting to be caught too far back when it did. Not long into the frist lap and I found myself in the first move off the front but this was to be pulled back only a few kms later. After a few laps in the bunch I thought it was time to try again...

Chris Lawless – Proud to turn Pro with Team Sky

Chris Lawless admits the feeling of pulling on a Team Sky kit will be a special one ahead of his pro debut at Tour Down Under. The young Brit is part of an influx of under-23 talent to join the team during the off-season, and he heads to Australia as part of an exciting youthful lineup.

Giro d’Italia 2009 – Day 5: Stage 18, Sulmona – Benevento

Ciao from Benevento! To go in the "it's a small world" file - when we left you last night, we'd narrowly escaped running out of gas en route Sulmona. After a bit of messing around, we found the apartment; who answered the door?