Velo Club Moulin

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Waugh of the Worlds
(click the pic for mucho mas images)

Can you say epic? I knew you could. Epic is one way to describe our day trip to Hoogerheide for the 09 Cyclocross Worlds. Yeah, the forecast was for cold, and yeah, the weather reports had been saying something about snow in the UK, but you never believe those things do you. You do? Well so should we. Our day began at 3am, trying not walk into hard-edged things in the darkness and then loading the van for a rendezvous with our companions at predetermined point on the M20.
Everything went very smoothly; we even had time to get a Costa and a cake before rolling into the shiny metal tube that is the Eurotunnel train. On the other side the drive was its usual Continental smooth self and soon we were paying the toll to use the tunnel that eventually takes you to Breda and then Rotterdam.
We arrived at Hoogerheide and did what we always do at this stage which is to ask the marshalls where the accreditation is. And, spookily, they did exactly the same they always do too which is to direct us the wrong way or to shrug their shoulders and look to their colleagues for help. Eventually we found someone who could put us on the spot and with the golden pass in hand we were able to get the van a bit closer to the track. Even at that time in the morning - about 10.30am- the crowds were building and building. Groups of bears, and moose and other strangely dressed folk promenaded down the streets to the venue. To be fair the Belgian colours easily outnumbered those of the host country but all had found the beer very early on in the day by the looks of things..... The feeling was definitely more akin to going to a big game than a bike race. Particularly with all the colours on show.
Once we got inside I peeled off to recce the track and the others probably did the same but in the opposite direction! To be honest I hate, getting to any event unprepared and I didn't have time to get the lay of the land before the women's race was off and running. Negotiating the huge crowd encumbered by umpteen lenses is not easy and I apologise to each and every fan I bumped or knocked - if you even felt it through your beer-induced fug. First time I saw the women was at the end of the long tarmac start when they pulled off to the dirt by the imposing town church. I used this as a landmark to get back to places, since I could see the spire above the throng from anywhere! Leading the charge were the usual suspects, Compton, Kupfernagel, Vos and Van Den Brand and it turned out to be a three horse race as Compton was reeled in and Vos showed why she already wears the rainbows by trouncing them in the sprint.
Style Note: What's up with those USA uniforms? Plain is the only word I can find to describe them. Once seeing the Stars and Stripes in the pack looked powerful and cool , but these white and black affairs looked like they were waiting for someone to choose a nice colour.
On the last lap of the women's race I found the steep drop that featured on You Tube because of the carnage that occurred that one wet and muddy World Cup. Steep enough to give some mountain bikers the willies, I could see how in the wet slowing down to turn 90 degrees left and then around a hairpin bend would be tricky. Luckily the ground was iron hard and the surface on the face of the drop had become loamy and forgiving with the constant braking. I spotted a group of photogs in the best place to shoot this obstacle but by the time I had worked out how to get there I heard the sprint being called on the PA. Nevermind men still to come. Down in the 'bottom paddock' the throng was really thronging. A Jumbotron (love that word) was installed to keep the fans happy and with the VIP buildings opposite the screen it made for a natural gathering spot. The course spat the racers down towards this natural bowl twice and through a small copse and the one and only set of steps. (I know I am a retrogrouch but I like to see hurdles and runs up sin cyclocross - not metres of tarmac and no dismounts). For every tree there was a pissed fan sprinkling the soil with Holland's finest brew. The riders were being called up. Each time a Belgian rider was called a cheer went up, likewise a Dutchman. The Czechs got a look to considering their man Stybar was a hot tip. That and the Worlds are there next year. (booked up yet? )
The race was race and to be frank I have seen better racing. But it is the Worlds so we took it as it unfurled before us. The Belgian Blue Wave rolled around in sunny splendour as Neils Albert rode away and the rst of countrymen defended his lead. Unusual, but true. Stybar was in no mans land between the leader and the chasers and couldn;t bridge the gap. Sven broke away late on for the third podium step. And that was that. A truly fantastic event like nothing I have seen at a bike race. Addictive.
And we returned to Calais full of stories. Our train was delayed and then snow warnings began showing on the screens. Then we got out in England and the M20 was closed. We detoured through the worst of the snow and re-joined a couple of junctions later. Lorries didn't appear to be seeing the same driving conditions to us and thundered past at speed. If they didn't jacknife that is. Police lights flashed. Breakdown truck orange blinked. I rose at 3 am to see the Worlds and got home at 1.45. I was lucky, my travelling companion made it home at 5.45. Wouldn't have missed it though. Bring on 2010.

Footnote: I saw many great scarves, but you cannot buy trinkets and souvies at these events mores the pity. But I am going to Belgium again soon and will scout the sport shops for it is there, I was told, that I can fill my boots. Nay, our boots.

Further Footnotage: Just bought a Yeti cross frame. Yay!!


chrisD said...

awesome, is anyone else feeling some love for that German skinsuit?

And now you have a yeti, so you can ride at Mull.

uncle g said...

And so has Macca so he will accompany me - a little further ahead I fear!

Dean said...

Great report and shots as always.

The Yeti is a fantastic piece of kit; confidence inspiring and fast(er than me).

You'll love it!

manchester trev said...

best bike related weekend of my life, already planning the next euro trip, cant wait!

Chris, German skinsuit was even better when ridden on a matching carbon stevens, bootifull... also, did you get my mail?

crosser nut said...

great photos again Geoff.

anja mcdonald said...

Geoff, i still can't believe we missed each other... especially since Phil was on the heckler phone again!