Gustave and Alfons Deloor in the Vuelta

24 August 2023 By shamim kordbache History

Close to the border with the Netherlands in De Klinge, Belgium, Gustaaf De Loor and his 3-year older brother Alfons saw the light of day. The brothers dominated the first editions of La Vuelta. Gustaaf Deloor won the first two editions of La Vuelta - 1935 and 1936. In the second edition of 1936, Gustaaf stood shoulder to shoulder with his brother Alfons on the podium.  The Deloor brothers he played a major role in international cycling before WWII. Unfortunately, the Spanish Civil War and WWII caused both riders to retire early.



Who were these two brothers?

Gustaaf (Stafke) and Alfons (Fonske) were the youngest of five brothers. They grew up in De Klinge, a poverty-stricken suburb of Antwerp, where they lived in the Spanish Quarter! Alfons saw the light of day in 1910, Gustaaf three years later. Oldest brother Edward was already racing and taught Gustaaf and Alfons the tricks of the trade.Father was a farmhand who also worked in the Hainaut mines. Alfons and Gustaaf saw cycling as the method to escape poverty, they were real hardened Flandriens who could endure.

In 1932 Alfons finished second in the Tour of Flanders, second in the 1933 Tour of Belgium and in the same year he finished 27th in the Tour de France. Gustaaf showed his class by winning the 1932 Tour of Flanders for underprivates as a nineteen-year-old. In 1934 the brothers had the opportunity to ride the Volta a Catalunya in Spain. Alfons won a stage and finished second in the general classification. Brother Gustaaf finished in tenth place in the final ranking.


First edition of La Vuelta - 1935

Spain tasted like more and the Deloor brothers now decided to go for the new Spanish multi-day race La Vuelta. The first edition of the Vuelta in May 1935 included 4425 km in two weeks. The first Vuelta started in Madrid in front of the office of the Ministry of Public Works on the Puerta de Atocha, with 32 Spaniards, six Belgians, four Italians, three French, two Dutch, two Swiss and one Austrian. The bad weather worked in favor of the six-man Belgian team, led by Antoine Dignef, a Catalunya veteran who had finished second in Paris-Nice two months earlier. The big favorite was Spain's Mariano Cañardo. He had already won the Volta a Catalunya four times.

Although the Spanish riders had their quirks - they did like a drink (too much) and liked to make tourist trips or build a party along the way - they were nice guys who were positive about foreign riders. During the tough race, it certainly didn't help that some Spanish riders filled their water bottles with a cocktail from historic bartender Pedro - Perico as he was known - Chicote. The Belgians stuck to goat's milk. They rode well on that. Belgian leader Dignef won the opening stage and the third came in the name of Gustaaf Deloor. Spanish favorite Cañardo lost as much as 5 minutes in the fifth stage due to bad luck. This meant he was no longer a threat to Gustaaf, who also won the final stage. He won the final classification with a lead of 13 minutes and 28 seconds over number two, Cañardo. Belgian Dignef finished third and brother Alfons sixth.

Gustaaf Deloor


1936 - the two Deloor brothers on the final stage

In the second Vuelta of 1936, both Spanish rider Mariano Cañardo and Gustaaf Deloor were favorites. One hoped for an exciting duel between these two, with the Spanish media predicting that Mariano would win this time. By request, the round was longer, three weeks and 4364 kilometers, and the stages were somewhat shorter. It was thought that this might give Spanish riders a better chance.

In the second stage, however, Gustaaf Deloor struck already. He attacked 20 kilometers before the finish and grabbed more than four minutes on his pursuers. And. Mariano Cañardo was not among them. During this stage, the weather conditions were more than bad. Mariano had several flat tires and a dog crossing the road brought him down. He remained on the ground for a while. Fortunately, his injuries were not too bad and he was able to continue, but at the finish he had lost more than 15 minutes on his Belgian competitor.

The battle seemed over early on, as the injured Cañardo continued to lose time. But on stage 12, Gustaaf Deloor also fell. After this, he could no longer bend over the wheel properly and repairing flat tires did not go smoothly. He needed others to help with this. But thanks to his teammates, who quickly neutralized every breakaway, he was able to maintain his lead in the standings. So Gustaaf stood together with his brother Alfons, who finished second, on the final podium in Madrid. Finishing third was Italy's Antonio Bertola. Mariano Cañardo finished tenth, 1 hour and 18 minutes behind. The Spanish media were disappointed: there was no Spanish cyclist on the final podium. Spanish rider Salvador Molina somewhat saved the honor by winning the mountain classification.

Alfon Deloor


WWII breaks their cycling careers

Until recently, little attention was paid to the extraordinary achievements of these riders. Spanish journalist Juanfran de la Cruz made sure they got the attention they deserved. He wrote a biography in 2017 about the most successful brother, Gustaaf Deloor. Gustaaf participated as a soldier in the fierce fighting at Fort Eben-Emael. Thirty soldiers lost their lives, including 24 Belgians. Gustaaf Deloor survived the battle and was transported to Stalag II-B camp in Poland. His "luck" was that he was recognized by a German officer.

The latter got him a job in the kitchen of Stalag II-B. After a year of captivity, he was allowed to leave the camp. Upon returning home, it turned out that his house had been looted. Together with his wife Marguerite, he went into hiding in France because he was afraid of being picked up again by the Germans. He earned his money in France repairing bicycles. On the advice of an American officer, he left for the United States after the war. After a few jobs, he ended up at Marquardt Corporation in Los Angeles through Belgian friends and became a specialist in the manufacture of rocket engines for the Apollo space program.

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