AFI: Ronse

The Neerpelt & Vorselaar courses twisting through the trees were absolutely wonderful, but I have really been waiting for Ronse. This place is such a beautiful rural setting & the town is lovely too. BPost Bank Trofee races are my favourites & Ronse is special – the organisation, courses, shuttle buses, rider lists, beer tent, entertainment, rider parking & access for the fans – everything for a great day out. Even the weather gods came to play.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

After an early morning start of bike & train to our rendez-vous we got to the course in good time for the Newbies, but the sun was stuck behind a misty morning and the wind at the top of the hill was stinging so we opted for a quick look followed by a hasty retreat to the beer tent for a coffee (some of us draw the line of beer at 10am). Sadly, there didn’t seem to be any girls riding (feel free to correct me) & none were on the rider list (sad face).

When the guys decided they were ready for a beer I popped away to the startline for the Juniors (again only guys – where are the girls?) and this cow just shows how important it all is! Zero f**ks personified, or raher bovinified (!) Jappe Jaspers zoomed off to a huge lead for most of the race, but was caught up on the last climb & pipped at the post by young Dutchman Jens Dekker & Seppe Rombouts completing the podium. These are names you will no doubt hear rather a lot over the coming years.

© 2015 Cat Armour
Cows to staging. Cows to staging. © 2015 Cat Armour

We had moved to be by the pit entrance at this stage & meeting new friends – this time Roland Liboton. I always get a cyclocross history lesson when we run in to old champions, but I know I will forget so the guys have taken to writing names down for me to Google! This time I also have to look up Erwin Vervecken, who is now working for Golazo who were instrumental in televising the Women’s Race so we like them very much. Not to be outdone, these guys minding the pits wanted their pic taken too. No worries.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

Then I got my first Niels sighting.

GPON!! © 2015 Cat Armour
GPON!! © 2015 Cat Armour

The Beloftens started at 12 and with the sun making itself felt it was clearly beer o’clock. So off to the centre of the arena where a conveniently placed bar etc plus the big screen. Now, last season Eli Iserbyt was almost unbeatable as a junior, except a couple to Johan Jacobs and of course that pesky Simon Andreasson, the MTBer, sneaking off with the CX rainbows (my views of this maybe showing slightly here, but thats another story!). So Eli might have been relishing moving up a class to test himself again Michael Vanthorenhout, Wout vA and the van der Poels, but they all moved up too! Even being the young upstart though, he has started the season off with a bang and last week’s podium guys, Yorben van Tichelt (4th) and Daan Hoeyberghs (3rd) could do nothing about it today and Jonas Degroote taking the 2nd spot a full 46 seconds behind. Max Gulickx will be sorely missed.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

I got to do some running around taking pics and annoying other spectators! Thanks for not decking me guys.
The organisers give us a good hour between the end of the Beloftens and start of the Women’s so it was time to hit the mobile homes to catch some of our heroes/heroines & some bike pR0n. 2 of our party cronied up a couple of VIP passes so went off to stuff their faces!

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

I love the Telenet Fidea bus line up.

© 2015 Cat Armour
The Telenet-Fidea fleet in full force. © 2015 Cat Armour

And just for CXHairs’  #WellensWatch I got a shot of last weeks’ organiser and team leader for AA Drinks, Geert Wellens.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

Wout was in big demand for fan pics and this little chap is just too cute.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

Walking back to the Women’s start-line we pass Sven, Lars, Sanne, Jolien & Nikki and it’s “success” all round from everyone passing and we all genuinely mean it. I LOVE THIS SPORT.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

BTW I did manage to catch a bit of the half-time entertainment in the form of the Romeos. The pink elephants were a little premature though!

At the Women’s Race start Pavla Havlikova confused us all (OK, those of us who weren’t paying attention to these things!) by lining up in an unfamiliar kit and not having her name on the printed start-list (What’s that about?)

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

The start is a bit uphill and that first corner is a bastard sharp left-hander bottleneck so its really important to be at the front here and these faces are pumped up and concentrating hard. We learnt afterwards that some of the women were bit sick and Sanne Cant was definitely feeling the heat. Now, because you are no slouches you’ll have known that this race was going to be televised and so you were no doubt glued to your TV or computer. If not please feel free to take a look at my pics on Flickr.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

Proficiat Pavla on a brilliant win and for once Jolien Verschueren was not a handicapped by her small stature with a well-earned 2nd and Nikki Harris making up the podium.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

No time to run up the hill for the podium or the start of the Men’s Race, I’ll be leaving that to the professionals.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter you will know I am an unashemed K-Pauw fan & you will have had a couple of warm-up K’MAAN KEVIN tweets & after dismal starts so far you can only imagine how excited I was that he hadn’t stuffed it up this time, YES that was Kevin in the front group as they came into the arena & then he made it through the first lap without falling off! Having the chance to cheer our guy and be real smug about it should never be wasted.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

Of course there was planty of #SVENNOISE. Seriously, a blind person could follow him around the arena.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

I made my way to the run-up, which is pretty evil and even with the aid of a rope I only made halfway. Quick shout out to the ladies in the green-spangly hats who had temporarily forgotten that its Klaas not Sven in the Belgian Champ colours! I was MEGAexcited & may have tweeted K’MAAN KEVIIIIIN a few more times, but yes I did also notice Michael and Gianni giving it some welly on behalf of K-Pauw & I was a little worried that Lars might nick it in a sprint.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

After screeching at Kevin for the last time up the main hill it was back to the big screen for the finish. That last long look over his shoulder and we all knew he was done and that was 5 fingers raised for Wout. A perfect season so far.

© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour
© 2015 Cat Armour

 

I needed a beer after that before I lost my voice & we made it back to the beer tent (bet you’re surprised) & the party was in full swing with Willy Sommers in the house. After some jigging, arm-waving and a rousing You’ll Never Walk Alone we left with ‘Laat de zon in je hart’ ringing in our ears.

Thank you BPost Bank for your continued support. I think Ronse is one of the best days out, don’t you?

Next weekend I’m bound for Valkenburg. Last year it was sunburn, icecream and Katie Fn Compton. Can’t wait…

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