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23 Aug 2010

Belgian cyclist succeeds without his biggest fans

By Emily Ridlington, IOC Young Reporter from Canada

Sitting on his bicycle with a cell phone to his ear just after crossing the finish line, Belgian cyclist Boris Vallee has tears and beads of sweat dripping down his face. The 17-year-old came in first in the junior men’s road race at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore on Sunday. He biked 48 kilometres through down town Singapore in 1:05:42 minutes and crossed the finish narrowly ahead of Rafael Ferreira Reis from Portugal (1:05:44) and Nicolas Marini from Italy, third in 1:05:46. “I am proud and honoured as I put a lot of effort into this race,” the Youth Olympic champion said.

Vallee said the tears were because his biggest fans were not there – his parents. That is who he called immediately after the race. “I told them the news and they were super happy, they are waiting for me to come back home,” wiping tears from his eyes. The cyclist said he left his hometown of Thimister-Clermond three months ago to come and train in Singapore. He has not seen his parents since then who normally attend all of his races in Europe.

When asked why they were not there, Vallee said it was because of the high cost of travel. One ticket alone from Belgium to Singapore costs 5,000 euros. With the high cost of equipment and travel expenses, he said his parents chose to save the money they would have spent on plane tickets to buy him a new bicycle. “I appreciate everything they do for me and the sacrifices they make,” Vallee said. In addition to his coach and training team, he did have fans to greet him at the finish line.

Christine Verhaegen was the first to give him a big hug. She is the mother of his team mate Laurens Sweeck. “I find it sad his mother was not here to see this,” she said, adding she took many photos they will share with Vallee’s parents. Sweeck finished 29th out of the 79 riders who crossed the finish line. Their teammate Mattias Somers cycled to 66th position.

Since cycling is a combined mixed team event at the Games, points are tallied from the junior men and junior women’s contests in cross country, the time trial, bicycle motocross and the road race. Colombia won with 154 points, followed by Italy (171) and The Netherlands (191). The Belgian team was shy of the bronze medal missing it by six points. They finished fourth with 197 points.

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