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Had my lunch eaten in Belgium at Worlds
Last Post 12/14/2019 08:18 AM by Cosmic Kid. 4 Replies.
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12/13/2019 04:24 AM
Cut to the chase… A few months ago I booked a flight to Belgium to race Masters Cyclocross World Championship. Don’t make this a bigger deal than it is since in my age category all you need is a UCI license, a passport, bike and $50 for the entry fee. I think they’re happy to round up enough old geezers to fill up a couple rows in the starting grid and are particularly delighted to have some fresh American meat to slaughter.

Last year I mentioned to my wife that I’d be in the next age category up and would be cool to race in Belgium. For my birthday she gave me a Rick Steves Guide to Belgium book with all that it implied. Did I marry well or what?

I tagged along with a group from Kansas City who made all the arrangements for airport shuttles and lodging. We stayed close enough to the course to just ride over.

The day before the race we pre-rode the course, day of we went out for an hour or so warm up, did a few openers then rolled to the staging area and waited for call-ups. There were only 16 in my age group so the worst would be second row, I was called 7th so to the front row I went. After our group they called up 3 more age categories then four women’s fields. The men all started on one whistle, a 30 second gap and all the women went.

I’ve raced a bunch of cool places, Jingle Cross, Trek CXC, Cincy, Louisville, Ruts-and-Guts, some national championships, and a lot of smaller races but this was over the top cool. The promoter didn’t have to resort to any gimmicks for wacky stuff to make the course hard. Racing on Belgian sand made it so. You ride as hard and as fast as you can then hit the sand which is light and fluffy and before you stuff the front wheel and face plant (which Mathieu van der Poel did in his race) you get off and run full gas 200+ meters through the stuff before jumping back on to drill it another few hundred meters then hit another sand section. I’ve raced courses that were harder technically but the running was just brutal. Like I said it wasn’t like running on a beach, we rode that section, we ran in that fluffy, keep the knees up, peg the heart rate, hope you don’t stumble sand. In total the sand sections probably accounted for 600 of the 2400 meter lap.

I ended up 12th out of 16, beat the other American in my field. I went over grossly undertrained and ended up where I belonged.

Masters Worlds is at Zilvermeer again next year before moving to England for a couple years.

Side stories
Van der Poel had six bikes next to the team bus. Six, yes they were all his, the WC stripes made it impossible to not know which bikes were his and which were his teammates.
His car license plate is MVDP 1

By the time the pros raced the course had been raced on for a couple of days and there were sections that had a solid ridable line burned in but they still had to do a lot of running.

We saw several Ineos people wheeling bike cases through the Brussels airport, a few minutes later we passed a Lotto-Soudal group.

The chocolate… good heavens it’s fantastic!
The waffles… good heavens they’re fantastic!

One of the group, after the race, and after several Belgian beers, crashed into a tree and broke her leg. The medical system is first rate. The cost was next to nothing and the staff kept apologizing that the crutches and medicines were so expensive, less than $100 total.

We went for a several hour ride with one of the locals, just cruised around and worked our way into the Netherlands. Ate lunch, stopped at a coffee shop. All the while passing little towns, WW2 monuments (one was a crash site of a British Lancaster bomber), WW1 sites (the border where the fence was charged with 2,000 volts to prevent escape into neutral Holland). Statues and monuments to both wars are everywhere. Sobering to realize those tank battles, air raids, blown up bridges, and death were in peoples yards, neighborhoods and towns where they lived and worked.

Bike paths are everywhere, loads of people on bikes— mail carriers, people going to work, shopping, teenagers being teenagers, cargo bikes loaded with kids or groceries… or both. Practical bikes with fenders, electric assist, lights, chain guards, kick stands. Not many drop bar road bikes. Outside the race venue I saw less than a dozen.

My age category at US Nats in Tacoma was about the same size but in the younger age groups the fields are larger in the US than at Zilvermeer.

The crowds at the pro race was good sized but very quiet, not much boisterous cheering. In the US at races where the Euros come over the fans go bonkers. I've had some of the pros tell me they like racing in the US because the level of enthusiasm even with smaller crowds dwarfs what they have in Europe
Orange Crush


12/13/2019 09:26 AM
Nice report Dale. Sounds like an excellent adventure. And with the lessons learned you'll kill it next year, right?

As I mentioned on the FB you were a bike ride away from my hometown.

There are plenty of drop bar bikes around but most will be safely stored for winter. What you witnessed is the great bike commute philosophy disconnect between Europe (cruise to work in the outfit you'll wear in the office) and North America (getting to work...its a race).


12/13/2019 09:34 AM
Good read! Thanks.


12/13/2019 01:04 PM
Great report, thanks
Cosmic Kid


12/14/2019 08:18 AM
Awesome report...sounds like a great trip.

I see those sand sections on the race videos and I keep thinking “Hard pass...NFW.”

Glad you went and got that experience!!
Just say "NO!" to WCP!!!!
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