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Can ‘Sprint Birds’ also handle 500 kilometres? (Part one of two)

When I was a kid I already heard fanciers discuss this matter, and I must admit, it has intrigued me ever since.
Especially after I got close with the late Mr Dilen from Ravels, Belgium. He only raced a handful of birds from Quievrain (no further than 145 kilometres) and from this station he was the man to be beaten.
Very rarely it happened that he participated the ‘long distance’.
Long distance between inverted comma’s since I could not help smiling whenever he used this term.
For a ‘normal’ guy like me (?) ‘Long distance’ means 500 kilometres at least but when Sprint Ace Dilen talked about ‘long distance’ he meant Noyon, about 245 kilometres.
As you may know the vast majority of Belgians race Quievrain only. They simply are not used to race further which explains why some talk about ‘fond’ (long distance) for races from 245 kilometres only.
For them this seems to be at the other end of the world whereas long distance fliers consider flying from such a distance no more than a training toss from which they do not even clock the birds.
Many long distance racers, especially in Holland, look upon short distance with contempt.
‘That is for children’ they say.
At the same time many short distance racers, especially in Belgium, have no respect for fond.
Especially 2-day races are said to be lucky races since the birds have to stay the night over and then anything can happen.
A third group claims that ‘real good birds should be able to handle all distances’ since such birds are smart as well as strong.
Let’s go back to Dilen.

As I said he seldom raced further than 200 kilometres.
He had nothing against further races but what did he notice?
The same birds that were outstanding from 145 kilometres turned into average birds or even less than that when they had to fly 100 kilometres further.
Then they even failed with tail winds.
I did not understand.
Was it a matter of conditioning?
(With ‘conditioning’ I mean get the birds used to race from the same station).
Now, many years later, I think that was the case indeed.
I think so because I got birds from this Dilen and descendants off of the same birds that were unable to win a decent price at Middle Distance for him were winning from 500 kilometres for others and me.

As I said many Dutch long distance racers do not have a high opinion about Belgian sprint birds.
But one cannot deny that in the pigeon press you often read about winners at long distance that were gotten from fanciers who never race further than 140 kilometres. And when people read such a thing eyebrows are raised.
‘What? A bird of pure short distance origin that wins at long distance?’
It reminds me of the late Jan Grondelaers, one of the greatest champions pigeon sport has ever known.
He always advised fanciers that wanted to import ‘new blood’ to improve their family, to buy ‘sprint birds’.
The reason is that such birds have the most important quality that a bird should have:
As I said for most Belgians ‘short distance’ means races from Quievrain where birds are released with 200,000 or more at a time.
Such birds must fly home like hell in a straight line without leaving their course for one meter or they can forget a nice prize, since seconds are decisive.
And Grondelaers was not a man of words only.
From Van Reeth he bought ‘Prins’ a bird that had won numerous firsts from Quievrain and he also bought ‘Eenoog’ (‘One eye’) from Hofkens.
‘Eenoog’ is described as a bird that won 51 firsts whereas one of his eyes was blind. The truth is different though.
One eye of ‘Eenoog’ was not blind but discoloured and he had not won 51 firsts but about 10, which is still phenomenal.
Anyway, the off spring of ‘Prins’ and ‘Eenoog’ made Grondelaers even more famous than he already was at… Middle and Long Distance!
They were crossed, that is true, but nevertheless.

Only 2 years ago I got familiar with Leo and Charel, two partners who are ‘coming stars’ at mainly short distance in perhaps the strongest combine in Belgium.
And ‘coming stars’ have always fascinated me.
Most foreigners are interested in the great names but not me.
‘Names’often have many birds and the average quality is worse than at the time when they were not famous yet.
They do have many birds since they can sell.
But it is interesting to know where many ‘names’ get birds to improve their family:
Yes indeed, from small-unknown fanciers with few birds and…little space.
Due to the fact that they have little space they are forced to get rid of birds for which there would be space enough in the big aviaries of the ‘names’.
As I said Leo and Charel are ‘coming stars’ that are about to get a great name but unlike most other short distance racers they have many birds.
This has a reason though.
Leo would like to race sprint (Quievrain) only but his partner prefers the Middle and Long Distance.
So what do they do?
You won’t believe it but the sisters of the birds that are winning from 120 kilometres are raced from Middle and Long Distance and are also winning!
In 2004 they entered some birds for National Bourges (long distance) and won 7th and 10th National.

Where Charel and Leo got their birds one might wonder?
Both from famous fanciers such as van Dijck and from unknown fanciers as well.
Names, pedigrees, or prices are not important for those men, only quality counts.
‘Aha, if you have money it is not difficult to become a champion’ you may say.
That is not true though.
There are numerous fancies that spent fortunes on birds but who never made it.
‘For money you can buy a nice dog, but not the wagging of its tail.’
What I mean to say is that quality birds alone are not good enough to be a winner;
they should be handled properly as well.
You must have ‘the feeling’ people say and Leo and Charel do have the feeling, which was shown by that race from Blois. They entered one bird only that won the 1st prize!!

I mentioned the name of Van Dijck, the man who bred illustrious ‘Kannibaal’, one of the best racers ever and already a legend during its life.
The off spring of ‘Kannibaal’ made Koopman a star as well as Mrs Vink from Holland, some Germans and… Leo and Charel.
Dirk van Dijck’s greatest wish is to be able to race in the same combine as Leo and Charel, since there are many birds in competition.
‘But that means race from 120 kilometres only’ I told him once.
Van Dijck shrugged as if he wanted to say ‘so what?’
He means the same as Leo and Charel:
‘For real good birds the distance is not relevant. They should perform from 120 to 700 kilometres.’
Of course 2-day races is another story; it is well known that for such races you need quite another type of bird.
Small birds in most cases that do not give up but are not able to win a prize at short or Middle Distance nor as a youngster.

Koopman repeatedly destroys long distance races with descendants of ‘Kannibaal‘.
In 2003 Mrs Vink won the ‘West European Nation Cup’ (long distance) with a bird that was a descendant of ‘Kannibaal’ and in the same year Leo and Charel won the same cup for short distance also with a descendant of ‘Kannibaal’.
So the off spring of this one bird were victorious both at long distance and short distance, not at local level but INTERNATIONAL!
Does this mean that ALL good sprint birds can handle long distance?
Those were not my words!
For A LOT of good birds the distance does not make any difference, but ‘A LOT’ does not mean ‘ALL’.

(To be continued).