2009 master cyclocross world championship, held in zilvermmer, outside of mol, at the same venue for 12 plus years, brought no great surprises. For the eight years that I have attended, a duplicate par-course, with a notoriously long sand section has challenged every international rider. Advantage locals, as they spend a good part of their September to February season racing in a mix of sand and mud. To be a world class crosser, one must endure racing the fields and forests of the heartland of cross, Belgium. Every weekend from September to February, there are as many as 6 races in the flat corn fields of west flanders to the forests of the northeast. Mol offers a particular challenge with its huge sugar white sand beach that is sure to humbly bog even the strongest rider. Here in Belgium, it seems not speed, but power and fortitude carry the day.
This years race held no real surprises when American women scored, not over shadowing the accomplishments of Kathy's second championship and Trina’s repeat silver performance, the American men battled for field results. Starting in the middle of the day, left little time to watch others, so my story tells only of my event. The biggest drama of each start is the call up, which is random, drawn from a hat or however the Belgium’s tea leaves read that day. Never having the first two rows, a forth row start means looking for the opening and sprinting for them. It worked ok on entering the beach, as I change my direction several times on the in run. The jam was normal in the sand, running the outside made sense to the first turn, where some ones chainring tattooed my calf. Got off the beach an sprinted by a couple of riders into about 10th. Now at this point, there is a lot of windy single track and there are limited places to pass, but you have to stay after it, because there are always some really fast guys already clear and charging. This means you have to go harder then them just to catch up. There is the rub. Now the Belgium champ was called up first and last years world champ second, and they were already clear. I had raced the Belgium champ just last weekend at kasterlee and he is strong. So here goes everything. And that seems that’s what it took to get up to a chasing group of four. Attacking on the start finish stretch, put me on the front, but Scheemaeker caught me off guard. (he was the champ when I finished 2nd in’07) He ran the sand and pinched me while I rode to the corner. This forced me off the bike. Willems flew up the side, attacking the water front. ( Willems won in ’06, when I was of the front with him and my wheel got taken out on the beach in a break). Guinle, the Frenchman won last year, stayed close to the departing Belgiums. With my momentum slowed, there was no response. The others reacted, and separated from me. I tried hard to chase the last lap, but encountering lapped riders slowed my progress in many of the difficult sections.
The raced is scheduled for only 30 minutes, very short, about four laps. Fast laps are between 6 and 6.5 minutes. We ended racing 6 laps, 2 more than you might figure. The winning time was just around 37 minutes. These guys are old, but they are not slow. My 7th place kept my top 10 consistency alive, though disappointing, kept 8 year streak alive. The only trepidation is the unrecognized call up process, that has kept podium finishers from returning to race. Just remember what Jacob said, “if you don’t start, you can’t win”. So maybe one day…………..