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Ed’s Best Hangover Cure: Belgian Beer, Bikes And Mud!
PEZ Roadside: With a full weekend of track racing in Gent, Ed Hood needed an intermission on Saturday. So to get away from bikes and beer, he headed into the Belgian county-side for... some bikes and beer, but there was also mud involved.

You have a choice on Saturday morning in Gent: go back to bed after breakfast and try to sleep the hangover off or, if you have your lady with you, head for the shops.

OR. . .

Head out of town in the hire car and find a cyclo-cross where the cold and wide blue sky will take your mind off your delicate condition. No need to ask what PEZ did.

Uitbergen is well out in the rural Heartland and host to a full day of ‘cross with masters, schoolboys, juniors, ladies and seniors all catered for.



Everyone but everyone, including schoolboys have at least two and often three bikes, all identical, all immaculate and most shod with Dugast rubber at 100 euros a pop.



SRAM’s 1x11 with thick/thin chain ring set up is popular but so is far from cheap electronic Shimano shifting.



The sign on was in an old cattle shed kitted out with tables and chairs – proper Heartland hard core.
Viktor would have loved it.



But this being Belgian it’s no hindrance to the provision of plentiful chilled pils and hot soup – which we didn’t like the look of.



But the burger van is just outside with sizzling burgers, dogs and mustard – this is proper race organization.



Albeit any self-respecting Health & Safety guy may just have flipped if he’d seen the F16 jet engine being used to heat the sign on shed.



Unlike the Kuipke there’s no charge for the toilet but on the subject of officialdom, the World Health Organization may have something to say about the design.



But in a country where even the police ride bikes no one ‘sweats the small stuff.’





We arrived in time to see Dante Coremans win the schoolboy race - his eighth win of the season - and cement his place as favorite for the National Championship, which is in the dunes of Koksijde in mid-January. Young Dante excels in the sand we were told. Former double Belgian and triple World Champion ‘Super’ Mario de Clercq presented the flowers; he even smiled, which we just had to record – Old Mario was never the gregarious type.



Belgian crosses start crazy quick, even the junior ones, it wouldn’t be a good idea to get in the way. . .



As we wandered round the course we saw that every base is covered, with the pits pressure washers hooked up to the town’s water mains.



The parcours was largely single track over grass but there were a few trees to dodge.



And a nice, tricky ditch to be negotiated.



As the juniors hurtled round we had a look at the seniors warming up – a man on a turbo in a field would be a surreal sight anywhere else in the world.



At this end of the field the hardware gets even more expensive with Colnagos, Scotts and Treks by the brace and trio.



Back at the finish of the junior’s there were commiserations from mums and dads.



And congratulations for the winner, Jele Vermoote his second win of the season.



The family dog was figuring out his best line for the start of the seniors race when his dad dragged him off the grid – Muttley didn’t look best pleased. . .



The start charge was straight out of the film ‘Zulu’ but with the ‘thunk’ of up changes echoing across the fields.



The pits were quiet, with a dry, fast parcours there was little need to change machines.



The hurdle was a good spot with all manner of techniques, from the basic ‘hop off, hop on’ to ‘front wheel climbing’ to full ‘bunny hops’ and remarkably, no crashes.



Eventual winner Yenti Bekaert was a definite bunny hopper with great technique.



Some of the ‘protection’ on the barbed wire fences left a lot to be desired but fortunately it was never tested.



We had eventual second placed Mathieu Willemyns down as winner; Bekaert attacked him every time out of the hurdle but Willemyns closed him down easily each time.





But on the last lap Bekaert went solo, riding very strongly to take the win in fine style.
Only 18 years-old, Bekaert is a pro with Telenet-Fidea and was second in this year’s Belgian ‘cross champs behind Toon Vandenbosch back in January.



The presentation ceremony was quick and slick with no one waiting around too long in the cold.



Dad looked on proudly, spare bike still on his shoulder – maybe he is headed for the top, after all?



We headed for a warm car but for some there was more work to be done for some – fortunately with no changes there was just one bike to wash.



Time to head back to the procession, sorry, Six Day – but it did have some good parts, I guess.





It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

 

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