By Sabine Sunderland
The town of Sint-Lievens-Houtem had reason to put on a party again, only just after the yearly fair was over and done with. Its hero on two wheels, Serge Baguet, was bringing the National Champion's jersey home yesterday evening. A police escort guided the convertible in which Serge, his wife Sandra and son Sam were driven around for a lap of honour safely to its destination, the market square, and more precisely the local tavern "De Gouden Leeuw".
Kevin Van Impe was present amongst the group of friends which had gathered to welcome Serge Baguet. And although Kevin had lost the race to his training partner and friend only hours before, the big smile and shiny eyes showed everyone present that he was happy for Serge to be hailed in that way. Baguet urged Van Impe to take place beside him in the car and join him for the victory salute.
"Serge told me this morning: make sure you're near the finish line, I think I'll be close today," an emotional Sandra Baguet told friends and family. "I still can't quite grasp what Serge accomplished today, I feel a bit numb, don't think it has sunk in with Serge yet either. But this is absolutely fabulous, he has dreamt of that jersey for so long. Sam is so proud of his dad, so am I."
A fantastic atmosphere, still filled with the happy chants rising up from the mass of enthusiastic party-goers was also slightly coloured with mixed feelings. The Belgian National Jersey will be on the shoulders of popular "Baguetje" but a lot of people were wondering how it's possible that the Belgian colours won't be seen in the Tour de France next month. Didn't Serge deserve to gain selection for the race in which he had won a stage before and worked hard and long in service of the team captain? Hadn't he shown his good legs with two nice victories at the start of the season and more recently in the races in which he worked hard for his teammates.
"Well, believe it or not, but apparently my non-selection for the Tour has been based on the rumour that I wasn't interested in going! Bullshit man! I surely never said anything like that to anyone, on the contrary, I expressed my wish to go to the Tour to the management repeatedly since late last season. I really wanted to go," Serge explained.
So will he be going now he has given proof of being in the right shape to join his Davitamon-Lotto team in France? "No, no way," Baguet replies firmly. "Even if the directors change their mind and ask me, I wouldn't want to do that to any of the other guys, to be replaced after gaining final selection, that would be unfair to that rider. It stung for a brief moment that I was unjustly left out of the Tour team, but I'm fine with it now. Winning a stage in the Tour was nice, but this jersey I'm going to enjoy wearing for a full year to come. I assure you, I'm over the 2005 TdF right now. I'll be spending some quality time with my wife and son instead. We'll be in France, but nowhere near the racing; I promised to take Sam to EuroDisney!"