Belgium, December 27, 2006
Today was the first World Cup race of the camp and first for many, including myself and all the juniors aside from Danny. The course consisted of mostly sandy dirt and some woods sections however, the biggest attraction for the spectators was the double 350 meter sand pits.
The venue was along a lake and some of the course, including the pits, were right on the beach, so riders were forced to ride through sand that was almost a foot deep by the time we raced. Obviously those like Barry Wicks, and Ryan Trebon whose legs are like giraffes' were at an advantage.
Sand aside, the course was pretty fun to ride and there were two bridges over a pond that required some skill. There were deathly steep drops on either side that were pretty slick due to wet dirt being carried onto the surface.
Lars Boom, Fidea and a world champ favorite, and Neils Albeirt collided early in the race and Lars' seat was ripped off. That forced him to ride a rather uncomfortable bike all the way around the course to the pits before he could really get back in the race, by which time he was back around 40th or so. He eventually worked his way up to the top 20.
I remember seeing a saddle on one of the canal overpasses, during the race, and later on TV, I would have stopped to grab it as a momento had I known whose it was!
Nothing truly eventful happened in the elite race, aside from the fact that Sven Nys did not win and was not even on the podium, he placed fifth. But seeing as he is Sven Nys, he was still loved by everyone.
Today I was able leave the venue and get back to the house in time to watch 'cross on TV live, which was pretty cool knowing how popular the sport is over here. It was amazing watching Sven, Erwin and the other Rabobank and Fidea riders fly through every section I was struggling through.
The crowds here are unbelievably big here, there were thousands of people here today. The whole course was lined about three people deep everywhere, including the bridges. However, despite the large size which brings in lots of start and prize money the cheering is rather depressing as they will only cheer for there favorite rider and have no respect for anyone else out there racing.
Even when Erwin Verveken, a fellow Belgian, was winning by about 20 seconds the crowds were rather quiet for 8000 people, until Sven came by and then they erupted. The same was true for our race. Neils Albeirt and Zdnek Stybar were the only two getting applauded. This is where racing in the US is nicer, but getting money for starting a race is pretty nice.
Tomorrow is a training, rest, and massage day with nothing important going on, aside from bike maintenance and sleeping. I am still battling a cold, as are many of the other riders here.