The abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren, racing bikes in Belgium, and PED’s

Last night, I got a chance to try a beer that very few people in the world have had. The Trappist Westvleteren 12 is one of three beers brewed by the monks of the Saint Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren, Belgium. Trappist beer is revered by beer aficionados around the world, and Westvleteren is often regarded as the best beer of them all.

It isn’t easy to get your hands (or mouth) on a Westvleteren beer. Much has been written about the lack of commercial availability. Even the Wall Street Journal featured the abbey in a 2007 story. The monks eschew marketing and the beer is only sold at the abbey, one case at a time. My good friend, Thom Reid, is a passionate beer enthusiast and a passionate cyclist. He made a trip to Belgium this past July with getting a case the primary objective. I loved the beer, as did Thom and our friend, Arthur Roti. We concluded that it was worth every mile of Thom’s trip. Several entrepreneurs have tried to profit from the exclusivity of the monk’s brew. There are websites where you can order by the bottle. These folks game the system like a scalper does, by buying the beer through the traditional method and then reselling it. I know that is capitalism in good form, but I think it is still lame.

I was excited when Thom invited us over to watch some cycling videos (which I rarely do) and enjoy the fruits of his travel. He has been researching Trappist beers for years. I was happy that he had a great trip to Belgium. 15 years ago, I spent the summer of 1994 in that country. It was a tremendous experience for a college kid at the time. I rode my bicycle 3500 miles that summer and raced 18 times around Belgium in their classic style race, the kermesse. I got a rude awakening about the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs in the sport of cycling. All of the busts in recent years are just media hype. Drugs have tainted the sport for as long as winning has been important.

My view of the sport has never been the same since that summer. One race in particular, was the tipping point for me. Before the race, I was relaxing in the changing room, which was set up in the detached garage of a local Flemish family. I watched a top amateur rider open up a “tackle box” full of pharmaceuticals while his soigneur rubbed his legs down. He popped a few pills and tossed aside a needle kit as he fished in his box. I asked what that was for. He said, “to clear the lungs” in broken English, and referred to some sort of asthma like condition. Sure, I thought. In the race, this guy’s eyes were ready to bug out of his head. He was an animal in the main break of the day, which I made with 15 other riders including this dude. I took all my pulls but suffered some serious abuse as the locals rolled through. There was an Irish guy in the group with me and he encouraged me to hang on, but every time I cycled through the paceline, the Belgians were slapping me on the back, banging elbows, and even smacking me on the helmet. They screamed at me in Flemish as if I knew what they were saying. Was I gapping them? Was I pulling too hard? Was I not riding close enough? I had it after 30 minutes of this. I didn’t want to go down. I dropped back, giving up the best chance I had to place in a kermesse that summer. No regrets. I ride for fitness and fun, not for the bouquet of flowers. That night, we had more than a few beers while discussing the state of the sport. Cycling with these whackos on amphetamines was no fun.

All of those memories came back last night while I sipped my Westvleteren 12. I remember 1994 like it was yesterday.

We enjoyed our beer while watching the 2009 World Cyclocross Championships. The race was held in the Netherlands, but the race was dominated by who else…the Belgians.

0 Responses to “The abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren, racing bikes in Belgium, and PED’s”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

Sterling Machine

Horst Spikes


Sites and sounds from Day 2 @gpgloucester #gpgloucester The fog was burning off by the end of the Cub Juniors 9-14 year old race.

#horstspikes #cyclocross #lifedeathcyclocross #horstengineering #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #madeinconnecticut #madeinnewengland #madeinusa 🇺🇸 It was great to see so many friends at today’s Western #Massachusetts Athletic Club Monroe (Dunbar Brook) Trail Race. We all ran the 2-Miler. We couldn’t stay long after the finish, but we did see Kelsey Allen win overall in the 10.5 Mile main event. Hooray! #trailrunning 🏃🏻 Before and after the Western #Massachusetts Athletic Club’s Monroe (Dunbar Brook) Trail Race in the #Berkshires I rode (very wet) over from Savoy Mountain State Forest where we camped last night. On the ride along the #DeerfieldRiver I checked out #ZoarGap and then we walked down to the river to see the Tooth. Sadly, the kayakers had already passed through. The foliage turned overnight. #trailrunning #cycling 🚴🏽🏃🏻⛰ #Cyclocross racing in the morning and downhill #mountainbiking @thundermountainbikepark in the afternoon. We got in two late afternoon runs on rental bikes and are pumped to return for more fun in the future. #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #thundermountainbikepark #berkshireeast 🚵‍♀️⛰ 30 kids in the 9-12 year old Race at the #mansfieldhollow #Cyclocross That’s just awesome! @the_ccap #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #crossspikes #crossisboss This image was from pregame, but approaching halftime @uconnfootball there aren’t many more fans than you see here. 35 (Memphis ) to 21 (UCONN) is a lot of points in 30 minutes of #football #uconn This morning I got to hear Warren Rustand, inspirational entrepreneur and fellow @ypoglobal member, speak at a #ypo Connecticut River Valley Chapter meeting. It was fitting that the event was @riverfrontrecapture and literally ON the #connecticutriver I walked from @horsteng via my favorite train bridge. The 10 minute trip back to the plant was ample time to reflect on the #leadership lessons that he shared with our group. @garyrome and I decided that we should memorialize our time with this dedicated athlete, by requesting that he join our photo. #horstengineering #business Fantastic but FRUSTRATING race at The Night Weasels Cometh #cyclocross Was charging hard but punctured with two to go and rode 3/4ths of a lap on my rear flat before getting to my pit bike. I just glued this tubular two nights ago. Grrrr! Gave up more than a dozen spots. This string of bad luck will end and my fitness will pay off. Still not a bad ending to a work day. Onward! #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #nightweasels 🚴🏽 🌕 Good, inspiring, and educational fun at #MetalStorm in Sudbury. I couldn’t find a salesman to sell me a lathe, but I called one on his mobile, and ended up with FOUR coming to my rescue! That’s service. ;) #precisionmachining #robotics #machining #instamachinist #cncmachining #cnc #aerospace #manufacturing #horstengineering #sterlingmachine #crossspikes #madeinconnecticut #madeinmassachusetts #madeinnewengland #madeinusa 🇺🇸

Follow me on Twitter



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 284 other followers

%d bloggers like this: