Born: 7th September 1919, Kanegem, Belgium
Died: 4th April 2004, Kortrijk, Belgium
Number of professional victories: 61
Flandria 1959 - 1979
Nicknamed "Iron Briek" (Ijzeren Briek) for his great stamina, Briek Schotte was a rider in the first Flandria team of 1959, and the following year moved to the position of Directeur Sportif at Flandria, where he remained for twenty years and was responsible for signing many of the sport’s future stars. He was considered to be the father of modern-day Belgian cycling and one of his country's greatest ever sportsmen.
The reason, perhaps, lay in his embodiment of some typically Flemish characteristics: a hard-working, no-nonsense approach to life, combined with intense loyalty to his homeland and its culture - of which cycling, the second most popular sport after soccer, forms a key part.
He also earned respect for his immense capacity for suffering on the bike, training as a youth for hours in the dark after his day's work on a farm in West Flanders had been completed. His two nicknames, "The Last of the Flandrians" and "Iron Briek", were not given to him by chance. When he turned professional in 1939, aged 20, Schotte based his career around the series of one-day events that form the core of Belgian cycling, and the Tour of Flanders in particular. He rode De Ronde, as it is called in Flanders, on 20 consecutive occasions. Apart from winning it twice, he racked up no less than eight podium places, a record still only equalled by Johan Museeuw, another Belgian cycling legend.
Schotte's greatest season came in 1948, when he followed up victory in the Tour of Flanders with an even more impressive win in the World Championships on a circuit in Valkenberg, Holland, which featured 27 assaults of the daunting Cauberg climb. He would repeat his World Championships victory in 1950, reaching a total of 61 wins in events as prestigious as Ghent-Wevelgem, Paris-Tours and Paris-Brussels. In the process, Schotte became a national icon, with his thick Flemish accent and never-say-die attitude to bike racing. As the Belgian Eddy Merckx, the greatest pro cyclist ever, put it: "Briek was the reference point for all of us, the father of the sport in this country."
Following his retirement as a professional cyclist in 1959, Schotte became team manager of Flandria, and his riders stood on the Tour of Flanders podium no less than 11 times, occupying the top step on 5 occasions, reinforcing the identification of Schotte with the event.
He died on the day of the 2004 Ronde van Vlaanderen. The commentators during the race said "God must have been one of Briek's greatest fans". Schotte's craggy, granite-like features displaced images of De Ronde on newspaper front pages the next day, an indication of how popular as a national symbol and folk hero this taciturn individual had become for the Flemish.