As I recalled in the Ronse race preview, the weather was rightly called epic during last year’s race. This time around, we were a lot luckier.
The women started their race in wonderful sunshine but Elle Anderson’s crash in the first corner wreaked much havoc in the field. While Ellen van Loy and others involved in the crash, including Anderson, managed to salvage the race more or less, Sanne Cant felt the full weight of her illness and family problems and she could never really recover.
It was just a week ago when I was having dinner with Anderson and Sophie de Boer. They were talking about the different aspects of the new team, the sponsors, the team around them and concluded, that all they need are some good results. Well, de Boer took matters in her own hands.
“There was a crash on the course and I had to brake really hard, but I could pass them. In the first two laps, Nikki already had a gap and I had heavy legs but I slowly started to recover and I thought I do my own race. I could slowly close the gap and then Helen had some problem with her chain and I could make gap. I tried to ride my own pace but in the last lap the running was so hard, I didn’t really enjoy it, it was really hard”
A few hours before the race, I talked to Stef Wyman, who claimed that Helen wasn’t in a good form, still feeling the jet lag in her lags. In spite of that, Helen had a good race, as she later added, “I didn’t feel it today, really, the running was really hard. I come from really fast racing in America and yesterday was quite fast, it was ok for me, but today was a lot harder”.
I arrived at the same time at Ronse as Zdenek Stybar and his hulking OPQS camper, and the cheers aimed at the bus indicated that he is just as popular as during his full-time cross racing years. The return of the rainbow jersey to the sport, however brief it might be, was definitely one of the highlights of the race, even though Stybar couldn’t really leave his mark on the race.
It was really hard for me, I suffered a lot. I had a pretty good start but then at the running parts, I suffered a lot. The legs are not ready for running.
Sven Nys seemed unstoppable on the day. He was leading almost from the beginning and it soon became obvious that the real battle was going to be for the second and third places. A bigger group of five riders trailed Nys, with Lars van der Haar, Klaas Vantornout, Mathieu van der Poel and Kevin Pauwels. Lars van der Haar was sitting on the back of the group for almost half of the race, I was wondering if it was just a tactic to save as he tried to pull away mid-way. He couldn’t really shake off the others, who stayed together for the most part of the race.
Mind you, Mathieu van der Poel is still just a 19 year old, so he had to fight really hard to keep up with the others.
It was really hard. I did the first two laps at my maximum and then I had to recover and it was very difficult to keep up with the others.
I took one of my favourite photo of the day, when van der Poel finished the race, rolled a few meters beyond the finish line and then leant onto the barriers, unable to move or even to get off the bike. His thousand yard stare shows the suffering of the previous sixty minutes.
Next week, the first World Cup will be held in Valkenburg. A similar course to Ronse, lots of ups and downs, peppered with a fair amount of running. To make it more interesting, the cream of the American elite will pay its first visit to Europe, both Katie Compton and Jeremy Powers will be racing there. Both are in great form, so some exciting racing is on the cards for next Sunday.
In the meantime, check out my gallery from last year’s race at Valkenburg.
And to perfectly end the day, as soon as I started the car to drive home, it started raining. Now, that’s what I call timing.
As you could see above, I did something yesterday that I’d never done before: pushed a microphone in front of riders and asked them a few questions. It’s new to me, so if it’s rubbish, be gentle. If you liked it, do let me know. Leave a comment, send me a tweet or email me what you think.
Do you want to relive the best moments of the 2013/2014 cyclocross season? Check out my chronicle of the 13/14 season in a coffee table album, over 200, gorgeous photos on over 240 pages.