May 23th 1921, with the sun high up in a blue sky, the first Schaal Sels (Self Trophy) departed. It was an "interclub" race, organized by Le Journal de Paris in honor of the deceased sports journalist Jacques-Charles Sels. Sels died the year before in a car accident in the Alps, while scouting the track for a spectacular bicycle race between Milan and Antwerp in view of the Olympic Games of 1920. Flemish René Vermandel won the sprint of a group of 14 at the finish line in the Vélodrome of Wilrijk. The rules stated that the winning club had to organize the next edition. Unable of doing this, unfortunately there was no 1922 edition.
The second edition took place in Kapellen on Monday, July 30th 1923, and René Vermandel struck again. A year later the race moved to Merksem, in the North of the city of Antwerp, where it still has its base today. The 1924 edition was won by Jules Matton and since then the interclub race was held until World War Two caused two breaks, in 1939-1940 and 1944-1945.
After the war Schaal Sels had great winners on stage as Rik Van Looy, Herman Van Springel, Edwig Van Hooydonck but the turning point came in 1997. Leaving the interclub format behind, the UCI officialized the race with a 1.5 status. This gave Schaal Sels a boost as riders were now attracted by rewarded UCI world ranking points. The same season former World Champion Johan Museeuw took part and Tom Steels was the respected winner.
Just one year later the race promoted to UCI 1.4 (only accessible for professional riders), in 2002 to UCI 1.3 and in 2005 to UCI 1.1 status. Wilfried Peeters, Steven De Jongh and Niko Eeckhout are on the long list of honour.
Since the race moved to Merksem in 1924, it has its Start and Finish on the Bredabaan, a 2 km straight and broad “Champs-Elysées”. A fancy fair and market on both sides of the street attract 10.000 spectators who cheer and support the riders in the finale.
A redesign of the Bredabaan and last minute road construction delays caused Schaal Sels to be canceled in 2014. This “sabbat” gave the organizing committee the power to rethink the whole and the new Schaal Sels was born. The 90th edition in 2015 was filled with unpaved roads and cobble stones bringing a new daring race concept to Belgium. This audacious move was rewarded by US’ VeloMagazine as “Track of the Year 2015”, standing up to Strade Bianche, Paris-Roubaix or the Tro Bro Leon. Schaal Sels is hot in the world of bicycling, resulting in 2016 in more pro-teams willing to subscribe than can participate…