Remember that old Jimmy Cliff song; ‘You Can Get it if You Really Want?’ Well, Kiwi adventurer Angus Edmond decided that he wanted to rub shoulders with Sven Nys, Niels Albert and the rest in the world’s best cyclocross races in Belgium. So, he did; via Copenhagen – but more of that in a minute.
And whilst he may struggle to get to the finish due to the UCI time cut for the last lap, as we hang over the barriers and think how cool Sven looks, the man from New Zealand is out there sharing the same ruts as the King of Cross.
PEZ: Why the Belgian ‘crosses?
Belgian cyclocross is the ultimate within the sport. No-one else can touch it for its brutal courses, level of competition, and number of supporters. Even after half a season of racing you can still ride a course and think ‘OMG! this is insane!’ I used to think that cyclocross courses were made to be ridden, they are not always. They are often made to test the limits of what can be ridden on a cross bike, and once you reach that limit you start running . . .
PEZ: Why/how Copenhagen?
I met a beautiful Danish girl, it is a common occurrence up there; the women are without comparison.
PEZ: When were you last in New Zealand?
About this time last year. I lost two front teeth while mountain biking in NZ about two years ago and had to go back and get the dental work completed. I am going home again after the Worlds in Hoogerheide; I feel like a break and some sun is called for.
PEZ: What’s the Danish ‘cross scene like?
Small but growing fast. When I first started riding there might be three people in the sports class at a race, so my goal used to be how many licensed riders I could pass. But now thanks to some great shops like Soigneur in Copenhagen really getting behind the sport, the sports class is almost larger than the licensed. But the courses cannot compare to what you find down here in Belgium, Holland and France.
PEZ: You’ve got a pretty big race programme . . .
Yeah – I am not sure if I have bitten off more than I can chew, but I figured if we were going to do this it would need to be all-in
Now that’s one cool bit of paper. Angus’ ticket to ride at the UCI World Cup in Zolder!
PEZ: How do you bank roll the travel, accommodation, racing, equipment?
I got a small amount of money from my sponsor Malteni (beer) as part of my sponsorship deal with them. Aside from that all costs are covered by me and my mechanic Anders, who seems to think that this venture is as much fun as I do.
When I raced at the Single Speed Worlds in Italy I met a bunch of fantastic people, many of them from Holland and Belgium. When they found out that I would be racing here this winter they immediately got behind it with offers of support and accommodation. One guy in particular, Bram, took on a Team Manager type roll and started to co-ordinate places to stay as close to the races as possible. It was then that it all started to feel very professional.
PEZ: How are the New Zealand federation with you?
Hmmmm . . . the people I mail with are nice, they book World Cups for me, and in that sense it is all very smooth. But that’s it.
I never really had any expectations, but when Alex Revell told me that he had to email the press release himself saying that he had become the National X Champion, then I really realized that we are totally out on our own here. There was a Bike NZ service car at the race in Koppenberg but I never saw anyone, spoke to anyone. It is a bit sad really that we can expect more support from people over here than people at home.
Alex Revell, ‘The mustache man’, is the NZ Cross champion and a big favorite amongst the Belgian spectators.
PEZ: It must be madness for you in every race, starting at the back of the grid?
I like the back of the grid. I don’t have to sprint very fast ‘cause everyone is going to slam on the brakes in the first turn anyway – Niels Albert will probably go down – and then I can start trying to work my way forward one rider at a time.
I did a Cat Two race in Weisbaden at the start of the season and was the fourth person on the grid, standing next to the likes of Mourey. I didn’t know what to do! I have no front line tactics.
So I thought I would make like Van der Haar and get already for the hole shot, low, tensed. When the gun went off I almost shit myself, lost six places in about three seconds, another six in the next three, and was in the rear third of the peloton by the time we hit the first turn.
PEZ: Your Malteni beer gear looks cool – just like Eddy . .
Yeah, the jersey is homage to the old Molteni jersey, Merckx’s old team – I even get called Eddy sometimes. I thought it was confusion to begin with over my first and last names, but then Anders pointed out that it was probably a Merckx reference
PEZ: It looks like you have good sponsors – how did you acquire them?
By writing loads of mails. Some you get a response to, some you don’t. I was pretty shy about it to begin with.
I didn’t want to waste people’s time by just asking for free stuff, I wanted to feel like I could really offer them something. My angle was the underdog. If you are going to get any kind of attention in Belgium you need to be in the top five or the last two and come from the other side of the planet. I watched my first race in Diegem the other day; people cheered for Nys, Albert, Stybar, Wellens, and Alex Revell. Probably more for Alex than even Nys
In fan mode on the sidelines with compulsory beer and frites in hand.
PEZ: FMB for example, nice rubber.
VERY NICE! I got a ‘deal’ on FMB, but that was it. No-one gets full sponsorship from either FMB or Dugast, even Sven pays for his tyres. But the FMB’s are really stable even at very low pressures.
I have one set of Challenge tyres and I will run them at least 0.2 bar higher than the FMB’s and they still feel a little ‘washy’ in the turns.
PEZ: Do have wheel/tyre choices for most conditions?
I have two sets of Super Muds, two sets of Grifo’s (all round) and two sets of file treads (sand and snow) but it is extremely rare to use the file treads. If I was to use just one tyre type it would be the Super Muds – they’re amazing!
PEZ: You’ve become a bit of a favourite with the Belgian Media and fans.
Yeah, it is really nice. I am not sure how much ‘fans’ realize what they mean to riders like me. I remember all the spots that people have stood who have cheered my name on all the courses I have ridden.
On courses like The Koppenberg where after about five rounds and you feel like you are about to die and are almost hoping that they will pull you from the race, the thought of going back up the hill again isn’t very tempting. But then you remember the cacophony of noise and screams that you will be greeted by as you round the last corner on the last climb, and you think ‘ok, once more’
PEZ: Do you have a mechanic – and a pressure washer?
I have a mechanic, Anders, a pressure washer, a pavilion (I don’t know how life existed before the pavilion) six sets of wheels, two bikes, folding chairs, home trainer, a couple of cases of Malteni, embrocation, and safety pins; gotta remember the safety pins.
PEZ: Which of your ‘cross performances gives you most satisfaction?
That would have to be the World Cup in Zolder. I was in a pretty good little group and could see that we were making good time compared to the guys at the front. Unfortunately I crashed though and lost the group; they all made it through to the last lap and completed the race.
I got pulled, if I was just 20-30 seconds faster…
PEZ: Isn’t it difficult just to get into races given the UCI obsession with ‘qualification’ for just about everything?
Nope. Your Federation needs to put you forward for a WC, so that is up to them. But as for everything else you just have to have the balls (and a license) to show up.
Seriously, anyone could come down here and do this. You will probably get your arse handed to you on a platter but the experience is second to none!
PEZ: And it’s tough to finish, given that you have to ‘make the cut’ on the last lap – how does that work?
If you fall outside of 80% of the time the guy in the front took to cover the first lap then you get pulled. What this effectively means is that the fast guys won’t be lapping the slower riders.
It’s a great incentive, but it does mean that at the moment I’m in great condition for racing about 40 minutes, once I hit 50 minutes I really start to hurt as I have only done that a couple of times this season.
PEZ: Is ‘cross your favourite – over mountain bike and single speed?
That’s a tricky one. They are seasonal things for me. I don’t mountain bike in the winter really and as soon as the spring hits I put my cross bikes away and don’t give them another thought ‘til the autumn.
PEZ: Is there an ultimate goal or do you live in the moment at each race?
I want to complete a race in Belgium, to get to cross the finish line and not get pulled in the 80% zone just before the finishing straight. Oh, and to keep beating Alex!
Keep up to date with Angus at his website, http://angusedmond.wordpress.com
# What you won’t know is that I rode a ‘cross against Hennie Stamsnijder once upon a time – but it would nice to say you’d lined up with Sven, wouldn’t it? #