By Bjorn Haake in Gent, Belgium
After winning the UIV Cup at the Gent Six Days decisively, Tosh van der Sande and Stijn Steels can enjoy a bit of party time before going back to studying at school and preparing for the road season.
Steels revealed his plans, saying that, "It is Tosh's birthday next week and we will celebrate that." He added that the past week was also a party of sorts. "Many people come to the Gent Six Days not only for the track cycling, but also for partying. There are a lot of students here," said Steels.
The Gent crowd is much more excitable than in other countries. "It is very pleasant to ride here," Steels said. "In Munich there were only around 200 people for the UIV Cup races. But you see here, there are maybe one or two thousand people. That's the difference. You can feel it on the bike also – you can go deeper."
Steels will now take a complete break from riding for two weeks, before picking up running. "I have tough exams coming up in January and I don't have the time to sit for hours on my bike. I will try to go running every day for 40 to 50 minutes." When the exams are over he plans to go to Spain for a week, focusing on long rides. "After that I am OK and I can pick it up with the guys [from the team]."
Van Der Sande goes to school in Gent as well, but he has no major exams in the pipeline. "My next race will be the World Cup in Beijing [January 16-18]." He agreed with Steels about the enthusiastic crowd. "I go to school in Gent and live here during the school year. It's a special feeling." Van der Sande's hometown is Antwerp.
His dream is to become a professional road racer and he has good prerequisites. Van der Sande rides for Beveren 2000, the Quick Step feeder team. He called the win his second best, after taking the points race in the junior world championships in South Africa this year. Despite the successes, he knows that turning professional is not easy. "It's a long way away," he explained.