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By Jed Schneider
I am a Planckaerts fan.
These days, such a comment will certainly turn a few heads here in Belgium,especially among the more conservative Flemish. But in my case, I am compelledto watch it. I laugh for an hour straight at all the whacky shenanigans that goon at the Planckaerts house.
“DePlanckaerts” is a reality TV show on VTM featuring cycling legend,Eddy Planckaert and his family in the struggle of bankruptcy, living ina little cabin in the Ardennes. There is no argument; they are a hillbillyfamily, barely getting by. The story I heard is that Eddy lost his moneyfrom cycling in a bad business deal involving timber in the Ukraine, “orsomeplace like that.” Better yet, this is how the Belgian TV guide describesthe show:
Om 19.40uur, meteen na het journaal, krijgen “De Planckaerts” hunstek. Na de belevenissen van “De Pfaffs” en “Wally’s Wereld” treedt DePlanckaert-clan op de voorgrond. Het dagelijkse leven van het opgewekte en hechte gezin wordt sinds december vorig jaar op de voet gevolgd door een cameraploeg van het productiehuis Jokfoe. De reeks focust op twee verhaallijnen: Zou Eddy, na het financiële debacle van zijn Litouwse parketfabriek, er in slagen zijn Poolse houtzagerij boven water te houden? De volgende weken wenkt een docusoap van een andere omvang; een familieverhaal vol levensvreugde en inventiviteit, volhoop en vechtlust, vol humor en gezelligheid
I like “De Planckaerts” because they speak Flemish, but like all these reality shows, they also put subtitles in Flemish on the screen. For an amateur Flemish speaker, like me, the text reinforces the speech, so it is a good language lesson. But I am compelled to watch because I like the characters so much. Eddy, for instance, is a little wild, good-natured and resourceful. He reminds me of several of the good friends in my life that don’t bore me with their desire to conform to the humdrum of normalcy.
Sure, by all definitions Eddy is a weirdo; and certainly not the businessmanthat some of his contemporaries have become. He finds the enjoyment in bumming around Paris, sleeping on the streets, writing. Even then, in shabby clothes, three days of facial hair, sunglasses and a rasta hat, women his age recognize him.
“Aren’t you Eddy Planckaert?” They ask. “Can we get a picture with you?”
His youngest son is in the thralls of living in the woods as a ten yearold kid: Rallying a car around the woods, ditching school, getting rowdyand muddy. I can’t help seeing myself in this kid. My friends in high schoolalways told me to stop ignoring the hillbilly in myself, it was good advice.I could go on about the Plankaerts, but it would be a lot like readingcomic strips out loud.
We, as a team, have had a good bit of TV time ourselves. The regional Flemish TV channel, FocusTV, is airing a spot on the team this evening. The final story was very favorable and long, 10 minutes or so on the evening news. But let me tell you the real story….
After the TV crew interviewed Ben Duke, Pete Barlin, Bernard Moreman, and me,we all suited up for a small ride so that the crew could get some “action” footage. That is exactly what they got. A shortened version of the interviews went something like this:
Question: So, why are you here to race in Belgium?
Answer: The racing here is better and we are here to turn ‘pro’.
They specifically asked me if my cyclo-cross skills helped me in theracing here. I jokingly responded:
“Yes, it makes getting off the bike very easy.”
How oddly prophetic this answer turned out to be.
About 2 kilometers after leaving the Cycling Center, Pete and I just finished our pull at the front of the group, and pulled in behind everyone, so that other riders could get a little time in the camera.
There were seven of us, so I was riding without a partner behind Pete and Travis Wilky. Pete hits a larger than normal bump between a change from a pavement to a concrete surface (but nothing we don’t ride over all the time), his fork collapses, and he is doing a complete endo.
His bike comes right into my path and all the sudden I am airborne anddo a well practiced tuck and roll from the days of mountain biking. Sothere we are; two of the riders interviewed, lying on the ground, likereal “pros.” Ha! Stupid Americans.
My fork cracked, Pete’s basically severed in two, I ripped two spokesout of my front wheel. Well, that was the end of the “action” footage.Even if there was nothing we could do about the accident it was a prettygood hit to the ego.
Hey, like I said, getting off the bike is no problem. At least EricKeim rode a wheelie for the camera, even though that did not make the final cut either.
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Jed Schneider is racing a second year with ABC-Aitos, an American squad based in Hertsberge, Belgium( www.cyclingcenter.com). He is a two time collegiate cyclo-cross national champion, and a four time All-American. Schneider holds a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Kansas, which usually keeps him from being completely lost while riding the roads of Flanders.