This week we are fortunate to get yet another great update from our on-the-ground-Belgian-based- GrassMoots racer, writer, mud lover & astrophysicist extraordinaire Dan Seaton. Dan has been dishing out great reports at first for Cyclocross Magazine, then for our GrassMoots Team and now he’s gone big time and been “acquired” by the mighty Velonews syndicate. This past week he raced in what sounds like some serious butt kicking mud, then he switched gears to report on the mayhem that was Koppenberg Cross on Monday…..A GVA event in Belgium that attracted over 16,000 fans on a national holiday for the dead. What a week!
First a little video of the action from Monday…..last lap of the Koppenberg cross. Nys rides a flat tire for half of the last lap, before getting a bike change….before the flat these guys were running somewhere around 22-24psi in those handmade Dugast Rhinos…..unreal!
Dan writes in about his week of rolling in the mud, team work and covering Belgian Cyclocross……
When people say that cycling is a team sport, I assume they’re talking about tactics and domestiques and lead-out men rather than soigneurs and mechanics and team directors. These people would probably argue that Cyclocross is not a team sport, at least here in Belgium, where we’ve been treated to battles royal between teammates Zdenek Stybar and Kevin Pauwels almost every week of the season. And if race tactics are your only measure, this assertion is probably not unreasonable.
But after this weekend I can say convincingly that Cyclocross is very much a team sport, albeit a NASCAR-style team sport, where what happens in the pits determines who wins and losses on the track. (In fact, there’s probably an argument to be made that Cyclocross in Flanders is the moral equivalent to NASCAR in the American south, but we’ll save that story for another time.) All weekend the story was the action in the pits, and clean bikes, frequent changes, and good luck made the difference.
The weekend started in Nossegem, in fields literally at the end of the runway of Brussels’ airport, where we headed to the Patattencross on Sunday.
Despite the fact that the day itself was nice, weeks of wet weather here in Belgium had turned much of the course into a swamp. Probably more than a third of the course was just unrideable, and the parts that were ride able were just barely so. And here’s where the team aspect kicks in for me:
Mindi, my mechanic/soigneur/photographer/coach/wife worked some kind of miracle to keep the wheels turning and keep me moving forward. When some racers had to pull over and clean their bikes mid-race, I could just keep pedaling. Of the people I managed to pass, she probably gets credit for the majority of them, just because of the huge advantage a clean bike gave me.
Off the bike I spent a good chunk of the race just trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep moving up, and it worked. More than once I passed guys who had cracked on one of the several hundred meters long, knee-deep mud sections. And I was loving the difference my Psychlo-X made when I had to shoulder it — it’s pounds lighter than any other bike I’ve every raced, and those pounds count!
Dan…early in his race on a clean bike…..it was much different later that hour…
Only one photo this time, I’m sorry to say. Mindi was waaaay too busy in the pits keeping my bikes clean to have time to take any other pictures. (As you can see, I’m still pretty much clean in this photo, so you can tell it’s the first minutes of the race, before we plunged into the unbelievable mud.)
In the end I was satisfied, if not thrilled with the results. I passed quite a few people and, I thought, rose to the challenge of the hardest race this season. Actually, it seems like every race this year has been harder than the last one, but somehow I keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Mud continued as the theme on Monday — a holiday here in Belgium — when we went out to the Koppenberg for the second time this year. We were joined by 16,000 other fans that crowded the course to watch one of the biggest, hardest races of the season, the GVA Trofee’s Koppenbergcross. (You can read the whole story here):
Watching Sven Nys ride away to a huge solo victory was a graphic reminder of what it takes to win a ‘cross race. Nys ran his tires nearly flat, had two well-oiled teams to keep his bikes clean, and and steers through the mud with both courage and finesse. It was inspiring.
And such inspiration couldn’t have come at a better time: next week we head to Zegelsem for a race that has become one of my favorites. It’s like a mini-koppenberg, with difficult climbs, some very technical descents, and mud, mud, mud. I can’t wait!