Today in Transportation History – 1948: A Legendary Cyclist Wins the Tour of Flanders

Albéric “Briek” Schotte won the 32nd running of the Tour of Flanders, an annual one-day cycling race on cobbled roads in northern Belgium’s Flemish Region (also known as Flanders). The competition first took place in 1913, with the years during World War I marking the only time to date in which it has not been held. The 1948 race, which ran approximately 160 miles, started in the city of Ghent and finished in the municipality of Wetteren. That year’s competition was the second Tour of Flanders won by Schotte — he had also placed first in the 1942 running — and it further reinforced his international standing as one of the era’s foremost road racing cyclists.

Schotte, who had been born in the community of Kanegem in western Flanders in 1919, first took part in a cycling race when he was 15. He won his first major competition in 1939 through unusual circumstances. The multi-stage race in France called the Tour de l’Ouest, had to be halted due to the outbreak of World War II, and Schotte was declared the winner because he happened to be in the lead at that point in the event. Over the next several years — and despite the harsh wartime conditions that he and his fellow Belgians encountered — Schotte continued to take part in cycling races and won a number of these in a decidedly more orthodox manner. His fierce strength and stamina while peddling earned him the nickname “Iron Briek.”

In the same year in which he won the Tour of Flanders for the second time, Schotte also finished first in the inaugural road cycle racing event called the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo. This event was the first effort in professional cycling to have a season-long competition each year to determine the world’s best cyclists.

Schotte died in 2004 at the age of 84. Fittingly enough, he died on the same day as the 88th running of the Tour of Flanders.

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