ANTWERP, Belgium (VN) — Matt Brammeier’s Ronde van Vlaanderen was focused not on the finish line in Oudenaarde, but on the town of Sint-Eloois-Winkel, 34 kilometers into the race. It was there that he won a little-known intermediate sprint: his weight in beer — 100 75cl bottles of Steene Molen. At the start of Scheldeprijs on Wednesday morning, he collected the award.
“I’ll probably drink it after Paris-Roubaix,” team MTN-Qhubeka’s Brammeier told VeloNews.
“I’m sure the rest of the team will help me out.”
The Liverpool-born Irishman received the Belgian brew from former Belgian professional Nico Mattan. Mattan wrote on Twitter about the beer sprint the Saturday night before the Belgian monument. Brammeier caught wind of the prize, thanks to former British professional Daniel Lloyd, and did the rest.
“[Team Manager] Brian Smith sent me a message last week and said, ‘We need you in that break on Sunday.’ It was the big goal for me,” he added. “The team wanted me there just to get some exposure because remember, the goal of the team is to get 5,000 kids on the Qhubeka bikes. We just need some exposure, and that’s why I went out there.”
The South African team receives sponsorship dollars from Africa’s telecommunications giant MTN and from electronics manufacturer Samsung, but gives to Qhubeka. The non-profit Qhubeka group provides poor Africans with bicycles in exchange for good deeds, such as growing 200 trees to 30 centimeters or collecting 4,500 plastic bottles.
Brammeier succeeded in gaining exposure for the team and cause. He escaped off the front with six others, 20 kilometers into the 264.2-kilometer race. The sprint in Sint-Eloois-Winkel came later at kilometer 34.
“It’s my first Flanders. I was pretty excited and nervous, even the night before. I went out there and tried to put the emotions aside and just and gave it everything in the first few Ks and fight like crazy,” Brammeier continued.
“It was pretty bloody hard, we covered 50 kilometers in the first hour. I had to go really deep. I burned a few matches in the start.”
Brammeier remembered the jokes at the table the night before and in the morning from teammates like Tyler Farrar and Gerald Ciolek. He also looked down and saw the special masking tape reminder he put on his handlebars, “34” and a beer mug drawn beside the number.
“I got myself in the break, and I thought, ‘I can’t let the guys down now.’ I thought, ‘If I don’t win this, my teammates are going to kill me.’ I had to make sure I won that beer sprint.”
He weighs 73kg or 161 pounds, according to the South African team.
Brammeier raced with HTC-Highroad, Omega Pharma, and Synergy Baku, and over the winter, joined MTN. The win was not his first.
“I won my weight in Camembert cheese once when I was I was racing in France. The team demanded I brought it all home. I don’t even eat Camembert cheese so I took it around all the local shops, and I didn’t have to pay for bread or meat for the next six months. That was all right.”
Brammeier will have to wait until Sunday evening to seriously enjoy the Steene Molen beer because he will support the team’s captains that afternoon in Paris-Roubaix.