It was good to go back to Roubaix. My first visit to the mecca of cycling took place in 2009, only two weeks after moving to London from Budapest. It was a great race, my first ever muddy cyclocross race, it was a culture shock, in a good way. I was back next year, during the 2009/2010 season but there was a two-year hiatus afterwards and the race was missing from the calendar, only to return this year.
The course was similar to the course I had known and the lack of rain promised fast and exciting racing. An added bonus was that they took the accreditation very seriously and you had to go through three checkpoints before you were allowed to enter the press centre – an unusual but amusing arrangement. The press centre was located in the ground floor of the newly built velodrome, I took a look around in the morning and it is a beautiful track, though slightly small.
The racing was quite good but a few things stood out for me. First of all, Sanne Cant’s crash in the first lap. I didn’t see crash itself but I was on my way there when it happened and I saw Cant lying on the ground and crying for help. She was in a lot of pain and it was hard to watch. What was even worse how the organisers handled the matter. Instead of either stopping the race or extracting her as soon as possible, they moved her a bit further back but Nikki Harris, unaware of what had happened, took the wrong line and slid into Cant who was lying on a stretcher by then. Both riders were lucky that nothing more serious had happened.
The other interesting development was the strength of the Swiss on the day. A few days prior to the race I had read an article from Dan Seaton who argued that one should keep an eye on Jasmin Achermann, as she had finished consistently in the top 10 this season. Thus, seeing Achermann in the front of the race wasn’t that much of a surprise. I think it is really good to see a new face on the front, not just the usual suspects and she’s also young, which means that she’s got plenty of time to gain experience.
Right after the race I ran over to Achermann to record her reaction to her result and I saw that she was really upset and crying. While I knew about the sad accident that claimed the life of the loved Swiss national team mechanic Erwin Wildhaber, I didn’t connect the dots and I assumed that she was upset because of something that had happened during the race. When I raised the issue to a few journalists, we found out that she got emotional because of Wildhaber’s death and later I also discovered in the photos a black ribbon on her left arm.
When the elite men arrived at my sight, I noticed that Julien Taramarcaz was leading the race. It wasn’t unusual as he often sprints away and tries to shine for a lap or two – but this time it was different. He stayed at the front and he kept the pressure on Niels Albert. When they left the stadium for the last lap, he was part of the leading group and the Sven Nys – Kevin Pauwels – Niels Albert trio only managed to get rid of him only in the last few hundred meters. While he would have been happier with a place on the podium, his best ever World Cup result made him a very happy man – and it made very happy me and probably quite a few fans, maybe it signals the rebirth of the Swiss cyclocross sport?
After an honest day’s work, we headed back to London, when we hit a massive queue straight after Lille and the detour took us a lot of time, so we missed our designated Eurotunnel train. To complicate matters further, we were running low on fuel and we got to the point where we weren’t sure we would be able to get back to Calais. All was well, eventually but it was good reminder, that I need to allow myself more time to get back to Calais in the future. Enjoy the photos and check back on Saturday for the photos of the Scheldecross from Antwerp!