Here come the Belgians
If you thought that the season ended when the Alberto Contador sprayed Champagne on Lance then think again. The weekend saw one of the biggest spectator events in the calendar. Saturday played host to the Koksijde world cup cyclo-cross race and just down the road in Ghent was the penultimate night of six-day track event.
We got up at the crack of dawn to load our bikes into Dave Arthur's car (RCUK) and hot-foot it down into the Chunnel.
Thousands of people crammed on to a tiny piece of land squashed between a military base and a caravan park to watch the best cross riders in the world battle through thick sand and over 45-degree dunes.
It really is an incredibly nondescript scrap of land, but the Belgians' love of cross, and the fact it's about 30 minutes from Calais, mean it's a must destination for any cycling fan.
We saw the very cream of cyclo cross tackle the exhausting sand-duned course. The lead group containing the Belgian favourites cut their bikes through the deep sand mind-blowing fast as if it was butter.
Not wanting to leave it there, we then drove down to Ghent for an evening at the Ghent Six. At 2am we left the stadium satisfied we had watched approximately 9 hours of elite cycling.
Sunday morning - we wiped the 5 hours sleep from the eyes, pulled on our cycling outfits to face the typical cold, bleek Belgian countryside. After Saturday evening and perhaps taking advantage of the cheap Primus at the six-day some of us were having second thoughts as we stood in the carpark with our bikes the next morning. The wind blew and the rain lashed. Several last minute clothing changes were made out of the boot of the car, but to no avail. Rapha Condor team mechanic Andy Verral and Rouleurs Jon Cannings led a group of natives and Brits on a typical Belgian training route alongside the canal towards the famous Molenberg, a twisting wall of cobbles, known most for being the first sector of Pave on the Tour of Flanders.
Noted photographer Kristof Ramon ambushed the ride in several locations cpautring us in an epic style. His pictures are stunning and it was a great round up to a weekend of cycling.
We shall return like a pilgrimage next year.
Dave Arthur recounts the weekend on his blog too.