This weekend will see the start of the Bpost Bank Trofee series in Ronse, run by the Belgian sports marketing giant, Golazo. The series†used to be called the GVA Trofee, short for Gazet Van Antwerpen. Their sponsorship, after 25 years of being the naming sponsors, ended two years ago. Many†people still call it the GVA Trofee, not least because itís a lot catchier than the Bpost Bank Trofee. But letís get back to Ronse and our cyclocross race preview.
Ronse is one of those races I like to think of as hidden gems: a race, that supposed cross aficinados donít know about or would never visit. Everybody knows Koksijde and the Koppenbergcross and while Ronse is in fact closer to Calais than Oudenaarde, one would rarely see Brits at this race.
Itís a shame, because it is a cracking course, even though it is a relatively new race, the first edition was held only in 2011. It is set on the Hotondberg, just a few miles out of Ronse, in†big, green, grassy cauldron. The steep sidewalls mean a lot of climbing and/or running. Itís relentless, itís fast and one of the best courses from a spectators point of view. If you stand on the ridge, you can see almost the whole course and follow the action without moving around much.
There hasnít been a dominant rider so far,†the winners of the past years are as follows:
Sunday is promising some special racing. Not only will last weekís winner Gieten, the 19 years old Mathieu van der Poel start with the elite men again, but reigning World Champion Zdenek Stybar will line up at the start line in the rainbow jersey for the first time in the 2014/2015 season.
The other exciting aspect of the race will be the first battle between the ladies. Helen Wyman has finished her American campaign, Nikki Harris is back, too and they will be facing a yet-to-be defeated Sanne Cant, Ellen Van Loy and Sophie de Boer in excellent form and the American Elle Anderson will try to have her say.
For me, Ronse is memorable for two things. I will never forget Nikki Harrisí poignant win last year, just days after losing her team mate, Amy Dombroski. The weather was also unforgettable last year. Heavy rain was falling all day and gale force winds were blowing relentlessly. It was my worst-ever day at a cross race, Iíve never felt that cold, wet and miserable, ever.
So make sure you tune in at 3pm (CET) on Sporza, youíll be in for a treat.
If you havenít seen it yet, check out my coffee table album about the 2013/2014 cyclocross season. It is an exclusive chronicle of the 13/14 season on 240 pages.