Quote from Bernie Ecclestone – People want to build circuits around the world and they say, “we will come to Silverstone and have a look how it’s done”, I tell them to stay away… Now to be honest when I first heard that Milton Keynes were going to host a round of the UCI Cyclo Cross World Cup my first thoughts were of Bernie. Personally I’ve avoided enough events on the world stage when they roll up in the United Kingdom i.e. Formula One and MotoGP like the plague preferring the experience overseas.
CJ had been to Koksijde, Belgium twice to watch UCI cross racing and I forewarned him that he could pull the cracker on this one and nothing may be inside, but he wanted to support his favourite pastime coming here so up the M1 it was. Now, signposting for car parking was a breeze and though the attendants on the actual road had no idea where Campbell Park was, Google Maps saved the day and in 15 minutes we had arrived eta 9.00 a.m.
Betcha by golly, wow…. First views of the cross arena were impressive to say the least, the best racers in the world were going to have their mettle tested with sloping banks, descents, hill climbs, stairs and a tough start-finish straight. Also, the circuit grass was already cutting up so technical skills in the mud was going to be a necessity. The organisers had laid on a proper 2.5km challenge for the racers with excellent spectator views.
Now with a couple of hours to kill before the women’s event a few trade stalls were taken in until CJ again spotted Katie Compton (USA champion) and our own Helen Wyman (British champion) at the Ladies. I decided to leave him there lurking and he was soon back smiling as they both not only signed their autographs, but also went back to their motorhomes to give him signed photo cards…. So far he was having a good time.
11.00 a.m. The men were on the circuit warming up before the Elite Women would take centre stage. It was also obvious that the racers were looking for the best lines and reviewing difficult and tricky sections that would in the heat of battle represent problems as the course had worsen. Sven Nys (Belgium champion) was loudly cheered as he passed by the eager spectators but did not seem put out as he concentrated on the task in hand.
12.15 and the Elite Women were called to the start line by the American compere of the day Richard Fries. Now the near 10,000 crowd were jostling for the best positions with the sloped mud bank being extremely popular as carnage was expected for sure, as from the warm up it was an area that had to be taken on foot with not a lot of traction.
From the drop Sanne Cant the Belgium champion was leading the pace as expected with Katie Compton falling back and the expected carnage did not disappoint the crowd. Sadly Helen Wyman was a casualty and for sure her race was going to be compromised as Cant pulled away with Ellen Van Loy. Compton was now out of the top ten but by lap 2 she was back in contention with Cant as Van Loy fell back joining our own Nikki Harris.
Both racers traded blows but none could deliver the knockout and on the last lap it looked like Compton would forge ahead early for the win, though Cant held on taking different lines that constantly brought her back to the Americans wheel. It was now down to the sprint and Compton rounded the final bend with a slim lead as Cant came out the saddle sprinting whilst Compton powered her way to the line…. Cant took it by half a wheel as the results immediately showed Compton in 1st. Within minutes the result was reversed and the Belgian had taken her 2nd World Cup win in a row and Nikki Harris taking a third for the home crowd.
Roll call soon came for the Elite Men and now after a fantastic first race the crowd were fever pitch in anticipation of what was about to be served up cold. As soon as the lights went out the World Cup leader Kevin Pauwels with Philipp Waslesben the German champion made the first gap. Nys was in a good position until his chain dropped running on the off camber section and he struggled to release it back onto his chainring, subsequently he was now near the back of the field.
The British champion Ian Fields was having a stormer of a race hovering around the top ten and Nys was battling his way back to the pointy end of the action, but as the laps dropped it was apparent he was out of contention for a podium. Up front Lars Van der Haar the Dutch champion was in the mix and with him came Klass Vantermout, Francis Mourey and shortly Corne Van Kessel and Tom Meeusen. On the penultimate lap Mourey made his move to spilt the group further and this appeared to have the desired effect.
By the last lap it was going to be a two way sprint for 1st and the same for 3rd. Series leader Pauwels and Vantornout went for the honours which Pauwels took but maybe team orders were in play CJ suggested. The battle for third was taken by the Frenchman Mourey and Ian Fields rode to a fantastic 12th placing plus the crowd were treated to Nys fighting back to 8th position.
Organiser Simon Burney with the people of Milton Keynes put on a world class show that will I’m sure return to our shores and maybe Ecclestone needs to have a word with them about Silverstone.
Ciao for now…