If there is a village that is entitled to the passage of the Vuelta on Sunday, it is Sint Willebrord. The West-Brabants have traditionally had a strong bond with the Spaniards and, moreover, the first Dutchman to participate in the Tour of Spain was a Willebrorder. “I think we will be on the street en masse on Sunday,” says William van Peer, grandson of the famous cycling legend Wim van Est.
Wilhelmus van Est, 1 meter 70, brown eyes and dark blond hair,” reads William van Peer from his grandfather’s passport. With this document, cycling legend Wim van Est traveled to Spain in 1957 to participate in his first Vuelta.
“It was already quite an undertaking at the time to get to the Spain of dictator Franco,” he continues. “Here is the official stamp on April 23 from the Spanish embassy in The Hague. He needed it to enter Spain. And here is the stamp that allowed him to leave.”
“A stage of 200 kilometers in the past could also be 40 or 50 kilometers longer in the Vuelta.”
William van Peer is proud of his grandfather. And rightly so, because Wim van Est is a real cycling legend who became famous for his violent crash in the Tour de France. But Van Est also rode the Tour of Spain twice in the twilight of his career.
“The Vuelta was then held in the spring and was a bit of an inferior round,” says the grandson Van Peer. The organization went, say, the Spanish way. A stage of 200 kilometers could be 40 or 50 kilometers longer. It was really the neglected child of the three major cycling tours.
That has not been the case for some time now and William van Peer, together with cycling village Sint Willebrord, is looking forward to Sunday’s arrival in the Vuelta. Especially because there is a historical link with Spain.
“There is some Spanish blood in the population of Willebrord.”
“The folk tale goes around that after the Eighty Years’ War deserters from the army of Alva were left behind in this area,” says William van Peer. “That is why there are many Willebrorders with dark skin and dark hair. The name Valentijn, which is common, is also said to be a corruption of the Spanish Valentino. Yes, there is some Spanish blood in the population of Willebrord.”
Moreover, it was also a Willebrorder who was the first Dutch cyclist to ride the Tour of Spain. “That was Marinus Valentijn in 1935”, Van Peer knows. “Actually, he was the ancestor of Dutch cycling. He finished tenth in the final standings.”
“And then we got even more Willebrorders who drove the Vuelta. So Wim van Est, but also Rini and Wout Wagtmans and Jacques Hanegraaf. So there has always been a strong bond between Willebrord and the Vuelta.”
According to William van Peer, Sint Willebrord will therefore celebrate the arrival of the Vuelta well. “I think we will be on the street en masse on Sunday. It will be a party and if the weather is also Spanish, it is completely perfect.”