Helen Wyman's European Championship Diary
Story posted November 5
Strawberry Fields and a Championship Medal
Last weekend was the European championships here in Belgium in a little town called Hoogstraten. We knew it was going to be a good weekend when we turned up to the bed and breakfast and had two stretch out sofas in our massive bedroom with 4 beds. Me and Gabs (Gabby Day) had ridden to the hotel from the course which took all of 7 minutes, so we decided we needed a little longer for our spin.
Here in Belgium they have vending machines for things that British people would never think of. Every bakery has a bread machine outside, stocked up daily and they have massive machines the size of shops with everything from gourmet dinners to cat food. But for the first time I have ever seen, right next to our B & B there was a strawberry vending machine. Genius!
Giggling at how funny it seems, we rode off down the little country lanes towards Holland only to pick up the ‘strawberry bike route’! So now I’m beginning to think that maybe Hoogstraten is Belgium’s strawberry farming region and maybe we should get our selves some. Unfortunately the machine was empty and the supermarket didn’t have any either. However the next day we would not be so disappointed.
The race was great for us. It was pretty much unchanged from the previous days training and was fast but slightly technical. I’m happy to say I rode a good race and got myself my first European championship medal after a few years of trying and a few testing moments during the race. It’s been really hard work to get to this point for this race but was worth every minute if only to see the look on Jurgen’s (my mechanic/soigneur) face after the finish.
We felt pretty sorry for the people who had to find the flags for the podium as it’s definitely been a while since the GB one has been hoisted up the post at a cyclo-cross race (Louise Robinson in 2000). Fortunately, there were no holes in it; it was just a little dusty! I felt even more sorry for the person who had to find the Slovakian national anthem for the Under 23 winner -- I’m pretty sure that was still sealed in its packet.
The most exciting part of the podium presentation was when we were presented with eight punnets of Hoogstraten strawberries! They taste very good, although maybe not quite as good as the 12 packets of varying LU biscuits and crackers and Stef seems very happy with his large enough for two people bright red LU fleece. Fortunately, I now have some snack food to go with the litres and litres of podium prize alcohol I am acquiring for that end of season party.
It started to rain after the Under 23 race had started so the group all decided to take shelter in a beer tent to try to still watch a bit of the race. It was a little crazy of us as at least 2000 other spectators had the same idea so we pretty much missed the entire race. Determined not to do the same for the elite men’s race, Gabby and I headed out in a dryer patch of weather for the start of Ian’s (Field) race. We managed to watch the first lap before the heavens opened and we went in search of a dryer place.
Stef had said there might be a TV in the sign-on building so we went to where we thought it was. I walked straight into a VIP area unnoticed thinking it was no problem as no one stopped me. However as Gabby tried to walk through, the gate a man refused to let her in telling her it was for VIPs only. Having got in to a nice warm, dry building with two big televisions, a live band and free food and drink there was no way I was leaving till after the race. So we waited 'til the next group came up, the man turned his back to Gabby and she just walked on through! I love Belgium efficiency.
An hour on, a couple of salmon sandwiches, coffee and biscuits later, it was time to head back out side to a very muddy wet looking Ian who had done another brilliant ride to end up 18th. As me and Gabby sat in the car eating strawberries while waiting for Ian to get changed, we both agreed we were glad the rain had held off as the course looked pretty damn slippery on the telly!
As Stef hadn’t needed to ride his bike too much at the weekend, I think he was missing the off road as we set off home on a non-GPS route in the opposite direction to the traffic down a dirty muddy track with deep pot holes for the first kilometre. I’m so glad I wasn’t in Ian’s racing Austin as the back of our car was sliding all over the place! The rest of the journey was pretty average for Belgium in the dark and rain with just the one little crash with associated pushing style mini fight by some people in vehicles ahead of us. Which considering the route GPS sent us home on was pretty good going really!
Looking ahead, we are riding the World Cup in Nommay this weekend and then we’re going to Portugal for a warm weather training block. I think I’m beginning to annoy the guys in the house by continuing to quote the expected temperatures off the Internet -- I do hope I haven't gloated too soon!