On the weekend of 15th and 16th of October the Yorkshire Cyclo Cross Association organised an overseas excursion for some of our up-and-coming Youth riders. The plan was to give them experience of cyclo cross racing as practiced in the sport’s heartland of Belgium, visiting events at Wuustwezel on the Saturday and Huesden-Zolder on the Sunday.
First job was meeting up at very early o’clock on the Friday with Chris Young our YCCA “Overseas Racing Organiser”. Once we’d gathered all the riders and the volunteer drivers/pit crews, we set off for the Channel Tunnel and from there travelled across to France and on to Belgium. We stayed on the outskirts of Brussels in Deigem, famous for its annual night race and a convenient base, with the two race venues no more than an hour’s drive each day.
The racers who made the trip were Oliver Barker, Eleina McFadden, Elena Green, Madeline Moorhouse-Smith, Luca Bednarek, Jamie Stewart, Noah Ellison and Mackenzie Riley – all of whom fitted neatly into Belgian age category U17. They were supported by Chris, coach Lisa Green, mechanic Kevin Smith and pit technician Ted Sarmiento.
First up was the two-day race event at Wuustwezel, with all the Youth races happening on the Saturday. The course was fairly flat but with a number of tricky technical sections including sand riding, ditches, lumps and other typical Belgian features. It was difficult not to be slightly distracted by all the plush motorhomes and all the young Tormans’ riders on show.
According to Maddie “the Wuustwezel course was technical and sandy with a grass start which then went up a very steep sandy banking. Later on in the course there was a large sand pit. Further on there was a slightly more muddy section in the woods which weaved up and down, with some steep, short climbs out of corners. Throughout the course there was also a lot of man-made bankings, which I found useful to get around other riders, as well as lots of ruts around corners.”
Maddie managed a very credible 4th in her category, just missing a podium spot with Oliver 18th, Eleina 15th, Elena 12th, Luca 19th, Jamie 23rd, Noah 30th and Mackenzie 12th.
An interesting facet of Belgian Youth racing is that all riders are given a random slot on the grid via an iPad app, no matter who they are. So our YCCA racers were scattered all over the start field. That said, the race winner was the local Belgian National Champion who “wins every week” according to our Flemish pit neighbours. No frites were available at this venue, only beer and hot dogs. That didn’t go down well: happily our riders’ frites cravings were satisfied on day two!
The Huesden-Zolder course weaved its way around all sorts of land including up someone’s driveway to create a tight and technical course that included a double flyover with staircase. The pit crew were treated to a ‘dubbel materialpost’ with jet washing facilities but the weather was more like summer ‘cross, so they were rarely used by any of the racers or helpers.
Again, from Maddie’s perspective “Heusden Zolder was even better. There was a grass start which the proceeded to go into a long section in the woods. The section in the woods was quite tight, making it hard to pass people, it also contained a lot of tree roots, some of which I bunny-hopped. After that we went through a sandy section with some tight corners, I personally found these corners hard at race pace as if you went too wide you ran out into the loose sand, however I got to grips with them as the race progressed. The course also contained a set of hurdles and two bridges, one of which had stairs on”.
This time Maddie made it onto the podium having worked hard throughout the race to just put sufficient distance into her Belgian rival on the day. Our other riders all did very well, with Mackenzie looking comfortable in the lead of the boys race until a flattening rear tyre, then a puncture set him back in the field. He recovered really well to take 13th. Other results: Oliver 51th, Eleina 12th, Elena 11th (and what a battle that was!), Luca 28th, Jamie 19th and Noah 22nd.
The trip was funded by the Mike Scott Memorial Fund and the British Cyclo-Cross Trust. All riders have thanked them for their amazing support. YCCA want to continue to provide opportunities for our younger racers to experience the Belgian racing scene and we will be promoting the donation page for the Fund more as we approach the race on the 2nd of January at Peel Park which this year YCCA have designated the Mike Scott Memorial race.
If you want to donate to see more of this, please follow the Just Giving link below: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mike-scott-fund