AFI … Zonhoven

A Fan In…..Zonhoven…..again


Sun, Sand and CX

Last year was my first time at Zonhoven and I was super-excited, but today was no different. Because of the World Champs in Doha all the races were put back so the Men’s Race would not start until 1630, therefore, the Kevin Bus was not due to leave until 12pm, meaning there was no mad morning panic to get to the train and no bus replacement today (phew!). I even had time to do some work! By the time I did get to K-Pauw central though I was so hungry I felt the need to indulge in friets (well, I would’ve been at the course had they not put it back).

© 2016 Cat Armour

And YAY! I got a call from one of The Guys to say he would be there today and HE HAD A FREE TICKET FOR MEEEEEEEEEE! Wooohoooo!

It being my second time on the Kevin Bus I was all ‘yeah, I know the drill’. How much of a buggeration is it when you just spent an hour getting to the bus only to have them drive right by your house? (Law of Sod, Section 2 Travel)

The supporters buses have their own parking at the courses and it looks like we are the last to arrive with the Sweeck Bus getting the best spot today. It was a bit of a walk to the course from the bus, but that gives me time to arrange where to meet Rudi and by the time I get to the entrance he is there with my freebie YAY!! And it’s my first race this season with one of The Guys!

Just a little aside. Before the season started I realized I didn’t have a winter coat (accidentally left my old OPQS one behind when I moved) so went on a mission to Decathlon to get a new one, which I did. So, after Geraardsbergen and Ronse in 25c+ heat I was really glad I took the time! Of course, it was a bit chilly this morning when I was riding to the station, but now we’re hitting the mid 20’s again and my new warm winter jacket is my new waist accessory!

© 2016 Cat Armour

After greeting Rudi, we made our way through the riders parking to the course where the U23’s were already about 20 minutes into their race. Today was a day for Quentin Hermans and last week’s winner, Joris Nieuwenhuis who were battling together at the front with Yannick Peeters in third. The rainbows, you may be surprised to find, do not like the heat and bright sunshine of the day. What a difference a week makes! However, I suspect there may have been some shenanigans in De Kuil, but coming in half-way and without race video I haven’t really got a clue! However, it was Quinten who was strongest today. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a decent photo of him, so this bunch will have to do! Congratulations Quinten!

© 2016 Cat Armour

Say Quinten!

We had ourselves a beer and then headed back to the rider parking. My ‘first rider I see wins’ theory today gives the honours to Sanne Cant (waiting in the pits to get one last practice in) and Wout van Aert.

I have been following Rebecca Fahringer and the Amy D Foundation on Twitter for some time now and on learning that she was coming to race in Belgium this year I promised to say ‘Hi’. We found the USA Cycling Team easy enough, but asking after Becca proved fruitless. However, we carried on undaunted. Rudi sometimes has a bit of nose for these things, so I followed on through the un-dacaled (is that a word?) campervans until we came out right in front of an Amy D kit and a bunch of ‘Murcan accents. YAY! So good to see someone in real life that you’ve only communicated with in virtual space. As a bonus, I got to meet @thechainstay too! Who, if you are coming to Belgium to cycle tour or just sight-see is a fantastic place to base yourself in Oudenaarde (advertising space is cheap here, isn’t it? :-0) Apparently, Becca had wondered if I was a real person or an actual feline. I hope she wasn’t too disappointed. They are discussing that if she has a good race today there will be treats

Top 15 – Mars bar

Top 10 – 2 Mars bars

Top 5 – 3 Mars bars

I’m sensing a theme here!

After promising to cheer her around the course we left them trying to sort out the rollers for warm up. On the way back inside I, almost literally, ran into Niels! Just got the camera up before he disappeared!

© 2016 Cat Armour

Back on the course we get ourselves a good position by the big screen to watch the action (*cough) in Doha. My twitter followers at this point were playing CX Hero as I posted pics of some of the past male champions who were here. Maybe one day I will organize a competition that actually involves a prize!

With 10km to go in Doha the women were called to the start. Everyone is talking about the race on screen and all eyes on Tom Boonen. With 7km to go they have to start the Women’s Race and the first lap is watched by not many around that screen. As soon as everyone realised Peter Sagan had beaten Tommeke it was time to turn back to CX.  Leaving Rudi by the big screen I set off to find a good spot for screeching at Becca and headed towards the nasty little hairpin in the sand where they turn at the bottom of the hill and have to dismount and run up the other side. Sanne Cant was already out on her own and being chased by Nikki Brammeier, who was finding that playing in the sand can be tricky after a well-documented (not by me) tumble in De Kuil. That mostly white GB Champs kit can be seen from great distances and it’s like a hare to Jolien Verscheuren’s hound and she’s reeling it in little by little. I am assuming Jolien also had a mishap somewhere to be so far back, but I didn’t see it and the only video I found did not include any picture from De Kuil (sigh).

© 2016 Cat Armour

By the next lap Sanne was a blip in the distance, but the crowd are going nuts as Jolien is getting ever closer to Nikki. Kaitlin Antonneau is having a grand day out in 4th with Maud Kaptheijns, Ellen van Loy and Laura Verdonschot wrapped up in their own battle and Becca is right behind Sophie de Boer!

© 2016 Cat Armour

Next lap – Becca has passed Sophie de Boer and Jolien has passed Nikki. Kaitlin Antonneau is chasing Nikki for that last podium spot and Maud, Ellen and Laura are still going head to head.

Last lap – Sanne takes the win from Jolien and Nikki. A very respectable 4th for Kaitlin and Ellen van Loy gets the better of Laura and Maud. Becca finishes her first race in Belgium in 11th place!

How cool was that?

I catch back up with Rudi, but the Men’s Race is due to start at 1630 and I desperately want to be in De Kuil for part of it at least. He still has the dodgy knee so I’m off on my own again, heading for the centre of The Pit. I think I’ve got a good spot to see them coming in and, as is the theme of this year, it’s Wout and Mathieu leading the way leaving all others to fight it out for the lower step.

No chain or pedal problems today. Wout and Mathieu traded places, had shots for glory each, but in the end, as WvA won last week it was only fair for MvdP to get a turn this week. For a while we got super-excited that Laurens Sweeck was going to upset them, but as they have done before, as he got up to them the 2 pulled away, hitting the gas for a final push to the line leaving Laurens stranded in 3rd. Cruel, I know, but the crowd loves Laurens anyway (and my imaginary teenage girls’ bedroom wall still has plenty of room for him!) I think I just made it sound really boring, but it was anything but. This I know there is video of.

© 2016 Cat Armour

Lars had a good day, staying upright and all, but sadly for Tim Merlier the sand pit was merciless. Kevin was having another shit day in the heat (we really need to order up some proper winter weather) and without a sniff of a podium Jurgen Mettepenningen found some time for Pokémon Go!

© 2016 Cat Armour

I came up out of De Kuil about halfway and found Rudi pretty much where I left him, but then I lost him when I went to say ‘Hi’ to some more K-Pauw sups.

This catching the supporters bus doesn’t leave any time for dawdling in the beer tent so almost as soon as they crossed the line we’re gathering our stuff and heading out.

I still love this race and am so glad that I have been able to come again.

I hope Becca got her Mars bar.

And on the way home we got the ‘Trots op Kevin’ CD. Brilliant!

Next week the Netherlands will be putting on the style for the UCI World Cup on the Cauberg. I hope you’ll be watching and you know what to shout at the TV!



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