Thursday, December 30, 2010
Diegem held a Superprestige race on Monday under the lights. And if you read the snippit from my last post, it was frickin' awesome.
Superprestige is a season series consiting of around 10 races in Belgium and the Netherlands. It's one of three season. The Superprestige is organized by the trade teams, as opposed to the national teams like the World Cup. I also learned that night that the Superprestige race has its' own soundtrack.
The Junior race went off first, and immediately it started splitting up. Yannick Eckmann, a German rider who lives in Boulder, CO and is part of the camp, was towards the front. He's a strong rider who's currently in the top 5 in UCI points. He was steadily in the 10 all day, but had crashed in Zolder the day before and had a sore knee. He did end up finishing 10th. The other groups of camp riders were scattered throughout the rest of the standings, but meeting them at the finish line they were all pumped. Andrew Dillman, a Junior racer who's been the top American for a few races, dropped his chain on the third corner after the start. He slowly started picking off riders during the race, but got the most joy out of bunny hopping the barriers. He hopped them one lap and got big cheers. He didn't hop them the next lap and got some jeers. So the last lap he hopped them again and it was a celebration.
The other thing that stood out about the Junior race was watching Geoff Proctor engage with the officials about making sure the American riders got their proper call-ups. It seems to me that at the World Cup that they go strictly by the book, but at this race it seemed a little more lax. At one point, Bjorn Fox looked like he wasn't getting called up so Geoff just sent him up anyway. Nobody said anything. Geoff really does so much on race day...including making sure these riders get what's coming to them.
It was like that all day. The barriers were up by the beer tent, so perhaps that was part of the energy on that part of the course. One of the interesting things about the crowd, especially with the elite race, is that the roars are huge for the front group. But the farther it gets back in the crowds, the quieter it gets. It can be an odd thing, with the crowd just staring at the riders and not making noise. Ryan Iddings, an elite racer, described it in his blog post for cyclingnews.com....saying that you can hear the crickets chirping. Not that there are crickets out there...but you get it. Right?
The crowd was large. I searched the internet for numbers, but was unsuccesful in finding a number. I'd say 20,000+ thousand. Maybe that's high, and maybe it's low....maybe that's why I settled on that number.
All of the top riders have huge fan clubs. Supporters if you will, that carry large banners and flags, and wear jackets that show their affiliation. They can be somewhat aggressive about it as well. At the podium presentation after Neils Albert won, his supporters were right behind me signing at the top of their lungs. Waving flags, screaming for me to take their photo, and cheering loudly when he stepped onto the top step of the podium.
Speaking of taking photos, I got more request at Diegem to take photos of fans than any other race so far. It usually starts with a couple of folks saying something to me in Flemish. I say "English" and then they smile. Most start talking in English, but some can't. Whatever the case, I get the gist of it. They then put their arm around their buddy and smile big for the camera.
The best way I can describe Diegem is what I said earlier, Rolling Thunder times 1,000....maybe more. It's just a huge party with a bike race going through it. The screams, the flags, the banging on the barriers and the singing.
For some photos and a short article on I wrote for Cyclocross Magazine you can go here. And to view additional photos, you can visit here.
Posted by tom at 1:04 PM
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The second World Cup for me was in Zolder. At least I think Zolder is a town, for sure it's an F1 Speedway. The other things that I know off the top of my head about it is that it hosts a lot of World Cup cross races, and a couple of years ago it hosted the World Championships in Cyclocross and there were 60,000 spectators. I don't think their were that many this year, but there were a lot. At one point, I think a quarter of them were in the beer tent. In fact, an hour after the race was over, I think all those folks were still in the beer tent singing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline".
Zolder, like the rest of the races I've shot here, was snowy. And not only snowy, but compact, slick snow. This led to a lot of crashes...both for the racers, and for the people walking around. The car I was traveling in had to get pushed out of places a couple of times. But the more beer the Belgians drink, the more they want to help you push your car.
If you poke around on the internet, you might be able to find some highlights of the race. And those highlights will most likely be one crash after another. The whole race was a crash....just amazing. For the Americans, Danny Summerhill was the top placed racer in any of the racers (as far as the Euro Cross Campers go... Katie Compton crushed the women's field. I mean crushed it). Danny was hovering around the top 10 and crashed 3 times alone on the last lap. He finished 13th.
I'll look for a video to post soon. I just threw up a link to the photos from the race. There's also a link to the race from Diegem last night. I really want to write more about that, and will in the next day or two. I've been going to sporting events since I was two (that's what happen when you grow up where I did...you start with college football pretty early). I've been to all sorts of pro and college sporting events.... World Series games, National Championship games, Major golf and tennis events, a World Cup Soccer event, and the last two weeks of the 2004 Tour de France. But last night's cyclocross race through the streets of Diegem topped them all. It ended with me shooting the podium, and Neils Albert's fans right behind me singing at the top of their lungs (He won). That was right after he had cross the finish line where there must have been 2,000 people banging on the barriers. I'm getting chills just thinking about it. (Shaun.....Rolling Thunder needs barriers for folks to bang on).
But more about that later. There's an early wake up call for a race tomorrow.
Posted by tom at 12:25 PM
I saw something yesterday that made me realize why Belgians are so good at cyclocross. Two kids, fully kitted out, were zipping around on their cross bikes between the U23 and Elite races at Diegem. The one in green was working on his dismounts and shouldering his bike. Someone later told me it was Sven Nys' son. If he has Sven's genetics, I'd say he has a couple of legs up on his future competitors. He was pretty smooth in his transitions.
More to come from the World Cup in Zolder, and the night racing in Diegem. The race in Diegem under the lights was amazing. Think Rolling Thunder times 1,000....at least. The course completely lined with spectators, sometimes 6 and 7 deep. And the beer tent almost the size of a football field.
Posted by tom at 1:41 AM