It’s getting fairly grim outside, and if the tabloids are to be believed, we’re going to have a winter of Armageddon level storms to enjoy. But there is no reason to give up on spectator cycling just yet.
The grand tours over the summer clearly get the lion’s share of attention, but there are plenty of great events to keep you busy over the ‘off season’. For those a little newer to the sport of cycling, or who are perhaps keener on the triathlon side of our hobby, let us introduce you to some of the fun you could be having on the continent.
This weekend, the Yellow Jersey team will be all over Belgium, taking in some of the best spectator cycling on the continent.
Several members of the Yellow Jersey team will be making the trip over to Ghent on Friday and Saturday for the last days of the infamous six day track festival. We’re calling it a ‘work outing’; no one seems to be challenging us on this, so we’re sticking with it.
If you read my write-up of the London Six Day last month, you’ll have noticed I was pretty keen on it. A great start, I’m sure the Lee Valley six day can only grow into a world class six day, but right now it still felt a little like a warm-up to Belgium’s main event.
The Kuipke -or ‘little tub’- Velodrome, was built in 1927 specifically to hold six day races, and apart from a fire and swift rebuild in the early sixties, has done ever since.
At just 167m, the Kuipke is almost 100 meters shorter that the Lee Valley Olympic, with very steep banked ends. As you might imagine, this simultaneously ramps up the mayhem of the Madison, while squeezing the crowd right over the track, building the festival atmosphere. The Belgians also opt for a far more party orientated wrap up at 1 or 2 am, rather than the more civilised 10pm at the Olympic park.
If you can’t quite follow the Madison, don’t worry. You’re not the only one, and most of those who could explain what’s going on have been drinking Belgium Beer since lunchtime. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the mayhem.
British Eurosport 2 will have live coverage of the final day on Sunday starting at 1 o’clock, and 90 minutes of highlights on Eurosport on Sunday night at 7:30. Unfortunately tickets for the Ghent Six sell out months in advance, so this is your only option if you want to watch this weekend. If you’re a little curious however, it might be enough to make you take the trip next year.
Since that clearly wouldn’t be enough cycling for one weekend, we’ll also be making a detour through Koksijde (a little way along the coast from Dunkirk) on the way back to the UK.
To prove beyond doubt they are hard as nails, the third round of the Cyclocross World Cup course has its riders race the Belgian coast’s energy sapping sand dunes. After a storming start at CrossVegas, Helen Wyman -who rides with Matrix Pro Fitness in the summer- is sitting in 8th overall making her the highest placed Elite Brit.
Tickets are available at the gate if you fancy the drive over to Belgium. For the less spontaneous, the racing will also be broadcast live on Youtube via the link below, with the Elite women starting at 12:30 and the men at 2pm.
Brit Eurosport will have fairly concise highlights on Monday the 23rd, repeated on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s less than we might hope for, but with participation in the sport growing quickly, hopefully the coverage will grow too.
With the winter here to stay and the road racing season a fair way off, it’s easy to say the cycling season is over. The reality however, is that the winter party has onbly just got started. The Ghent six, while probably the most famous, is just one of several in the season, with events in Amsterdam, Berlin and Zurich throughout the winter. The cyclocross world cup runs through the winter with its final in the Netherlands on the 24th January. There is no end of spectator cycling to enjoy, and a hundred excuses for a weekend away. Check back next week for plenty of photos of the action.