Posted by Editoress on 01/30/04
'Cross Superprestige #6 Hoogstraten, Belgium
Wendy Simms, Norm Thibault and Corey ? are racing `cross in Europe. Wendy in preparation for the World Championships on January 31 and February 1st in Pont-Chateau, France. Below is their report from Sunday's Super Prestige in Belgium.
I can tell you a lot about this race but first of all it is HUGE. The race was outside of a town called Meer, Hoogstraten in a park. BUT you have got to understand. The course is about 3 km long and there are spectators along every meter of it. Both sides. SO about 8 thousand spectators on the course. Another 4 thousand spectators in the beer garden that had no secutiry, cheep beer, live bands, and live race coverage. It was AWESOME. We have some cool pÃƒÂ®ctures which we will post on canadiancyclist and frontrunners.ca when we get home. Every move in the race was cheered. Every racer was a hero. Every spectator had a wicked time. It was bike racing HEAVEN. Wendy raced awesome.....her report follows.
The Course, as we mentioned before, the theme in Belgium is sand. The super prestige course did not have as much sand as the Masters worlds course but it had enough to make things interesting. Lots of turns and changes of rhythm. But for the most part no big hills and it was FAST.
The race.....I consider myself a strong girl but when the gun went off I got my butt kicked by a bunch of 15 year old boys. They were super agro. There were only four girls (US team of Alison Dunlap Gina Hall and Carmen D'Alusio) and myself (Samantha had been told the wrong info and showed up for the start of the next race). There was a massive pile up on the first corner that I managed to avoid....
The race started with a 200m stretch of pavement that took a hard left into a sandy section. The 50+ juniors were squirrley off the start and somebody must have gone down because when I took the corner tight there was a big pile-up in the center. I just managed to squeek by without having to get off my bike.
I had no idea where the other girls were so I just tried to hold my own against the juniors that first lap. I didn't do very well - I was getting beat up by a bunch of 15 year old boys weighing in at a buck twenty. I got punched, kicked and yelled at in the first half lap. I was also having a hard time getting off the bike because I had never raced more than a dozen girls at a time which spreads out nicely-you never have to fight for the best line. These juniors were all over the place and in the places I wanted to be so I have to say my dismounts the first laps were pretty pathetic.
I was holding my own until Alison Dunlap blew by me at the start of the second lap. I was pretty surprised because I had just assumed the American girls were ahead of me. She pulled away pretty fast but it did give me hope that the other girls might be behind me after the crash. At the start of the second lap Corey screamed out that Alison Dunlap was only 5 seconds ahead (Norm tells me it was more like 10-15 but I like Coreys storey better)-
I thought that sounded pretty cool! Alison Dunlap who I read about in magazines was only 5 seconds ahead! Focus Wendy. I held a pretty good pace for the second lap and Gina Hall came up at the start of the third-I held her wheel for longer but she slowly pulled ahead during the third lap. The rest of the race I couldn't see the other girls and juniors kept passing me. Apparently Carmen D'Alusio was only two riders back at one point but I never knew and I guess I pulled away after the juniors spread out and I was finally able to ride my lines.
I even started recognizing a few Belgian fans screaming my name! They hand out programs to the spectators so they could figure out who the Canadian was. That also means they knew who the idiot was that kept riding after the race was over - I had no idea how many laps the race was and I had no idea that I had been lapped by the lead junior so I flew through the finish and started a new lap full speed.
First I started noticing fans on the course, no-one in front of me, then pros started warming up on the course and it started to dawn on me that my race was over. Not a very commanding finishÃ¢Ë†â€˜Ã¢Ë†â€˜oh well. In the end I was 40th out of 41 finishers. Third out of 4 girls. I wasn't ecstatic over my race but I wasn't upset either. On a high note it was the first race that I have ever been paid an appearance fee-15 euros!
I love Belgium! I love the people, the country, the towns and the food. Maybe the bakeries a bit too much! I was already getting sad that we had to leave and we hadn't even started packing yet.
The day we had at the Super Prestige race was amazing. Watching Wendy's race was great, she raced strong especially considering her race schedule ended quite a while ago. The course was also very tough, again with lots of sand. We also got a good dose of bike porn hanging around the sign in area, so many wicked bikes from companies I didn't even know made cyclocross bikes.
After Wendy's race we hooked up with Frank and Johan which was cool. First to see them again and they also filled us in with the inside scoop. They showed us the best spots to watch, who to watch for and when Bart Wellens seemed to sit up in the final sprint it was to let team-mate Erwin Verveckin win. Wellens hopes to take the Worlds, so we're told.
We were quite curious about this one Belgian team that wore white leg warmers, arm warmers, shorts and jerseys. Found out that they get new kit every race! I mean why wouldn't we have known that.
The pace the elite men set blew me away, so smooth through the corners and so fast in the straights. It was cool seeing all the supporters of cyclocross wearing their jackets with supporter of Bart Wellens or supporter of Sven Niis on them.
After the race Frank treated us to some Belgian beer in the beer garden, I suspect that some of the fans had spent too much time in there. I think maybe the Dutch fans did too, belting out "Take me home country road" at the top of their lungs that sort of gave it away!
The beer garden had the usual, trying to please every one music with a few Belgian tunes mixed in and then came "my mother's coat". I had never heard a Belgian band before and I'll probably not run and get their cd but they did seem to have a lot of fans. I don't know what I would do if I saw 10,000 fans at a cycling event in Canada but it sure would be cool to see a few more.
We stopped by Frank's shop the next morning to say good-bye and then we started out for France. We were so lucky to have met Frank and Johan, and too have had such good time in Belgium that it really was tough to leave but we had to carry on with our one objective, put Wendy on the podium. One last note, it really is unbelievable how much stuff Norm can pack in a small space, ie: our rental car!
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