We were in search of the Holy Grail of Cyclocross. And we found it...
The place was absolutely heaving hours before the beginning of the Mens event. The warm up race was the ladies race. And although it didn't quite incite the same zealous intensity in the crowd, it certainly didn't disappoint. The whole race dominated by a chasing duo of Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) and Marianne Vos (Netherlands), who were being led the entire way by a fearsomely strong Katie Compton (USA). Unfortunately, the Euros let Katie play right into their hands and they both took her on the last lap. Katie finished just 2 seconds back in 3rd, achingly close to the victory she looked like she had all sewen up. GB had 3 riders in - Nikki Harris (14th), Helen Wymen (16th) and Gabby Day (24th). They were all caught up in a crash on the first corner and all had to fight back for their positions, showing their prowess on a brutally fast and battering course which was frozen hard in the frigid temperatures.
Now, I would like to say I saw a lot of the Men's race, but I'd be lying. I saw almost none of it. The reason being, the Dutch are a tall race. And, although I'm half Dutch, it seems my dad's Scottishness won the game of genetic roulette , and I inherited his less lofty proportions. i couldn't see a thing what with all these tall folk and their oversized super-fan-hats. But, I can say i did see Albert Niels win an the most convincing fashion. He was so much faster than anyone else out there.
At this point I must confess that I had him confused for Sven Nys. Niels and Nys sound very much the same when they're being shouted by 20something thousand Belgies, they're both in the same kit and you could be forgiven thinking that Sven Nys was the only Belgie racing, judging by all the fan clubs and banners about. Sven did in fact finish in third spot, 38 seconds down, just behind the Check rider, Zdenek Styber.
British riders Jody Crawforth, Ian field and Paul Oldham finished 31st, 39th and 48th respectively out of the 64 strong field.