Then and Now

Liege Bastogne Liege

This Sunday, the 104th edition of Liege Bastogne Liege starts. Who will be the 105th winner? No, this is not a typo. In 1957 two winners were declared! The reason for this is still valid today. It all has to do with closed railway crossings. The ‘Scheldeprijs’ is fresh in our minds: 30 riders were taken out of the race after ignoring the stop sign.

In 1957 the penalties were less severe. The edition was held in harsh winter conditions. The riders were racing in snow and freezing cold. One man was in top form and braved the cold effortlessly. The Belgian Germain Deryke had been eliminated from the leading group just before the climb of Trois Ponts. He intended to put the race permanently to his hand, but he had to stop because of descending railway barriers.

To his surprise he saw a number of pursuers quickly climb the barriers. He hesitated for a moment but then lifted the bike on his shoulder and sneaked to the other side, just before the train passed. He took over the leading position again and rode the final 47 kilometers solo to the finish. Three minutes later Frans Schoubben appeared out of the snow shower and finished second. When he found out about Deryke’s railroad action he made a formal complaint.

The complaint was honored, but Deryke wasn’t disqualified; he was even allowed to keep the victory title. However, he had to share it with Frans Schoubben. That’s how the 1957 Liege Bastogne Liege ended with two winners and that is why the 104th edition will have a 105th winner.

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