🎶 Eric Schoefs: “Ik was een BJ, een bekende Japanner”

Pistier Eric Schoefs bewees dat je nooit te oud bent om bij te leren. In de herfst van zijn carrière trok de pistier naar Japan om zich om te scholen tot keirin-specialst. Daar leefde hij in afzondering om contact met de gokmaffia te vermijden. Schoefs over zijn avonturen in Japan, de liefde voor het reizen en zijn pensioen.

Eric Schoefs was een pistier pur sang. In zijn korte wielerloopbaan verzamelde hij tien titels, voornamelijk op de sprint. In 1995 viel hij in ’t Kuipje het Belgisch record op de kilometer aan. Erics topchrono zou nog decennia lang standhouden. “Het was een onwezenlijk gevoel om het Belgisch record te breken in een volle wielerpiste. Mijn vrienden en familie waren ook massaal aanwezig, dat maakte het allemaal nog een beetje mooier. Door mijn aangeboren snelheid werd mij een grote toekomst in de zesdaagsen voorspeld. Maar dat werd nooit een geslaagd huwelijk”, vertelt de Limburger. 

Eric Schoefs noemt zichzelf een globetrotter. “Rondes in Afrika en zelfs het Oosten schrikten mij niet af, integendeel. Sommige renners haalden daar hun neus voor op, maar ik genoot ervan om eens weg te zijn van huis en nieuwe culturen te leren kennen. Ik werd verliefd op Zuid-Afrika, een land waar ik nu nog regelmatig naar toe reis.”

Afgesloten van de buitenwereld

In de herfst van zijn carrière koos Eric voor een avontuur in Japan, de bakermat van het keirin (een soort massasprint op de piste). “Ik leefde er maanden in een soort internaat, waar ik alles opnieuw moest leren. Dat internaat lag in een afgelegen dorpje naast Tokio. In het Japanse keirincircuit wordt voor miljoenen euro’s gegokt. Daarom wou men ons zoveel mogelijk afschermen van de buitenwereld. Aan de ingang stond een soort kluis waar we onze gsm’s, laptops en andere elektronica moesten in bewaren. Als het seizoen er eenmaal op zat, ging de kluis open en kregen wij onze spullen terug. Ik voelde mij soms eenzaam, want de communicatie verliep moeilijk met mijn Japanse collega’s. Aan de andere kant heb ik wel goed geboerd in de drie jaar dat ik in Japan leefde. Soms werd ik herkend op straat en vroeg men mij om handtekeningen. Ik was een BJ; een bekende Japanner”, lacht de 55-jarige Schoefs.

Eric Schoefs is vandaag nog steeds actief in het wielermilieu. Zijn stuurmanskunst komt nu goed van pas als VIP-chauffeur bij Flanders Classic. “Hoewel ik nooit klassiekers heb gereden, ken ik toch goed de baan op onze Vlaamse wegen. Op die manier leer ik ook veel nieuwe mensen kennen en blijf ik bezig. Ik hoop een deel van mijn liefde voor het wielercircus over te brengen op mijn gasten. Verder ben ik ook gangmaker tijdens de Zesdaagse van Gent”, besluit Eric Schoefs.

Beluister hieronder het levensverhaal van pistier oublié Eric Schoefs

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