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Cycling is Religion: Inside Roeselare's cycling museum - Gallery

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Belgian Week: Cycling is religion

Belgian Week: Cycling is religion (Image credit: Josh Evans)
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A vast array of historic jerseys decorate the wall at the head of the church interior

A vast array of historic jerseys decorate the wall at the head of the church interior (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Old trophies, posters and winners' jerseys for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen

Old trophies, posters and winners' jerseys for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The church has posters advertising 'De Ronde' from years gone by

The church has posters advertising 'De Ronde' from years gone by (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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One of Tom Simpson's world champion jerseys worn during the 1966 season

One of Tom Simpson's world champion jerseys worn during the 1966 season (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The distinctively shaped cobble from the Muur de Geraardsbergen

The distinctively shaped cobble from the Muur de Geraardsbergen (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The wall features portraits of riders from the past up to present day

The wall features portraits of riders from the past up to present day (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil are just two of the portraits that feature on the wall

Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil are just two of the portraits that feature on the wall (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Hand painted portraits of cyclists past and present feature on the walls of the church in Roselare

Hand painted portraits of cyclists past and present feature on the walls of the church in Roselare (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Various magazines, photos and souvenirs associated with Eddy Merckx

Various magazines, photos and souvenirs associated with Eddy Merckx (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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A painting of Eddy Merckx climbing out of the saddle while wearing the world champion's jersey

A painting of Eddy Merckx climbing out of the saddle while wearing the world champion's jersey (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Frank Vandenbroucke is remembered with his Liege-Bastogne-Liege trophy from 1999, entrusted by the church from Vandenbroucke's family

Frank Vandenbroucke is remembered with his Liege-Bastogne-Liege trophy from 1999, entrusted by the church from Vandenbroucke's family (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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One of Eddy Merckx's bikes

One of Eddy Merckx's bikes (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The church describe this mural of Eddy Merckx as 'Miracle Merckx'

The church describe this mural of Eddy Merckx as 'Miracle Merckx' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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A souvenir from Alpe d'Huez in 2004, where Lance Armstrong won the 15.5km time trial at the Tour de France

A souvenir from Alpe d'Huez in 2004, where Lance Armstrong won the 15.5km time trial at the Tour de France (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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A piece of rock from the Col du Galibier

A piece of rock from the Col du Galibier (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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One of Sven Nys' Colnagos

One of Sven Nys' Colnagos (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Wooden rims on Hector Martin's 1925 machine

Wooden rims on Hector Martin's 1925 machine (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Tornado Tom' adorns Tom Boonen's Paris-Roubaix winning Eddy Merckx EMX-5

Tornado Tom' adorns Tom Boonen's Paris-Roubaix winning Eddy Merckx EMX-5 (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Johan Museeuw's 1990 MBK, complete with lugs, down tube shifters and a period fluoro paint scheme

Johan Museeuw's 1990 MBK, complete with lugs, down tube shifters and a period fluoro paint scheme (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The 'Peloton of cycling gods' congregation includes bikes stretching back over the past one hundred years

The 'Peloton of cycling gods' congregation includes bikes stretching back over the past one hundred years (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The front end of Frantz' bike alongside a more recent Trek

The front end of Frantz' bike alongside a more recent Trek (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Nicolas Frantz' fixed gear 1927 Tour de France bike

Nicolas Frantz' fixed gear 1927 Tour de France bike (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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An 'iron cross' consisting of hundreds of welded bicycles and parts sits at the head of the church with the wall of jerseys as a backdrop

An 'iron cross' consisting of hundreds of welded bicycles and parts sits at the head of the church with the wall of jerseys as a backdrop (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Sean Kelly's 1990 Concorde alongside Fabian Cancellara's custom Trek Domane

Sean Kelly's 1990 Concorde alongside Fabian Cancellara's custom Trek Domane (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Jan Ullrich's Bianchi time trial machine with Mavic wheels and Campagnolo gearing

Jan Ullrich's Bianchi time trial machine with Mavic wheels and Campagnolo gearing (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Frank Vandenbroucke's 2009 Cinelli

Frank Vandenbroucke's 2009 Cinelli (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Jurgen Roelandts 2014 Tour of Flanders jersey

Jurgen Roelandts 2014 Tour of Flanders jersey (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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A pair of Jan Ullrich's mitts, signed by the German

A pair of Jan Ullrich's mitts, signed by the German (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The famous mattress shots from Quick-Step's various pre-season shoots are included in the church

The famous mattress shots from Quick-Step's various pre-season shoots are included in the church (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Bidons and feed bags from days gone by

Bidons and feed bags from days gone by (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross' and 'Veronica wipes blood off Jesus' face'

Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross' and 'Veronica wipes blood off Jesus' face' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Jesus falls down for the second time'

Jesus falls down for the second time' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem'

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Jesus falls down' and 'Jesus is stripped of his clothing', images of Stefan Aerts and Michael Matthews

Jesus falls down' and 'Jesus is stripped of his clothing', images of Stefan Aerts and Michael Matthews (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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These images represent Jesus being nailed to the cross and dying on the cross. The lower image is a photo of Jean-Pierre Monseré who died during a race in 1971

These images represent Jesus being nailed to the cross and dying on the cross. The lower image is a photo of Jean-Pierre Monseré who died during a race in 1971 (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Famous imagery is used to depict religious scenes. The top photo depicts Jesus' body being removed from the cross, with the bottom photo representing Jesus' body being placed in the tomb

Famous imagery is used to depict religious scenes. The top photo depicts Jesus' body being removed from the cross, with the bottom photo representing Jesus' body being placed in the tomb (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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This booth is a dedication to superstitious cyclists, the rainbow curse, number 13 and other misfortunes

This booth is a dedication to superstitious cyclists, the rainbow curse, number 13 and other misfortunes (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Fausto Coppi's Bianchi is just one of the 'peloton of the cycling gods'

Fausto Coppi's Bianchi is just one of the 'peloton of the cycling gods' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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One of Fausto Coppi's many iconic jerseys

One of Fausto Coppi's many iconic jerseys (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Jesus is condemned to death' and 'Jesus is given his cross'

Jesus is condemned to death' and 'Jesus is given his cross' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The church's confession booth is dedicated to sinners, and Lance Armstrong takes pride of place

The church's confession booth is dedicated to sinners, and Lance Armstrong takes pride of place (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Within the confession booth, Lance Armstrong's famous interview with Oprah Winfrey is played on a loop

Within the confession booth, Lance Armstrong's famous interview with Oprah Winfrey is played on a loop (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Marianne Vos' cyco-cross gloves with rainbow bands for the world champion

Marianne Vos' cyco-cross gloves with rainbow bands for the world champion (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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A mitt from each of the Schleck brothers, Andy and Franck

A mitt from each of the Schleck brothers, Andy and Franck (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Bernard Hinault's mitts in the iconic La Vie Claire colours

Bernard Hinault's mitts in the iconic La Vie Claire colours (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The church congregation is described as a 'peloton of cycling gods', which includes the bikes of pros from Sven Nys and Tom Boonen to Fausto Coppi and Jan Ullrich

The church congregation is described as a 'peloton of cycling gods', which includes the bikes of pros from Sven Nys and Tom Boonen to Fausto Coppi and Jan Ullrich (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Some of the winners trophies on display at the church

Some of the winners trophies on display at the church (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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The church has been entrusted with a collection of victory trophies past and present, including the 1974 Giro d'Italia

The church has been entrusted with a collection of victory trophies past and present, including the 1974 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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More of the many famous faces from pelotons past and present

More of the many famous faces from pelotons past and present (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Various displays around the church are themed as 'a procession of cycling chapels'

Various displays around the church are themed as 'a procession of cycling chapels' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Trophies including Raymond Poulidor's Vuelta a Espana vase

Trophies including Raymond Poulidor's Vuelta a Espana vase (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Cyclists' luggage from days gone by

Cyclists' luggage from days gone by (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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This display showcases professional cyclists living like monks with little posessions while on the road

This display showcases professional cyclists living like monks with little posessions while on the road (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Posters from the 1956 cycling season

Posters from the 1956 cycling season (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)
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Jesus falls down the first time' and 'Jesus meets his mother Mary'

Jesus falls down the first time' and 'Jesus meets his mother Mary' (Image credit: Josh Evans/Immediate Media)

This article is part of 'Belgian Week' on Cyclingnews, a special run of features to celebrate the start of the Classics. For all our Belgian Week content click here

For Flandriens, cycling is more than just a sport. Each spring, for more than a century, the cycling world - riders, teams, the media and fans of all ages - make a 'pilgrimage' to the region to race, report on and spectate some of the toughest races of the year..

The link between cycling and religion may sound far-fetched to an outsider, but when it comes to words like devotion, suffering, sinning, confessing, fate, pilgrimage, superstition, love, life, and death, they are, to some, one and the same.

The cycling museum in Roeselare examines the links between cycling and religion, specifically Catholicism, through a variety of exhibits at its temporary home at the Fathers' Church in the town. The museum will reopen at its permanent home on Polenplein, Roeselare next year, which is currently undergoing a complete refurbishment.

Like any church, the cycling museum houses historical artefacts and artwork, although here depicting the sport of cycling. Posters, leader's jerseys, victory trophies, and bicycles of cycling legends past and present are on display, including everything from Fausto Coppi's Bianchi to mitts belonging to the Schleck brothers.

The Pilgrimage

As well as the rare and valuable products on display, the cycling museum takes visitors on their own 'pilgrimage' through the church through 10 cabinet displays located along the external walls of the building. The displays include:

  • Ritual gathering in Flanders: The Tour of Flanders, the ritual springtime cycling gathering.
  • Fairground race: The race can be traced back to the Fairground.
  • Pilgrimage destinations: Must-visit sites for all cycling enthusiasts.
  • Fate: Death races too.
  • Cycling gods: From local gods to Miracle Merckx
  • Cycling and the church: Cycling as the church's representative.
  • Living like a monk: A cyclist's hermit-like existence.
  • Religious cyclists: Scapulars, rosaries and patron saints.
  • Sinners: Doping, a mortal sin.
  • Superstitious cyclists: Competitor number 13, the rainbow curse and other misfortunes.

Station number 9 - Sinners - is strategically located within the church's confession booth. A black Lance Armstrong jersey adorns the outside of the ornately carved booth, while the opening minutes of the infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey plays on loop behind the slatted divide inside.

A film documenting the Tour of Flanders features the famous Flandrien Johan Museeuw, who describes two potentially career-ending crashes and reveals his rosary was not worn around his neck during either incident. "Was it coincidence or not?" asks Museeuw. Supposedly when the 'Lion of Flanders' retired, he handed the rosary to Tom Boonen, 'the obvious natural successor'.

The cycling museum focuses on more than just victories at the Fathers' Church. Displays commemorating the late Frank Vandenbroucke, Wouter Weylandt and Andrei Kivilev bring home the fragility and mortality of cyclists. It is difficult not to feel emotional and reflective at these exhibits, and specifically that of Vandenbroucke, whose family have entrusted the museum with the Belgian's 1999 Liège-Bastogne-Liège trophy.

The way of the cross

'As far as Flemish racing fanatics are concerned, in some years Easter Sunday falls on the day of the Tour of Flanders is held and not the other way around!'

Linking cycling to Catholicism at the church is taken even further with metaphoric images in the centre of the church, which depict the fourteen stations of the cross.

  1. Jesus is condemned to death: Frank Vandenbroucke gives an explanation after his team Cofidis put him on non-active in 1999 because of doping issues.
  2. Jesus is given his cross: During the Tour of Flanders in 2009, Fabian Cancellara has to carry his bike on his shoulders because of technical problems as he makes his way up the Koppenberg.
  3. Jesus falls down for the first time: Sean Kelly meets the Flemish asphalt in 1982.
  4. Jesus meets his mother, Mary: Romain Maes embraces his mother in Paris after winning the 1935 Tour de France.
  5. Simon is forced to carry the cross: Yellow jersey Greg Le Mond pushes Bernard Hinault during the 1986 Tour de France.
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus: Patrick Vandermaesen is given first aid after a heavy crash in 1991.
  7. Jesus falls the second time: Walter Godefroot falls during the 1966 Dwars door Belgie.
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem: An elderly lady gets into raptures at the sight of Eddy Merckx.
  9. Jesus falls the third time: Stefan Aerts grabs his shoulder after falling in 1985.
  10. Jesus is stripped of his clothing: Michael Matthews, tattooed with a guardian angel on his back, at the finish of stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de France.
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross: Johnny Hooogerland crashes into a barbed wire fence at the 2011 Tour.
  12. Jesus dies on the cross: Jean-Pierre Monseré lies motionless on the asphalt after a collision with a parked car during a race in 1971. Jempi doesn't survive the crash.
  13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross: 1937 Tour de France, Albert Hendrickx crashes and is taken away by medics.
  14. Jesus' body is placed in the tomb: Funeral of Richard Depoorter, who crashed during the 1948 Tour of Switzerland.

Cycling is religion

At the head of the church, sits a dominating sculpture of an 'Iron Cross' constructed from hundreds of bicycles welded together, and has a rainbow backdrop of iconic and recognisable jerseys on the back wall. As a congregation, the museum has a 'Peloton of cycling gods', including the Bianchis of Coppi and Ullrich, the Colnago of Sven Nys, the custom Trek Domane of Fabian Cancellara, and steel machines dating back to the 1924 Tour de France.

Whether you feel a spiritual connection with the sport of cycling, or simply enjoy the elaborate and colourful history of the sport, the cycling museum in Roeselare showcases the vast spectrum of the beauty and ugliness of the sport to be appreciated by all.

You can visit the Roselare Cycling Museum at Fathers' Church, Delaerestraat 33, Roeselare, Belgium or learn more at www.cyclingisreligion.be