On 23 December 2011, four West Midland junior riders had a Christmas excursion to Belgium to compete in the Super Prestige Diegem. This is a unique event in that it the course is predominantly round the town of Diegem and could easily be described as an urban cyclocross.
All the usual Belgian features were prominent with man made bridges, deep sandpits, a mixture of tarmac and shale and also some very deep mud…especially near the pit area.
The riders were Alex Welburn, Jacob James, Joe Fox and reigning junior women’s champion Hannah Payton. Looking after the riders were Robin Fox and Kevin Payton. After travelling the day before, the riders got a look at the course in the afternoon of the 22 December. Having ridden a number of laps, they then washed their bikes in the town square and spent the evening in Mechelen.
Race day dawned and the team were very relaxed as the first race of the day wasn’t till 3pm for Hannah and then juniors at 4pm. Another unique feature is that the elite race starts at 7:30pm and is completely floodlit all the way round the course. Following a casual breakfast and arrival at the town, the team set up camp around the Fox’s converted transit van ‘Vinny’.
Practise laps were done, bikes re-washed and warmups all done on time and everyone prepared for the task ahead. The beauty about these development opportunities is that there is no pressure at all on the riders to get a placing. It’s all about enjoying the experience, doing everything right, preparing properly and making sure they’re on the start line knowing that everything that could have been done, had been done. Once the flag goes, the riders just focus on their races to get the best out of themselves.
Hannah had a great race after starting at the back and finished in the mid-20’s - a super performance for her. In the junior race, Alex Welburn’s UCI points from the World Cup races he’s ridden came in useful and he was gridded on the fourth row with Joe and Jake at the back. Alex was holding his place really well and had a solid ride finishing in the mid-20s. Joe was feeling very flat despite feeling great the previous day and unfortunately didn’t make an impression on his start place.
It was Jacob’s first time in Belgium and he was determined to enjoy it. He was having a great race but then on the last lap managed to dislocate a finger and a thumb and crack a knuckle after hitting a wooden post. He finished well though although the smile turned into a grimace at this point. Meanwhile Robin and Kevin were knee deep in mud in the pits fighting for jet wash time!
After cleaning up after the races, repacking the van and strapping Jacob’s fingers up, the riders had a look at the start of the elite race but then we all had to leave to make sure we were home for Christmas Eve. It was a great trip and a wonderful experience for these young athletes. The team would like to thank the West Midlands Regional Cyclo-Cross board for their support of this trip and also Waldrons Solicitors who support the West Midlands Cyclo-Cross League.