Going wild in the country

If you think cyclo-cross has taken off in the UK in recent years you should do yourself a favour and visit Belgium for a Superprestige series race meeting.

Last weekend we visited the Gavere meet just outside Ghent, where tens of thousands gathered to watch huge stars such as Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels power round a ridiculously muddy and technical course in the grounds of a stately home.

The riders’ amazing bike handling skills were matched only by the enthusiasm of those watching them from every possible vantage point around the course - more often than not with a plastic glass of beer in one hand and a paper plate of mayo-sodden chips in the other.

TV cameras were there to capture the action, the highlights of which were shown on national news programmes at the end of the day. After the races, hordes of rowdy CX fans poured into the vast fan tent to cheer on the cheesy but wildly enthusiastic singer and his dancing girls as they belted out Europop anthems and pranced around the stage.

It all shows just what’s possible when TV coverage generates enough commercial sponsorship to turn what could so easily have been a bunch of grim-faced riders charging around a soggy, deserted field into a joyous, circus-like celebration of a fantastically watchable and thrilling sport.

We’ll be sharing our wonderful Belgian CX adventure in much more detail in the next issue of Simpson - including what it feels like to ride an elite-level course on a top-of-the-range Ridley CX bike with the latest SRAM ‘cross componentry. Meanwhile, it’s back to the warm tea and wintry delights of the British CX scene for us.