By Brecht Decaluwé in Knokke-Heist
It was a glorious day for Benny De Schrooder from the An Post - Sean Kelly team at the Belgian national championships in Knokke-Heist. The 28 year-old lives in Heist, a formerly independent municipality of Knokke-Heist, and the 13.4-kilometre long course passed the bike shop of his parents in the town centre. Before the start of the race De Schrooder pointed out to Cyclingnews that he was keen on a good performance as he felt he was in excellent shape.
A fourth place in the Belgian 1.1 one-day race Halle-Ingooigem where he was in the successful breakaway with winner Gert Steegmans, was proof of his good form. At the Belgian championships, the man in the green outfit was able to get in a breakaway as well, and although it proved not to be as successful as in Halle-Ingooigem, it still offered the Belgian under Irish employment a lot of media attention.
While being in the breakaway that went off 60 kilometres from the finish line, the 'Heistenaar' enjoyed a lot of cheers from the fans along the road near the North Sea. "I don't know how many fans I have, but we wanted to do something special today and last week we decided to send out a letter for a barbecue. To much surprise it turned out that yesterday there were already about 150 people who had confirmed their attendance," De Schrooder proudly said. "All along the course I head people shouting my name, and actually I only heard my name," the 28 year-old laughed. "I want to say 'thank you' to all the people who supported me."
With about twenty kilometres to go it was clear that the breakaway wouldn't make it, and Cyclingnews asked De Schrooder if there was a moment in the race where he thought they would make it to the finish line. "Early on I believed in it until I saw through that behind us they were just controlling the breakaway. We couldn't fight up with the four of us against the big teams who were taking pulls with ten riders, and what type of riders," De Schrooder realised.
When asked what he was planning to do tonight, the local boy pointed out that he wasn't going to party at all. "Resting, mainly resting, I think. I'll drink one along and then I'll eat something but I'll hit the sack early. Then there's Willebroek [on July 6] and normally I'm doing the Vuelta de Madrid [from July 16-20] as well."
After turning professional in 2004 at the Vlaanderen-T-interim team, De Schrooder rode three years for the Chocolade Jacques team. Despite a victory in the GP Lillers in his first year the Belgian seemed to stagnate a bit. In 2008 he had to take a step down and he joined the An Post team.
De Schrooder is feeling good within the team. "Like I'm riding this year... I'm in good shape and I'm allowed to ride for myself solely. I know that I can do it. I'm very happy at the team. I will be allowed to stay, and maybe if they can give me a nice offer I will stay," De Schrooder said of the team guided by Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly. "But if a big team comes knocking at your door... I hope that this has been the prove to the bigger teams that I can do it. I did it in Halle-Ingooigem a few days ago, and as well in Bessèges earlier this year where I captured a nice overall result [seventh]."
And off went the man from Heist for another interview after the finish of the Belgian championships on home soil.