On the second day of CXmas there was CITADELCROSS.
With all the ease of traveling and parking we have had over the season so far it was inevitable that we would have a problem sometime or other. That day was today. The Tomtom that has served so well got lost on the outskirts of Namur sending us merrily along the small roads on the wrong side of the river and heading into roads closed for Sunday markets! The guys finally turned it off and headed for the citadel, which you can’t really miss, but finding the free parking required stopping and asking directions halfway up the back of the hill! But YAY! we got there!
And the first person we see, still in the carpark, is Mr Katie Compton, Mark Legg, and the gorgeous Trek he was working on to change the big ring (I think he said). Whilst I was chatting to the, Kiwi the guys found their 3 friends who were here for the weekend in the mobile home. One of the guys being another mobile home owner, this usually leads to a lengthy discussion (one of those times when my lack of Dutch is a blessing!)
Finally, we made it through the gate just in time for the Junior race, which actually stranded us on the wrong side of the course (but only because the assorted decripitude of the guys meant that the steepness of the hill and the many steps are not conducive to aching knees and backs etc!) It was Jens Dekker’s turn to take a first lap flyer and showed off the white cossie, but this time Jappe Jaspers got the better of the dual and also knicked the snowy whiteness.
It took a good few bars of the Belgian anthem before Jappe was sure his hair was OK to be seen after wearing the Belgian team beanie, but eventually we got to see him. I’m not sure who he reminds me of. Is it Joey from Friends? Third place Tanguy Turgis didn’t get the memo about taking your hat off though.
If you don’t have dodgy knees this course is just BRILLIAAAAANT to get around: the flat centre of the citadel for the pits and parking, the steep uphill start, the twisty-turny descent, the terrifying drops, steep run-ups, and, of course, that long off-camber. that doesn’t mean you don’t have to watch where you’re going. Not paying attention could lead to branches snagging your clothes or being tripped by undergrowth, but this is just a fabulous place.
The guys set up base camp by the beer tent (where else?) and I headed off to catch the start of the Men’s U23 race. The ‘Murcans were giving Eli Iserbyt an honour guard by the looks of it, and he looked resplendent in the white.
Also in the line up was Simon Andreassen who came out of Denmark to Tabor last January to take the Junior rainbows. It could just be me, but I think Eli wanted some payback. In a dominant performance, he pretty much lead from start to finish with only Gioele Bertolini to give any cause for concern. Quinten Hermans stayed in touch for third and Andreassen a distant 3.11mins behind. Eli’s winner celebration may have seemed a little arrogant, but I can’t blame him for it really.
I finished the the race down at the bottom of the pit and had to use the rope to get up top this time after passing it up at Francorchamps. Don’t know what I was so worried about, it was easy as.
After running up and down hills etc I was ready for a drink. Despite SMS and phone calls I couldn’t find the guys so grabbed the water from my pack and broke out my packed lunch. I ended up hanging around watching and waiting for the women and men to take a few practice rides. I was rewarded with watching Sven and son riding up the big run-up, a big hug from fellow Kiwi, Angus Edmond and a whole heap of fangirling moments.
As the mobile homes of most of the elite riders were smack bang in the middle of the course it will come as no surprise that I was hanging around while the women warmed up and the men’s bike were made ready. Oh, and Niels was having a meeting, Radomir Simunek and the Sweeck boxer puppy are great friends and what a novelty it is that Movistar and Cofidis are in the carpark.
I met back up with the guys for the start of the womens race. Helen Wyman and Katie Compton were having a good laugh with the women around them. As I confessed on Twitter, I had no idea who Caroline Mani was. I sure do now though. Why has she not been riding more World Cups, I don’t know. I understand she has been ‘ripping up the course’ over in USA. I hope we will get to see a whole lot more of her now she’s here.
It was no surprise that Nikki Harris got a flyer off the start as she has done all over the place this season, but this is the first time she kept that first place right to the end. What a masterful ride and a very popular winner. Eva Lechner, star from Valkenburg, took the other place on the podium, but how good was it to see Katie Compton fit and healthy and only 39 seconds back? Not the course for Sanne Cant, coming in a distant 2.22mns back in 14th.
Time enough now for a quick beer and a sit down before heading back to the start for the Men’s Race. Angus was hanging out at the back of the Startbox where the guys were all going for a last minute pee in the bushes. Mark Legg was also there looking out for his charge Gary Milburn and for a moment all NZ’s best were together!
As for the race, if you haven’t seen it get on your computer and do it. This race is a must, though I will say if you can find a version from Belgian TV that’s preferable. I don’t know who the English commentator is, but blimey he made it sound boring. As Kevin, Wout and Mathieu raced themselves to a standstill each taking turns on the front that was one of the best races ever and no one is going to whinge about a race that delivers the top 3 onto the finish straight together. Fair to say Mathieu really wanted that! I’m betting I’m not the only one hoping there’ll be a #SVENNESS today.
The crowd’s enthusiasm for Sven is still huge and there was much love, as there had been all day, for the French riders especially Clement Venturini and John Gadret. Another podium for Kevin was BRILLIAAANT and the guys were OK that I could stay for the podium ceremony. The supporters club bus delivered the full cheer squad this time and it’s great that more of them seem to recognise me. Just a note to the Wout supporters – Get your own song!
We were all on a high going home. The guys made it up the steps back to the car with minimal groaning and, although we had to stop for another chat about mobile homes, we caught much less traffic than we might have. The only problem with driving is that we don’t get to walk through the beautiful town centre of Namur, especially at this time of year.
Next up, WorldChamps dress rehearsal at Circuit Zolder.
KOMAAN KEVIIIIIIN 🙂