Remembering the course last year and having seen Saturday Night Fever the evening before I woke up singing ‘How Deep Is Your Mud?’!
After the usual early start and on the same road the guys surprised me when we got in to the town of Gavere with regard to the usual parking dilemma. From their years of experience it is about who you know and how much a packet of chocolate biscuits will get you. Today it got us to within 100m of the entrance and some loving from a large German Shepherd and a tad smaller pug.
It’s always muddy at Gavere or so I’m told. It certainly was last year. The type of mud that you slide through, but if you stop it’ll hold on tight to your boots. We had had some rain during the week, but not so much so I kept with the hiking boots. i might have done so any way rather than leave my gumboots (wellies for northern hemisphere folk) somewhere at the bottom of the hill and spend the rest of the day in bare feet.
It had also been my birthday during the week so first port of call was the beer tent for coffee and to indulge in the chocolate muffins I brought to celebrate (I’m not big on birthdays).
(Watch your step when leaving the beer tent. More blocks than a carpark in West Auckland!)
Having been informed that my copy of Ride the Revolution: The Inside Stories From Women In Cycling had been sent to the subject of Chapter 11, Suzie Godart, we went in search of Suzie. The guys got a reminder of what it’s like not being an elite male rider as we were sent to the Aldi carpark over the road and some for the women riders parking. Aparently a bit early for Suzie, but we did see Sophie de Boer and a whole bunch of newbies.
Back on the course I left the guys and went wondering down the hill for the Juniors race. This season’s usual suspects were head-to-head again. Once more Jappe Jaspers went for the long solo effort only to get caught just shy of the line by Jens Dekker (see Ronse) and just 2 seconds separating them. They were joined on the podium this time by Lares-Doltcini teammate Mitch Groot. I stayed down the bottom of the course for a while because, apart from the scary descent and the bouncy barriers, its a gorgeous walk from the river up through the little waterfalls to the beer tent at that slippy dip. If I can’t see any action I might as well enjoy the nature.
Suzie happened to come by me while practising so I got the exact location of the Godart van so, after a beer we headed back to the rider parking and LO! there was Niels. As usual he was on the phone.
Whilst waiting for Suzie and Trixy I hung around by the Sunweb-Napleon Games section of the carpark and so got to see the start of the U23 race with Michael Vanthourenhout (OK, I was about 5m from him, but close enough eh?)
YAAAAAAAAY! I finally got my hands on THE BOOK. I swear I have been talking about this for ages, but the guys said ‘Who wrote that then?’ Sometimes I wonder…
Back to the beer tent at the finish straight for the end of the U23’s, a beer and a chat with Papa Wellens. Guess who’s driving?
Eli Iserbyt was again showing his quality with a full 45 secs over Quinten Hermans today and, despite a hard sprint from Daan Hoeyberghs, Nicolas Cleppe held on for3rd. I did get to shout ‘GOAN’ at David Montgomery, cos you have to really and I do fancy myself a bit of a Mrs Doyle!
I didn’t bring a packed lunch so indulged my taste-buds to some frietsjes and headed to a good spot for the women’s race. Found myself with the Sophie de Boer fans next to and opposite and good on ’em. They knew their stuff and once again put the lie to there not being interest in women’s racing. They also proceeded to cheer loudly for Nikki Harris showing that Belgians will indeed support non-Belgians thank you very much!
Ellen van Loy tried to give Sanne Cant a bit of a go at the start and kept up a good pace, but unfortunately fell back a bit later in the race as Jolien Verschueren showed again how very fit she is. One day she will get a good start as well. Let’s hope it’s before those bloody great steps at Zolder.
The SdB cheer squad gave it their all and I did get them joining me shouting at Suzie too! Question: Does Sanne van Paassen ever not smile? That climb was a right bugger and had just about eveyone grimacing with pain by the end of it, but she just keeps smiling! Top 5 result for Christine Majerus was brilliant and Helen Wyman won out on the last lap in her battle with Sanne van Paassen for 6th place. Sadly, Suzie didn’t get to finish. Some people may have lost livestream halfway through the race. In case this happens again you just have to ask me to live tweet as I did. I’m not great at it, but at least I had a signal!
Normally, I might scout out a few different places for taking pictures, but today I decided I’d stay put for the men’s race. It was such a good spot to see them coming up the long drag hill and still be able to see the big screen. As an extra bonus, I was sufficiently close to the pits, where the biggest crowd was, and the SVENNOISE was incredible.
At the start there was some kind of buggeration leaving Tom Meeusen, Julien Taramarcaz and Stan Goodrie stranded at the back. We cheered all the way as they gradually made therir way back in to the race with both Julien and Tom finishing, but every time Stan came past we had to wince. That looked nasty.
We have had some fantastic close racing every round of every competition this year, up to the penultimate lap any way. We got to see a bit more of Laurens Sweeck at the front too and he managed to hold on for a brilliant 5th place in front of Klaas Vantornout who was 4 secs to the good of Sunweb teammate Michael Vanthourenhout.
Kevin got a little bit snagged in traffic at the beginning, but it wasn’t long before he pulled up to Sven, Wout and Lars. Sven at the front for a long while had many in Happyland. The guys by me, despite previously stating they were in the Sven camp, were soon shouting with me at Kevin. After Wout hit the NO2 and put about 50m between him and the rest in about 200m of hill and Lars got left behind from pitting, it was all on for 2nd between Kevin and Sven. My neighbours, surprisingly, were still shouting with me for Kevin and I thought we’d got it, but then there was a sprint. I don’t know if Kevin has ever won a straight up sprint against Sven so bit #sadface, but Wout’s hill-running practice is still proving to be the difference. What a star.
No way I was getting near the podium today with the whole world heading that way out of the course, so we had a final beer and headed back to the car. Thankfully, the organisers had provided a portaloo for me on the way out the back of the course!
We’ve had a few incidents over this week that might make some think twice about gathering together to see this sport that we love so much. For me it’s a no-brainer even though I sometimes get visions of Mel Gibson in Braveheart! In fact, this coming weekend is my first CX double-header of the season. Hasselt Soudal Classic will be wonderful and, there may be extra security, but there is no way we will be scared away from having our fun in the dunes at Koksijde.