Rutger Beke at Wildflower 2010.
Rutger Beke at Wildflower 2010. Photo: Kurt Hoy

Belgian triathlete Rutger Beke returns to Saturday’s Avia Wildflower Triathlon after a six-year absence.

“I love it here. It’s a beautiful course,” said Beke on Friday afternoon, a day before the Wildflower long-course race. “It’s really tough, but it’s the way a triathlon should be. The best guy definitely wins here.”

Beke (pronounced like the English word, “baker,” without the “r” on the end) is in form again after a foot injury sidelined him in early September 2009.

The injury occurred during a regional race in Belgium, when Beke’s foot slipped off the top of his shoe and into the spokes of his front wheel as he left T1.

“It’s a racing wheel, so the spokes are like knives,” explained the triathlon veteran. “All the flesh of my foot was gone. I looked down and I saw the bone and; when you see bone, it’s not good.”

Ninety minutes of surgery (and more stitches than the doctor cared to count) put Beke back together, but his hopes for Kona in 2009 were crushed.

“I knew immediately that my race in Kona was gone. For the first time in seven years, I had to follow the Ironman World Championships behind a computer.”

Regular visits to a military hospital’s hyperbaric chamber helped to speed Beke’s recovery. Four weeks later, he was running again. And just two months after his foot injury, Beke won Ironman Cozumel and qualified for Kona in 2010.

“My main race is Kona, of course. I’m also doing Challenge Roth. It’s a big race in Belgium because Luc Van Lierde broke the world record there. I’m not saying that I want to beat the world record, but I would love to get under eight hours once.”