The USA Cycling Cyclo-cross Development Program was designed to develop the next generation of American cyclo-cross talent in the categories of under-26 women, under-23 men and junior men. Its primary focus is on international competition including World Cups and the World Championships. The program supports three blocks of racing overseas for the development riders. The third block is based in Vorselaar, Belgium and includes the Bpost Bank Trofee series event in Essa, the World Cups in Namur and Zolder, Superprestige Diegem, and Bpost Bank Trofee events in Loenhout and Baal.
Check out the latest blog installment from junior rider Gage Hecht from the World Cup in Namur. Hecht is one of the top junior riders in the country. This season, he won the junior men's title at the Pan American Continental Cyclo-cross Championships held in Covington, Kentucky and the junior race held at the World Cup in Koksijde.
The UCI World Cup in Namur, Belgium takes place around the Citadel that sits above the town. The Citadel is one of the largest in Europe and has influenced much of its history. Because of its location, the course holds a challenge for all of the competitors. The circuit in Namur is like no other circuit of racing I have seen before. A combination of the large elevation difference, the difficulties of the tough terrain, and the mud all played huge roles in making this course one of my favorites and one that I will not forget.
Many courses in the US consist of grass, corners and barriers. It's not to say that I don't enjoy the courses and the races in the US, but none measure up to the difficulties and challenges that Namur holds.
Within minutes of arriving at the pre-ride the day before the race, I began to realize the amount of climbing that the course presented. The start follows a road off the side of one of the houses within the walls. As the course continues on we would climb up and descend down the side of the hill that the Citadel sits on, many times. After just one lap in the pre-ride with the team, we were all out of breath.
Another aspect that played an influential role in the difficulty of the course was the terrain. Because of the elevation, the course held many technical sections. A few of these were large descents. I have never seen anything as steep as them in a race before. They were probably one of my favorite parts of the course. Another challenge of the course was the off camber section. This section required most of the riders to hold one foot out to help balance the bike as the riders traversed across it.
On top of all the difficult features of the course, the mud made it much more difficult. The area had received rain the week before. The team knew the course would be muddy because we had already ridden in the rain for the two days prior. The day before the race was extremely muddy and slippery. The race the day after was slightly drier, but the course conditions had not changed much. The mud caused a large amount of difficulty to be added to the already hard sections. The consistency of the mud was much different than most of the mud I have ridden through in the past as well. The best way to describe it is by relating it to peanut butter.
I was able to finish fifth in the race. After all of the work that went into getting to this achievement, I am very happy with the result. I wish I could do it again!