Andrew Fenn won the kermiskoers (kermesse) in Gullegem yesterday (click here for video as I can't embed it). Matteo Trentin won that race last year. Wouter Weylandt won it in 2009 and 2010. That's a lot of Quick Step riders, isn't it? There is actually a reason why a big team like Quick Step wants to score in this kermesse. But first: a bit of info.
Gullegem koerse, as the official name of the race is, is one of the last kermesses where elite riders can ride together with the amateurs (elite w/o contract/UCI 1.12) and U23's. Gullegem is a small town near Kortrijk, in the economic heart of the province of West-Vlaanderen. That makes it easy for the organizers to find a lot of sponsors. And good sponsors equals high starting fees. That explains why Boonen and Gilbert (who flew over from Monaco) ride this race every year.
There were some other 'Belgian bigs' at the start (Van Avermaet, Roelandts, De Clercq, Westra, Van Staeyen, Keukeleire) but Quick Step had by far the most impressive lineup. They brought seven pro riders to the start (Boonen, Van Keirsbulck, De Weert, Maes, Meersman, Fenn and Verona) and nine riders from the U23 team. That's a lot!
And as I said before, this is not a one time thing. Year after year they bring an impressive squad with big names to this kermesse.
What's even more remarkable is that the same happens every year in the kermesse in Desselgem, a small town, a mere 10 km away from Gullegem. Previous winners of Desselgem Koerse include Van Keirsbulck (2011 and 2012), Van Impe (2010), De Jongh (2007) and Weylandt (2005). All QS-riders.
Last year OPQS started this race with Van Keirsbulck, Keisse, Fenn, Maes, Grabsch, Bandiera and Chicchi and a shitload of U23's from the development team.
So why does Patrick Lefevere care so much about this race. Why does he fly in Italian and Spanish riders for a kermesse? The reason can be found in the nearby town of Wielsbeke.
Wielsbeke is the town where the company Quick Step has its biggest Belgian factory. For the company, (and the former President, who lives nearby), it's always been a matter of honor. He wanted to see 'his' team in his home race and the riders were encouraged to perform well here (i.e. to win). From what I've heard, the riders from the development team also receive clear instructions to show up for this race and to work for the big guys.
Just a little story, but now you know why Giani Meersman will win the 'GP Briek Schotte' (= Desselgem Koerse) next September.