My top 3 cyclo cross courses

It’s the article no-one is asking for, but I am writing it anyway!

If there is one thing that the arrival of GCN+ has given us is wall to wall winter cycling in the form of cyclo cross.

I am old enough to remember some rounds being shown on the BBCs flagship Saturday afternoon show Grandstand. I would then spend the Sunday morning that followed on my Falcon/Banana team issue replica bike on the recreation ground outside my house pretending to be a tough Belgian.

The dismounts and remounts were not so easy. Especially as the 1980s and early 1990s trend was to jam your saddle up as high as possible to show a bit of seat stem.

I also wore a pony tail held in by a rubber band as some sort of low budget Laurent Fignon, or the hipsters version, Soren Lilholt. But that’s straying off the point.

What these last couple of winters has shown us is that ‘cross is very much part of the full cycling experience and will forever be linked to road cycling, the spring classics and the grand tours.

Part of the reason for that is at the moment the best riders on the road also enjoy getting muddy in a Flemish field all winter. They are Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock.

With all of their summer exploits still hurting their legs, the three of them aren’t back on the trails as yet. They are all resting and that has left the door open for Eli Iserbyt to take ownership of the discipline.

He is being chased (literally and metaphorically) by team mates Michael Van Thourenhout, Laurens Sweeck and Trek riders Toon Aerts and Lars van der Haar.

Another grand tour rider in Quinten Hermans (who I tipped on this website as being a star of the future) is getting the Wanty team among those riders above.

The great thing about ‘cross is that its raced in laps with sections that need to be run alongside your bike, steep drop ins and a little bit of road. It has the lot.

So here are my three favourite courses of the regulars that are raced during the season. Let me know if you disagree!

3. Koksijde

This course is best summed up by the video “Cycling in Flanders” shot and you can get that here.

Its full of sand dunes and steep banks which leaves you thinking they are racing through a Eurocamp holiday park. Its utterly bonkers and wonderfully brilliant.

2. Koppenbergcross

This is another chance for me to drone on about how many times I have ridden the cobbled climb that is scaled on every lap of this race. But I wont.

I will talk about a course that has everything. It has the climb as well as steep, sweeping curves through farmland and some tight muddy turns.

This is fresh in my mind as it was raced yesterday. Check out the footage of Iserbyt winning but stay tuned in for some of the wrecked bodies and minds who slump over the finish before getting a Belgian face pack falling over.

It’s brutal and having ridden up the climb a few times I can tell you first hand how hard it is. But I wont!

1. Namur

This might be a hipsters choice from me here. But I love the racing this course produces.

The route is based around the finish of the autumn classic on the road that finishes up the cobbles at the citadel above the river and the town.

Its beautiful to look at but savage if you are racing with all the climbing and tight turns through the woodland.

The recent events have been dominated by Van der Poel but have been famous for a crash that Toon Aerts suffered which left him finishing the race with broken ribs.

Here are the details of the upcoming 2021 event from the website “Cyclocross 24”. there is a video of how difficult the course is for you to enjoy.

With only the Koppenberg round having been completed so far there is some decent racing to look forward to on most weekends now until the Christmas tree is down and we can start to think about Milano-San Remo.

Don’t miss out and enjoy the action this winter!

2021 Worlds a race for the ages

Despite being, what I would call, a cycling buff, there are many instances where I can’t take in all of a race.

I have even written on this very website how the recent trend of tv coverage from flag to flag sometimes can feel like too much cycling.

The first instance of this trend I can remember was the 2015 Paris Roubaix where the first hour of action waiting for the break to form was much more entertaining that what went after it. So the television execs thought they’d hit on a successful formula and it stuck.

But for every race like that, there has been plenty where ‘sleepy’ would still be too active a description for the action.

Its content like that which gives commentators abuse on the internet. They can only call what they see and if nothing is happening the dead air is filled with less quality. Same goes for the racing.

But.

The 2021 world professional men’s road race yesterday was one occasion where if you invested the time at the start of the race, there were massive rewards at the finish.

The French national team rode the perfect race.

Unlike the Belgians who seemed to back both Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert before leaving home town rider Jasper Stuyven to content the finale, the raiding team from south of the border had a clear strategy.

They backed the defending champion to the hilt and were rewarded by his retention of the precious rainbow jersey.

From 140kms out Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Turgis were a total pain in the Belgians backsides with attacks and counter attacks forcing lots of chasing.

Italy were caught out in the first big split, something that might have contributed to a subdued finale from their main hope Sonny Colbrelli.

Mathieu Van der Poel was very subdued and was content to follow all day without having any impact on the race.

Julian Alaphillippe attacked four or five times to get his win with a number of these digs coming in the last lap and a half around Leuven.

He eventually wore them down with his desire to get clear and with Valentin Madouas working hard to help him establish his lead he was gone and gone for good.

The splinter group chasing him down had neither Van Aert, Tom Pidcock nor Van der Poel within it and didn’t have the power left to make the catch.

You can argue that Alaphillippe is all show and no content, but the wins he is racking up now make that point of view weak.

He is so entertaining to watch and his attack so wonderful to behold that you can’t help but be engaged and excited.

Last year he won with style. This year he won with persistence, style, panache and flair.

It truly was a world for the ages.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6003505:56:34
2 VAN BAARLE DylanNetherlands4752600:32
3 VALGREN MichaelDenmark400190,,
4 STUYVEN JasperBelgium325150,,
5 POWLESS NeilsonUnited States275130,,
6 PIDCOCK ThomasGreat Britain2251100:49
7 ŠTYBAR ZdeněkCzech Republic1751001:06
8 VAN DER POEL MathieuNetherlands150901:18
9 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianFrance12580,,
10 COLBRELLI SonnyItaly10070,,
Top 10 from http://www.procyclingstats.com

Order a Beers of Belgium CC jersey now…

We have a window of opportunity with our supplier to get an order of Beers of Belgium CC merchandise in.

https://cycle-clothing.co.uk/product-category/team-stores/clubs/beers-of-belgium-cc/

(Store password – “FENDRIEN”)

We have enough for a jersey run but would need some more cap orders for it to be viable to make them.

Beerwulf gets me Belgian beer on tap

Having had a garden bar built during lockdown, the SUB keg beer pump from Beerwulf was a brilliant 2020 Fathers Day gift from my children.

The beer was cold and frothy just how I like it and despite some limited options in terms of replacement kegs to go in the machine, there is now a lot more of a Belgian feel to the SUB keg.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed it to date, but Pelforth is a French and not Belgian beer although you could argue the quality of the Brune is comparabale to some brews from north of the border.

Delirium Tremens - SUB Keg

The initial reviews of the machine were that the compressor was noisy and unreliable, but (fingers crossed) to date we have had no issues.

As well as Delirium (picture above) we can now get Affligem in Blonde, Brune and now Dubbel orTripel. La Chouffe is not a favourite of mine but that is also now available to order.

Order Kegs

Order a SUB machine

Of course the pursits will rightly point out that this is not the same as getting an authentic bottle from a bar, but we can’t go to Belgium right now so this is a great way of keeping the taste of some favourites whilst maybe trying something new if its on the list and you haven’t tried it before.

Weekend treat…

This has been a hard week for a number of reasons I wont go into so it’s nice to get to Friday evening and a delicious beer.

Posy backdrop but the drink is great

I’d not tasted this Leffe winter beer before but I am really impressed by it.

There remains a snobbery about Leffe , especially in Belgium. But as an accessible beer with a taste that can transport you back to Flanders it hits the spot.

Brune and Blonde I will drink. On draught I prefer Ruby but this one beats them all.

Its crisp, yet fruity and puts me in the mind of much pricier and stronger bottles.

So whilst I love the rarer and smaller batch products that are harder to track down and costlier to drink, this weekend I appeal to you all to show love for Leffe…

It does a job. It’s a domestique rather than classics winner but as long as you understand that it wont disappoint.

Decathlon supporting the Friends of Paris Roubaix

There can’t be too many people who love cycling who don’t love Decathlon.

When we were able to travel in Europe I could never pass one without heading in for some sweatbands, a body board or a fleece.

I rode time trials in 2004 and 2005 on one of their road bikes which showed that they might be a chain store but their kit is good.

Whilst browsing in my lunch break today I became drawn to their “Pave Collection” t-shirt.

Decathlon Pave Collection t-shirt £17.99

Anything with any sort of Flemish lion on it finds its way into my basket without any questions asked. This was no different and the deal was sealed even more emphatically with the news that a portion of the sales value of the t-shirt will be donated to the “Friends of Paris-Roubaix“. This will go towards the fantastic work they do to preserve the sectors of cobbles.

With no race in 2020, this money will be even more eagerly anticipated. So get shopping!

Click here.

When mine arrives, I will review it and let you know what I think.

Beers of Belgium CC

The eagle eyed readers of Fendrien will have noticed a new page along the mast header of the website.

Beers of Belgium is an idea I have been kicking around in my head for a while now whilst thinking of the best way to bring it to life.

In my mind it will be reviews and commentary of some of the great beers out there that go with an afternoon watching cycling in front of the tv or at the roadside.

It would be great to have some of your recommendations and reviews so please get in touch and send them over. Fendrieneu@gmail.com will get them to us or via our socials.

Thanks

James