Andy Seltzer writes…
Thanks to the internet I proved just how easy it is to make last minute arrangements to watch Cyclo Cross in the sports heart land of Belgium, and where better to start than the Queen of the Cross the World Cup round at Koksijde or the “Dune Cross”.
Accompanied by Pauls Blackmore and Harris we spent Friday night sampling the delights of the Industrial town of Dunkerque spending the night in the nearby Campanile motel along with some of the riders from the next day’s race.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny perfect conditions for spectating. We reached Koksijde at mid morning to find some of the roads closed for the race. Another indication that this was going to a bit different from the usual local league events was that we parked up on an old airfield where there was already several hundred cars parked and a courtesy coach was laid on to transport people to the circuit.
Once inside the circuit with Paul Blackmore reeling from the shock of paying 14 euros to enter, muttering “It’s free to watch a road race”. We headed off around the course to watch the Espoirs/u23 race that had just started. At this stage the crowd was still relatively small at was easy to get about the 3km circuit which consisted of closed road, hard sandy trails, a cross over bridge and four major run ups on sand dunes that seemed to be able to break all but the strongest of competitors.
After the espoirs race had finished there was time to have a look around the start village where the women were warming up on the rollers for their race. The cross bikes on display would out shine most peoples road bikes if it’s not carbon you can’t come in. This was also the place where the cross stars like Sven Nys and Erwin Vervecken had parked their luxury campers your ability was reflected in the size of your camper.
With a good helping of frites and mayonnaise we were all set up for the start of the Women’s race where Helen Wyman gave the large British contingent in the crowd something to cheer about with a battling ride holding onto fourth place for most of the race finishing and eventual fifth just dropping a place on the last lap, with Dutch rider Daphny Van de Brand the winner.
By the time the Elite Men’s race stared the vocal crowd had swelled considerably. We had found a good place to watch next to the cross over bridge and also in sight of the large TV. screen. The pace of the leading riders was stunning probably riding faster on sand than I can on tarmac. National hero Sven Nys started the early laps just outside the top ten but proceeded to forge his way through the field, as Belgium National Champion Bart Wellens took the early lead. Not even a fall on the large sand dune descent could stop Nys and a stunning attack on the last lap riding where others were running sealed victory.
One thing we had missed out on was a trip to the beer tent this was soon remedied after the race where we discovered the massive crowd around the circuit was matched by a similar one inside the tent, a swift drink and it was back to the car and join the queue to get out.