Brit crossers ready for Koppenberg

Just because you are Britain’s top female ‘cross rider, that doesn’t excuse making the dinner the night before a big race.

Helen Wyman knocked up a mighty fine pot of pasta for all and sundry at Wyman Towers in Tielt-Winge, Belgium – it was her turn on the rota. We weren’t being deliberately harsh: hell, we even offered to crush the garlic.

The national champion, along with housemates Gabby Day and Ian Field, tackle the infamous Koppenberg ‘cross race tomorrow [Sunday, October 25].

Earlier today, the trio led Andrew Canning and myself around the local Flandrian lanes and cobbles. A couple of hours gentle spin in occasional drizzle was enough preparation for the next day’s exertions. Wyman has been doing a rain dance for three days and it’s paid off. An evening of persistent rain should see the Koppenberg course turn into a mudbath.

The Kona rider has already been on the podium this  week, with a third place in Tuesday’s Nacht van Woerden in Holland, and fancies her chances tomorrow. Ian Field is also getting better all the time and will be pushing for a top-ten spot before Christmas, mark my words.

As for the small town of Tielt-Winge, a crosser couldn’t ask for more. Plenty of quiet lanes, as much (or as little) off-road or cobbles as anyone could want, and locals who understand and love bike racing. The excellent woods used by top pro squad Telenet-Fidea are a 20-minute ride away, and the motor racing circuit of Zolder with its twice-weekly chaingang sessions is nearby. We are not unlike pigs in shit.

So how do Wyman, Field and Day manage to race over here? They pretty much got on and did it, and certainly didn’t sit around waiting for someone to sort their lives out for them. Day is primarily sponsored by Cycle Fit, a small London bike shop, and Field by Hargroves Cycles, a small chain based in the South-West. Wyman has the backing of big fish Kona, but they all chased around and got the support needed to spend the winter racing in Belgium. Good for them.

We head for Koppenberg on Sunday to give all three a shout. Hope to see you there. If you have always wondered what ‘cross is all about in Belgium but have never made it over here, the Koksijde World Cup round is on Saturday, November 29. It is easy to reach from Calais, costs a few Euros to get in, and is one of the best days out you can have on a cold, windswept Belgian beach (wrap up warm: that North Sea breeze is mighty biting). Plus, being on a Saturday, there is even time to catch the Ghent 6 at the velodrome the following evening.

How’s that for a great weekend?

day, field, wyman

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