CX Chronicles…the good, the bad and the cold
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
words & photography: Fiona Morris
WARNING: this is a bit of a novel (I have 3 races and other stuff to tell you about.. if you make it to the end I have included extra photos too!)
Three CX races, made friends with the French, got a stern word by one of the Mr UCI men and watched the snow and the temperature fall. It’s been a pretty big week, include in that Christmas and New Years and it’s really just been one big party.
Im going to skip the CX races news for the minute and move straight onto making friends with the French, don’t worry I promise to discuss the racing later.
As you may be aware CX is pretty big over Belgium way, the villages prepare for the festivities by closing the streets off, emptying the car parks and bunting off pretty much the entire village so the race can weave its magic through the centre. The car parks are turned into little hubs, the prime car parks are for Elite men, sometimes women…and then the U23, juniors, officials and VIP sponsors of the race. For the Super Prestige and other non-world cup races, the Belgium teams get prime parking and the rest of the elite teams tend to get allocated the narrow streets surrounding…I believe they call that favouritism.
As so happens, you can be parked up next to Jeremy Powers, Marianne Voss or one of the National teams…which is how we made friends with the French, and the Dutch and one of the smaller Belgium run teams (Project Cross). Perhaps they took a little bit of pity on us, they all have their generators, pressure washers, work stands, full one piece waterproof suits and here I was attempting to wash the Boone as it hung precariously off the bike rack at the back of the campervan, and being the girl I am trying not to get too wet or muddy in the process (which, by the way, is impossible). Garry suggested I ask the team next to us to just give it a pressure wash…the guy had just washed about 20 bikes in as many minutes and was standing there watching me, trying to conceal his laughter. So I bit the bullet and went and asked, of course bring it over he said. Within 50 seconds it was clean as a whistle. Anytime I need it washed bring it over he said. I hadn’t thought about the mud encrusted shoes though, I turn around and there is one of the pit crew from the French National Team holding them, “I clean them” off he trots with a big smile on his face and brings them back sparkling (which is also the case for the following world cup, I could get used to this I like not having to wash muddy shoes). And then Project Cross, whose owner Max lived at Palm Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches as a child, recognises Garry from his last visit to Australia at a Terry Hills National CX round, washes Garry’s bike after the race.
I’m not sure if it’s because we are Australian, because we look slightly under prepared or if everyone is just super friendly, but we really have been on the receiving end of lots of sound advice, helping hands, encouraging words and smiling faces. Not to mention all the love we have been getting back home, which is all much appreciated! Nothing better checking the phone at the end of a long cold day and being inundated with Facebook and Instagram messages, ok its getting a little soppy now so ill move on.
As I get the joy of attending managers meetings and selecting the pit area, I had a little run in with one of the UCI men. There are 17 countries for 15 pit areas, therefore 4 countries have to share. We are team 16 to select, as Garry has the help of Greg from The Chainstay at some of the races, who also helps a few USA riders. I selected to pit with USA, for convenience, and NZ was left with Pit 2 next to the Belgies (as a side note, no one wants to be next to the Belgians, they have so many riders they kinda take over a little bit). Suddenly this booming voice yells “NO!” and a man turns and stares at me, “No Australia cannot pit with USA, Australia and NZ have to share, both in pit 2” the girl dutifully changes the order and as everyone turns to look at me I sink a little deeper in my chair and perhaps turned the colour of a tomato. We pit with the USA crew anyway, so he doesn’t know it but I won that battle! Next time I will behave myself and select to pit with NZ as to not have 70 people turn and stare at me. (Figgy this picture is for you…national coach even after getting in trouble)
So now onto the racing, what you are all really here for anyway! Since the last Chronicles, we have had the Huesden Zolder World Cup, Diegem Super Prestige and Loenhout Bpost Bank. Kerstperiode is certainly keeping us busy. Zolder was not the big mans best race, he came through early 40’s on the first lap and then slipped back to the 50’s. To say I feel stressed during the races is an understatement. When I see the guys who were behind him come through before him, everything races through my mind, did he crash? Or roll the tyre off? Maybe a mechanical? As he rides past I can’t see any sign of crashes, obviously not a mechanical as he doesn’t switch bikes…so what happened. Once he finishes I don’t want to ask him why he slipped back 10 places, he already looks pretty smashed mentally and physically. So I have to patiently wait until he proffers the information. Turns out there were a number of big crashes right in front of him that he got caught behind, and a Spaniard got confused between cyclrocross and boxing….
The snow arrives just in time for Deigem, as does Paul Redenbach and the cold! A rude introduction to CX in Europe, the temp hits -5 degrees, the course is covered in snow and ice. The Super Prestige and Bpost Bank races certainly have a much more party atmosphere, the World Cups are very serious, with minimal cheering and certainly no heckling! The start of this race is 5.30pm (usually they start at 3pm), as the riders are called up the crowds are yelling, cheering and bashing their hands on the barriers. The noise is deafening, you can literally feel a buzz in the air, it’s pretty awesome. The light changes to green and the noise gets louder, I stand there for a just a moment to watch them ride off and to soak up the atmosphere before heading to the pits. Garry has a good ride and finishes 40th and Redenbach finished 46th.
We head to Loenhout, Garry pre-rides the course and I go for a run…bad planning on my behalf, its very difficult to run and hold your breath on the other hand it’s hard to run and breath the rank smell of melted cow shit…yes we are in dairy farming country. Loenhout is muddy, thick sloppy mud. So there is a bike change every lap (we didn’t have to do a bike change in Diegem! Yay!) We have the help of Max from Project Cross…thankfully because I am still a novice, hence the fact I got bullied by the Belgians when I tried to wash Pauls bike, literally elbowed out of the way and pushed in front of. Mind you he was about twice my size. Rude none the less! Although I had been warned about their pushiness. Max did the washing after that…he is used to the pushy peeps in the pits. As Garry flew through the pits I was cheering him on and a group of drunk fans decided I would be their new best friend. They threw me a beanie, which landed in the mud, the inside was clean so I put it on anyway! Thanks Boys!! They then started a Garry Millburn cheer squad. Gar-ry Gar-ry Gar-ry, the best bit was they did it for Garry and then when Redenbach came through they cheered Garry again…they were both wearing Australian colours after all! Garry had a great ride even after dropping his chain and nearly made it onto the lead lap, finishing in 38th. Redenbach finished 44th still fighting a bit of jet lag and finding his feet.
Today its New Years day and we are in Baal, at the Bpost Bank Sven Nys GP, the sun is shining and temps are about 6 degrees. There has been a steady stream of people wandering in since about 10am, this is one of the Belgians favourite races, because it’s the Sven race and he really is like a god around here, especially as this is his home town. The course is heavy, with thick clay like mud to really sap the legs. There is a bit of elevation change, some log barriers and a couple of flyovers.
I’ll keep you posted, along with Internationale Centrumcross van Surhuisterveen in The Netherlands and the SOUDAL Cyclocross in Leuvan.
And here is the reward I promised for all that reading…extra photos! Some of the above and below photos were not taken by me, they were taken by Tom Prenan, Max’s Mum or from a few other awesome peeps!
And here are a few pics from the one time we weren’t at a race!