Guy Smet returned on Monday morning from his eighth participation in the Tour du Faso, the Tour of Burkina Faso. The 51-year-old from Kruibeken won the African stage competition in 2008 and now mainly rides there for the team. “It was uncertain for a long time whether we would be able to race. But everything went perfectly. There was never an unsafe feeling.”
“It was my 27th stage race on African soil,” says the man who achieved a total of more than 450 victories in his career. Smet has already ridden eight times in Burkino Faso, but he has also worked in Togo, Benin, Madagascar and Rwanda, among others. “I was already 35 when I went to Africa for the first time. That was more than sixteen years ago now. The level has certainly risen considerably in that time. The time when European riders won all the prizes is long gone.”
In fact, only one European team traveled to Africa this year. “The round was canceled last year due to a coup and this year too it was uncertain for a long time whether we would be able to race. But everything went perfectly. There was never any unsafe feeling. The army provided security just like all other years.”
Team Flanders In addition to Smet, it also consisted of national victor Rutger Wouters, Niels Vandyck, Sam Van de Mieroop, Wannes Heylen and Stef Rogier. “We traveled there with a very strong team and hoped for several stage victories and also wanted to have a shot at the overall victory. Unfortunately, Rutger was left with one stage win and a second place in the final standings. Nothing could be done against the supremacy of the Burkinabe Paul Daumont. I have mainly limited myself to working for the team. Ultimately, I was able to join the attack myself in two stages. In the seventh stage I even stayed in the lead until five kilometers from the end. But on a long stretch of false flat I fell silent. At such a moment you feel that age is starting to take its toll. Even now, the day after the end of the Tour, I feel completely devastated. My body needs much longer to recover than in the past.”
In the future together with his son?
Yet Smet has no plans to give up his love for African races. “As long as they don’t get rid of me, I will definitely go there again. But I don’t make many predictions anymore at my age. I will continue to be active in the secondary associations and the masters next season. One race a week and then we’ll see if there’s another African adventure at the end of next year. My son Yaxano would also like to go racing there. Riding with him would of course be fun. But I don’t know if it’s such a good idea for a young 19-year-old guy. Let him first complete his first season with the reserves.”