The Flo Boys at Flanders 2024.

Hanging out with the Flo Boys at Flanders

A fan club is for life, not just for Flanders. Even when your rider isn't racing.

The Flo Boys at Flanders 2024.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 02.04.2024 Photography by
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Maybe it’s the early hour, maybe it’s the lack of Wout van Aert, maybe it’s the fact we’re over in Antwerp, a satellite town of this year’s Tour of Flanders that isn’t necessarily that into cycling for this part of the world, that contributes to a somber mood.

45 minutes away over in Oudenaarde, however, with the women signing on and the men soon passing through the middle of town soon after, the party is in full flow.

Outside one bar are a row of people in identical hoodies. Upon closer inspection, they are emblazoned with the text: “Flo Boys, Est. 2022.”

This is, unmistakably, the fan club of Lotto Dstny’s Florian Vermeersch. Fan clubs are commonplace in Belgium and a traditional part of the racing culture here. Groups of family members or people from the same town will gather in support of a local rider up through the youth ranks until they make it as a professional. Once a year, a dinner is held for the athlete to connect with his wider group of supporters. It’s typical of a place so enamoured with cycling that Flandrien Oliver Naesen often gets knocks on his door with randomers just wanting to know how he’s doing, or can look out the window and find someone standing in his garden, just because they wanted to see what Oliver Naesen’s garden looked like.

For Florian Vermeersch’s fan club, it was the rider’s second place at Paris-Roubaix in 2021 that put alerted locals that their then-21-year-old was in dire need of an official supporters club.

“Well we started because of course Vermeersch was second in Paris-Roubaix so we wanted to honour that and now we have 80 members so it’s a big club at the moment,” the chairman of the Flo Boys, Tom De Grauwe, tells me.

“Florian is from Lochristi [the town in East Flanders where many of the fan club are also from]; he was very excited and was honoured to have a supporter’s club.”

Such is their dedication, and general love for cycling, that they’ve turned out, merched up to the gills, despite the fact Vermeersch isn’t racing Flanders having fractured his femur at the Ciclista de Murcia, his first race of the season, back in February.

“We try to go to races three or four times a year, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, the Gravel World Championships was also in Leuven,” De Grauwe explains.

A member of the Flo Boys holds up a navy blue hoodie with "Supportersclub Florian Vermeersch" in block letters.

“The positive part of our club is we’re all friends and we love cycling, so it’s a pity that Florian isn’t here but we go to every race we can.”

Turns out he wasn’t too far away after all, with Vermeersch hobbling about on a crutch and holding spare wheels for his teammates out on the course of De Ronde.

Does the fan club do the traditional things like hold an annual dinner with Florian?

“We have a breakfast next week so we do for Paris-Roubaix something special and he comes to our parties too.”

For a little beer maybe?

De Grauwe pauses.

“It happens, it happens …

“Paris-Roubaix last year was very nice; we had 35 people.” he continues. “Of course it’s the favourite race of Florian, so it was very nice to see.”

How far do they think Vermeersch can go in his career?

“Well definitely he will win a Monument, but let’s be honest, he’s not Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel, he knows that also, but he can win Paris-Roubaix, he can win Gent-Wevelgem also, he’s very capable of winning a Monument.”

After the bar, the plan was to head to the finish line to see Van der Poel seal his third Flanders title, cobbling together the at that moment dispersed club, hanging at various bars in the main square of Oudenaarde.

Tom also wants you to know that the Grote Prijs Florian Vermeersch race will be taking place on May 20th later this year in Lochristi. He hands me a business card, on one side the contact details of the club’s management committee. On the other a QR code with more information. The lifeblood of cycling runs through Belgium, as normal as waiting for a bus or tying your shoe laces.

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