Belgium, January 4, 2007
Tonkin is the man in St. Niklaas. For the third year in a row, he had a supporters crew that could rival Sven Nys. On the way to the start line today, I asked Tonkin if he had seen his fans yet, and he replied that he’d only seen a couple.
Coming around a corner on the second lap it became apparent that Tonkin’s fans were out in force. All I could hear was "Go Erik " and "We love you Erik". After the race the supporters came over with a banner that had "Love Erik" written on it. They all had "kodac" to have their "photo" taken with the king himself.
Tonkin attracted his support crew four years ago because he was the only rider that smiled when they cheered for him and he had a beard. But don’t worry, Tonkin said that he told his fans that they had to adopt me after he hangs up his skinsuit and hairy legs.
Before the race, Tonkin and I were talking about how different the courses are in Europe compared to the States. On the six minute lap today it had more sand, mud, and off camber sections than we face in the entire cross season in America. Today the only thing that saved the bikes was being able to ride in the lake in order to clean out the drivetrain.
I also witnessed a baby Nys out doing laps around the running track on his custom Colnago with Shimano carbon wheels with world champion edition Dugasts. I think the little guy put in more miles than his dad today. Next year he will be taking part in the niewelingen (juniors >16) 'crosses.