The Birth of a Team: A Chance Meeting in a Cafe


birth_of_a_team_1The team was formed in 1959, after a chance meeting in a Belgian café on a sunny Sunday morning, between Aimé Claeys, the owner of the Flandria bicycle company, and the young sprinter Leon Vandaele. Vandaele was a rider on the Faema-Guerra team, whose leader was the Belgian champion Rik Van Looy. Van Looy, known as “The Emperor”, held a tight grip on his team and all the other riders were expected to ride selflessly for him and sacrifice their own ambitions – or leave the team. In 1958 Vandaele had disobeyed orders and won both Paris-Roubaix and the Championship of Flanders. Predictably, after the inevitable conflict with Van Looy, Vandaele found himself looking for a new team. On hearing this, Aimé told Vandaele that he was willing to help and would be prepared to form a new team around him. The legendary “Iron Briek” Schotte was enlisted as rider-manager.

Aimé Claeys’ faith was immediately rewarded when the new Dr. Mann-Flandria team won 44 races in their debut season in 1959. Vandaele took 8 victories, including Gent-Wevelgem, and he was 3rd in Milan-San Remo.

Next >