By Gregor Brown in Diegem
Nathan Chown of Handlebars - Queen City Cyclists is getting a taste of European cyclo-cross racing at the highest level. The Canadian from Toronto has been racing World Cups to C2-ranked races in Belgium for the last two weeks.
"I came over on the 19th of December," noted Chown to Cyclingnews before the start of the Elite Men's Superprestige race in Diegem, Belgium. "I really just came over for some days to get experience, and really see what it is all about. In North America, it is less technical and more about power. Here you have to have the power but if you don't have the technical skills it does not matter how strong you are."
We witnessed Chown deal with the technical aspects of cyclo-cross racing the day before in Middelkerke, on the windy and muddy course in West Flanders. He fought hard in a field that included greats like Sven Nys (Rabobank) and Bart Wellens (Fidea Cycling Team), though many positions back. Eventually, mud and small rocks of the C2-ranked race locked up his rear derailleur and spelled the end of his day.
"Yesterday, in Middelkerke, I ripped off my rear derailleur just after the pits. On this course you can't get away with one bike – it is that type of course."
Chown knew lining up for the Diegem race that he was not going to win or even get on the podium, however he had his own objectives: "Finishing is definitely possible," he continued.
"It [the Superprestige] is kind of a different level race than a World Cup – I think in the World Cups these guys are able to really pick it up a couple of levels. This race might be one of those, but there are enough areas, like in a sand section or a technical muddy part, where I am not going to lose time. If I can finish on the same lap [as the winner] then that would be really good." He battled valiantly in the race won by Nys, but was lapped along with five others.
Chown boarded a transatlantic flight to return home and celebrate a late Christmas with his extended family after Diegem. "I live just a little bit west of Toronto, Canada, in a place called St. Catherines. I have a good group that I train with there – when in Europe I am staying at The Cycling Center, which works out pretty good and there is good support."
The main support comes from his partner, "I am here with my wife, and this is our last day; we are going back tomorrow," he said in Diegem.