I have a project that is tied somewhat to the meaning of the word flahute, a Flemish term for, well, Peter Van Petegem, among others. The meaning of the word can be simply described as the hardest of the hard men, but I suspect there's more to it than that. So a couple requests to pass a grey November afternoon...
Help define flahute! [Update] And Flandrien! Compare and contrast! Some potential elements:
- Strong rider, obviously. Guys who like long, tough races... relative to the cycling world, where every day is insanely long and hard to mere mortals.
- Seems like it has a northern component. There are strong guys in the Giro who never race outside of Italy. I really don't think we're calling them flahutes.
- Belgian? Helps, but certainly not required. Though you probably have to be adopted by Belgians in some measure before you get the title. It's their word, after all. Well, maybe the Dutch too, but I suspect any attempt to reclaim the term on the part of the northern neighbors would be met with violent resistance.
- Winner? I wouldn't think so. A huge amount of the work that would kill a lesser human but brings a smile to the face of a flahute takes place in the early hours of a race, the part you don't see on Sporza. That said, winning provides a measure of validation.
- Crappy weather? I'll say not a prerequisite. Stuart O'Grady shouldn't be eliminated from consideration because he won Paris-Roubaix on a nice day. Nor should future generations be prohibited once global warming leads to farms around Ronse planting date palms as wind breaks. Still, if you specifically don't like bad weather, that's a flahute-breaker.
OK, on to examples. My brain can't hardly contain even a decent sampling of flahute legends, so that's where you guys come in. Whaddya got? A few items come to mind.
- Obviously anyone who did the double gets in. Congrats Fabian. Not that there was much concern. Museew, Van Petegem, Boonen. No argument will be tolerated here.
- Bernard Hinault winning from 75km in a snowstorm in Liege. Flahute. Same goes for Hennie Kuiper in second that day (and first a lot of other days). Frankly, I'm tempted to wave all 21 finishers from that epic day onward, although Fons de Wolf presents a bit of a dilemma.
- I'm struggling to come up with any non-obvious examples, but here's one recent entry: Tyler Farrar finishing Paris-Robuaix because that's what you do, after riding the Arenberg Trench with his handlebars bent sideways. Not to be a fanboy, but seriously.
- Not every flahute moment has to take place in Belgium, right? Right?