Tough, determined, unsophisticated riders, the Flandrien are the heroes of the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix, races which specialise in some of the worst roads and weather conditions imaginable in bicycle racing. They are so far removed from the sun-drenched glamour of the Tour de France that it is almost a different sport.
Stephan Vanfleteren’s powerful black and white photographs provide an intimate and emotional portrait of these legendary sportsmen and the sport which dominates the social and cultural life of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. The unremarkable landscape breeds this particular type of rider who thrives in the driving rain and the bitter cold and on cobbled streets and treacherous inclines.
Stephan Vanfleteren, represented by the Panos Pictures agency, has been photographing the Flandrien for more than 15 years. His portraits of riders read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Flandrien from the second world war to the present day: Alberic Schotte, Rik Van Steenbergen, Rik Van Looy, Roger de Vlaeminck, Eddy Merckx, Johan Musseeuw and Tom Boonen.