Belgian cyclocross - a trip to the motherland

Mud, beer and intense racing: A photo journal of a four-day adventure

Cyclocross is enjoying massive popularity in emerging cycling countries, but in Belgium, where cycling is almost a religion, it’s a part of everyday life. We recently took a four-day trip to partake in some Masters racing, watch a few pro events and generally soak up the atmosphere.

Our three-race adventure began in the small, unassuming town of Ardooie with a Masters race in the morning, before watching the best in the business race over the same course in the afternoon. The 1km main street was closed for the start and finish, and access was limited to paying spectators, of which there were at least 5,000 – on a Thursday! But with numerous tents, vans and bars selling beer, coffee, frites and burgers, plus world class racing, everyone was happy.

Sven Nys plows through the mud as paying locals look on

Oh, and did we mention there was mud? Lots of liquefied, sticky, deep mud.

At the weekend there were two more West Flanders league races, each attracting an incredible number of camper vans, converted vans and all kinds of amateur team vehicles. These filled the neighbouring streets and disgorged their contents across front gardens and driveways, which was all accepted as perfectly normal by the locals.

More moustaches than the average bike race…: more moustaches than the average bike race…
More moustaches than the average bike race…: more moustaches than the average bike race…

The Masters fields weren't huge but they were quite fast

A typical Masters race with around 40 riders could contain two former world champions, and the main event a pair of current Belgian champions. The field sizes may not always be large, but the standard is very high.

Click through the photo gallery at above right for a visual trip inside Belgian cyclocross.

The knowledgable, be-wellied and well-lubricated crowd make their way back to town via more food vans: the knowledgable, be-wellied and well-lubricated crowd make their way back to town via more food vans
The knowledgable, be-wellied and well-lubricated crowd make their way back to town via more food vans: the knowledgable, be-wellied and well-lubricated crowd make their way back to town via more food vans

Paying crowds come out in droves — and in rubber boots — to watch cyclocross

Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK, Procycling Magazine
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
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