Well that’s a wrap… for ‘cross-mas anyways!
It’s been 8 days of racing over 15 loooong days (or 10 races in 22 days if you include Scheldecross and Overijse), and boy are we glad it’s over.
But just for kicks let’s relive the crazy-ness to get you up to speed just in case you slept through it all.
We started things off on December 17th with GVA Trofee Essen, which now seems an eternity away.
Gabby talks more about it in her most recent blog post, but it was the first real mud course this season in Belgium. After a less than ideal start, Gabby picked her way up through the field to ride most of the first lap with eventual winner Marianne Vos and second place Sophie De Boer. After a few slip ups she lost contention with the lead group, but still managed a strong 7th.
The following day was the 5th World Cup in Naumur. On a course which Gabby would be happy to forget, and one which Craig had not yet raced. Last year Namur was Gabby’s first race where she had a terrible crash, which left her out cold for a few moments and with a broken pinky finger – not the worst of injuries, but one that nagged throughout most of her season. This year however the race took Kalmthout’s place as a World Cup course, which shifted it from it’s usual late (and generally dry) September spot to mid December. It was a completely different race from 2010 – not that the course changed so much, but the conditions did. 2010 saw the riders taking feeds through the pit, this year it was just for bike changes. The race featured lots of elevation changes, lots of mud, and even some snow showers at the start of the women’s race. Despite last years crash Gabby got around and finished a respectable 18th position, while Craig finished 57th in a very tough men’s field.
Less than a week later, was the fan favourite night race in Diegem. The women’s race was not so much a night race however, as typical for the Super Prestige Series they were first off. As of now Diegem is Gabby’s best result in Belgium this year with an excellent 4th position. Later that evening Craig rode to 42nd position finishing on the lead lap.
So that’s 3 out of 8 races, now we get into the really busy period of ‘cross-mas.
Of course we did manage to squeeze in a little bit of Christmas celebrations into the mix. We enjoyed a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with fellow Oudenaarde residents; ‘cross racer Margriet Kloppenburg and roadie James Spragg.
December 26th was World Cup #6 on the historic course at Heusden-Zolder. (Side note: we’ve been catching the new Canvas series Flandriens van het Veld, and saw some awesome coverage of the Zolder course from back in the 70′s… very cool!) It was a day full of typical rainy Belgian conditions, yet surprisingly mild. Despite it being a very challenging course, Gabby rode to 15th position, while Craig just missed out on the top 50 riding to 53rd position. For some time now Laurent Charras has been putting together some excellent highlight videos of the women’s world cup races. We highly recommend that you check out his video from Zolder, it really gives you a great sense of the emotion behind all the racing. Check it out here.
Next up was the GVA Azencross in Loenhout. It was a race full of crazy and drunk spectators, where empty plastic beer cups littered the already insanely muddy course, the winds were pretty intense too!
In the past it had been one of Gabby’s favourite courses of the season, and this year it didn’t disappoint. She rode to a very strong 6th place, where she began her newest trend of 6′s (in lieu of 8′s).
Still not quite feeling on it Craig suffered his way to 44th in a very large men’s field of 60+ riders.
The following day would make it two in a row for Craig with a C2 on the coast in Bredene. Because this was a smaller field Craig managed a 2nd row call up right behind Niels and Stybar! Craig finished in 36th position on the lead lap, and is starting to feel like his race legs are coming back.
After a day off from racing it was turn for Gabby to return to the mud with Fideacross Leuven while Craig took a day off. Gabby’s opinion of the course was pretty “meh” as the course left a lot to be desired especially compared to last year’s Fideacross Tervuren race… but at least the sun was out!
Despite her lack of enthusiasm for the course and sore legs, Gabby got on with it to ride to yet another 6th place.
That was the last race of 2011, so perhaps you are expecting a very exciting New Years Eve blow out right about now? But as many of you may have guessed New Years Eve is just like any other night to a cyclocross racer, as there is always racing the next day. This year our guys raced the GVA Trofee GP Sven Nys in Baal a totally new course for both Gabby and Craig.
This was probably the muddiest course so far this year, and as expected a very challenging course. Gabby rode to her third straight 6th after losing contact with the lead group as a result of a crash on the main descent. Craig rode to 29th position, his best result in Europe this season.
So there you have it 8 races in 15 days… whew! Now we can put our feet up and… wait there’s British Nationals next week, followed by two more World Cups, World Championships, followed by another 3 weeks of racing. So I guess we won’t be relaxing anytime soon, but at least there’s room for some recovery time!
We can’t finish without saying a huge thank you to all the great support who have been there helping us out at the start line and in the pits, you’ve all been wonderful! Also a huge thank you to our amazing sponsors for getting us through this busy period you guys have been great! So everyone show them some love and check out their sites Raleigh USA, Ritchey, Renner Custom, Kurt Kinetic, Challenge, Rock Tape.
Keep checking back for more on the upcoming races, we hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!