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11 January 2016 1 comment
Koppenberg has lost it's voiceFriends Events Sports Cycling Monthly highlights
The Koppenberg, a legendary cobbled climb famous in the road cycling world is also home to the Koppenberg Cross, one of the hardest on the circuit and also one of my favourite races. I raced the new Niels Albert cross race in Boom the day before, an impressive little course that uses the same area as the famed Tomorrowland, the worlds largest EDM festival. The landscape wasn't amazing but they still managed to make a great course out of it. With the Elite men and U23 thrown together we were still only 27 riders on the start grid, giving me a rare spot at the start of the 3rd row. But this was not the important race of the weekend and energy needed to be saved for the Koppenberg. [caption id="attachment_15701" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Having a little fun in Boom :)"][/caption] There are a couple of things in my mind that make the Koppenberg the great race that it is. Firstly it is ridiculously hard, both going up AND going down (though the going down bit is fun-hard) and the second is the crowd. I have found that one of the things that brings the best out in a Belgian crowd is a brutal race. Hamme Zogge (a flat mud fest that is beyond comprehension) falls into that category. I have told anyone that cared to listen of the last time I raced the Koppenberg cross, where after a few minutes of painfully zigzagging across the hill you make the last right hand turn and start the final climb. The noise from the crowd was deafening, you could not hear yourself think, it was amazing. After four laps when the idea of climbing back up that hill was unbearable you would think, 'Oh, but to just experience the roar of that crowd one last time...' and off up the hill you would go. [caption id="attachment_15702" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="My good side"][/caption] But that was not the case this year. With each lap I would wonder and think that maybe they just need to warm up a little. As my race got harder (and a little slower) there was little change in the crowd. Well there were a couple of exceptions. I did have some small pockets of loyal and vocal fans cheering me on. They can always be identified by the fact that they actually know my name. As opposed to calling me 'Eddy' 'Alex' or a new one for this race, 'Greg' The other exception was the descent. Usually people stand with their backs turned to the second half of the field. Watching instead the big screens that dot the course and allow them to follow the front of the race, as opposed to having to see the back of the race which was on it's way past in the form of me. The crowd on the way down the hill was a little more animated this year and by the last couple of laps (last couple of laps for me that is) I was giving them high 5's. [caption id="attachment_15700" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="High 5's all round as long as I didn't need both hands on the bars :)"][/caption] If they don't let you finish you may as well have fun. I was passed going down the hill for my last lap by Van Aert. I have only ever been lapped twice and both times were by him. Kids these days, they are just making it harder for everyone, not just the guys at the front. After he passed there was luckily a good gap down to Van Der Har and I could summon whatever energy I had left to try and leg it to the 80% zone and exit with a little dignity in tact having only had one rider get past me.