On the third day of CXmas there was the World Championships dress rehearsal at ZOLDERRRR.
This was going to be my chance to check out how exactly I’m going to get to CXWorlds, but The Guys (they deserve capitals, I think) were coming too and, as I got a free ticket from them, I HAD to go with them in the car! It doesn’t take long from home and we got there in heaps of time and just behind the ERA-Murtec bus and the Sweeck Fans (they come from round our way too so not really a surprise).
Last year was a GPON extravaganza AAANNDD we met Marianne Vos, so how can we top that? Read on…
Now, I had heard that the course had undergone a few changes since last year and I was eager to have a good look, but there were a whole bunch of “Hi, how are ya”‘s and coffee to be had in the first beer tent (oh yes, there’s more than one here). Over coffee one of the guys dug out his map of the course. This course consists of a wiggly bit up a hill at one end and a wiggly bit and a hill up the other joined together by a long flat straight. The wiggly bits are cool and the bridges look exhausting and a couple of chicanes are thrown in for good measure along with the tricky off-camber around the grandstand. It’s a bit weird to walk through the gravel traps for the cars and, by the way, its a bit tricky too!
Coffees in hand we made our way along the start/finish straight to the other end where they extended the course to now bypass the old steps to a new purpose built run-up. We are getting used to this beautiful sunny weather in Belgium this year and a little bit of walking soon finds out if I’ve over-dressed! Walking past the startline we notice Marc and Suzie Godart on the other side (Check chapter 11 of your copy of Ride the Revolution: The Inside Stories from Women in Cycing – nothing like shameless self-promotion, eh?) Stuck on the other side of the course, we agree to meet up later with some shouted directions to the Luxembourg section of the riders parking.
With the Juniors underway i headed to the new run-up to check it out. I have to say I was a little disappointed. The huge steps were amazing to watch last year and unique. The replacement run-up is decidedly ordinary, despite being steeep as. It would’ve been nice get to the upper part for us mortals. Hopefully they will set up a rope to get up before the World’s as the only other real way to access the upper hill is via a small set of scaffolding steps with 2-way traffic and enormous queues.
To the racing and Jappe Jaspers was leading with Jens Dekker followed by US Champ, Gage Hecht surrounded by 4 French guys. Les Francais were definitely riding as a team and to very great effect, although the fall of the 2 leaders helped them out enormously.
The result stands with Thomas Bonnet getting the better of Jappe Jaspers by 2 seconds and France taking 3rd and 4th places with Tanguy Turgis and Mickael Crispin. It was certainly different to hear La Marseillaise instead of La Brabanconne playing for the podium.
Coming down from the hill I thought I’d catch up with the guys, but they had wandered off somewhere so I tucked in to a cheese roll and headed to the start line for the U23 guys. This was another dramatic race in that the hot favourite, Eli Iserbyt, fell coming down off the hill and quit shortly after. This left the field wide open and a new name went onto the winners list in the form of young Dutchman Joris Nieuwenhuis with Daan Hoeyberghs and Adam Toupalik completing the podium.
Finally found The Guys again and we headed off to the campervans. First off we came across USA Champ Jeremy Powers who posed for me. I am so not used to people stopping still for me that I’m afraid I was totally unprepared!
We carried on, heading into the back of beyond and YAY! we found the Luxembourg section. Alas not Suzie, who was out practising, but it was great to catch up with Marc and then there was the other Mark, Mr Katie Compton, and a good look at the Special KFC Trek Boones. Also big shout to David Montgomery and Gioele Bertolini who both also stopped and posed! Blimey! Having looked for Angus Edmond an Twitter message discovered he was sick in Eindhoven. Damn shame.
Having had 2 races at the far end of the course it was time to head to the beer tent end! I lost the guys going past the first beer tent so took the opportunity to get a look at the men practising and who should I spy in the pits?
The bloke next to me had twigged that I was zooming in on Niels and proceeded to tell me he thought he might be eating a wee bit more these days! Who cares!
By this time the Kevin Pauwels supporters had arrived so there were a few more friendly faces in the crowd. I did mention that earlier on in the season, probably due to the Belgian government’s issuing state of alert after the Paris attacks, that it felt like fewer people were coming. Today was a whole lot better, although, the good news is that there is still plenty of room for you to come to Worlds! Where I was was a little sparse on folk at that time of day so I was wondering where everyone was. I headed over to the other side of the bridge where I had not been before on this course and LO! The other beer tent was thronging and through the woods it was practically 2 deep all round. MARVELLOUS! So, who’s not interested in women’s racing?
I had managed to nip in to a spot at the bottom of one of the hairpins in the wood, but had to move when the guy next to me lit a cigar! WTF? There’s a large part of the course where the public are not allowed going up the hill after the woods. I have no idea why, but ’twas ever the case. Here be dragons?
Thankfully, I found another spot where the people in front had brought there folding seats and remained sat down so those of us behind got a great view of Eva Lechner leading the race through the first lap in the World Cup leaders white cossie.
By the next lap the blue cossie of Sanne Cant had taken the reins and by the third lap Sanne had been joined by Katie Compton sporting the stars and stripes and Ellen van Loy, coming in to some fantastic form at the right time of the season, in third.
I didn’t realise Eva had fallen til I got home and watched the replay. Katie and Sanne raced each other for all they were worth. We can’t wait for this rivalry to be resumed on 30 January. Sanne won this time and for the first time we got La Brabonconne for the podium.
As I was by the podium I thought I might as well stick around this area for the start of the men’s race. I think I had all but given up the idea of seeing much of The Guys this day. Instead I contented myself with trying to get the perfec J-Pow/K-Pau photo, which I failed at miserably so tried the Big Lars/Mini Lars and failed at that too! (This is probably not the time for me to air views on ex-world champs who fancy a bit of race for old times sake being picked without having raced all season and earnt their spot over whoever got bumped.)
I got caught up in the startline scrum so spent the first lap trying to get out of that! Now, I know y’all have seen the video of the race so I’ll not bore you with that except to say HOW EXCITING WAS THAT?
The Mathieu-Mini Lars double act is quite a formidable pairing, but was Kevin bothered? I may tweet KOMAAN KEVIN about 5 times every race, but that’s nothing to the amount of times I said it watching the big screen this day. Two seconds!
A celebratory beer was had and I made it to the podium in time to see Kevin up there and join in a bit of chanting. The MvdP followers do seem to have found their voices. I will have to investigate this further, but there did seem to be a bit of a tune going on! Inventive.
A quick pee and we head on back to the carpark. It is quite a distance and by the time we got there I needed another pee, but as is the norm there is nowhere to go and way too many people for dropping trou (!) so, thankfully, The Guys took the ‘lets get going – DRIVE’ to heart. How glad am I that we made it through the traffic quickly
As rehearsals go I’d say it was looking good for opening night. Hopefully the organisers will take into account that there will be twice as many people there for Worlds. I’m certain they will find space for another beer tent, but I’d also like to see a bit more attention paid to spectator access, although the saying ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ always applies to CX spectators! Did we inprove on meeting Marianne Vos? Hmmm, jury still out on that!
Next up we go under the lights at Diegem.