For the second year in a row, the West Midlands Cyclo-Cross Committee, with support from Waldrons Solicitors, has sponsored a development trip to Belgium for some of its developing Junior and U23 athletes who are focussing on National Trophy races.
Above: (Left to right) Luke Markham (Rugby Velo), Joe Fox (Rapha Condor CC), Joe Atkins (Coventry RC) and Danny Fox (RST/Trigon)
On 8 and 9 December, four riders and two support staff made their way to Belgium for a weekend of racing. The riders were Joe Fox and Joe Atkins (both U23) and Danny Fox and Luke Markham (Junior). These were supported by Robin Fox and Gary Rowing-Parker, both from the Solihull club.
The two races selected for the weekend were the Vlaamse Cup race at Varsenare and the Driuvencross at Overijse. Both races offered different levels of competition and course challenge but the focus was purely on development. The Vlaamse cup events are similar to regional events but the level of competition is close to National Trophy. In the Vlaamse Cup junior race, Danny Fox gave a strong ride for eighth place with Luke a few places back. The U23s were in with the senior riders so anything top 25 was a realistic objective. Joe Fox was riding in this position but retired with 10 minutes to go with severe back pain, Joe Atkins rode to the end and was awarded with a top 40 place overall.
On to the Sunday race at Overijse, this is one of the oldest single day cyclo-cross races on the Belgian calendar and the Elite race is supported by the world’s best pro-Elite riders. The course was very hard, with steep climbs and descents and mixtures of surface. In the junior event, Danny Fox was 12th with Luke a further three places back. In the U23/Senior event, the two Joes lined up against the like of Kevin Pauwels, Sven Nys, Niels Albert etc so had a really tough proposition ahead. However in what other sports can amateur 18 year old line up against the Elite world champion and race in front of 10,000 devoted fans? The outcome was somewhat inevitable for the two Joes but they lasted over half the race duration before being pulled but the experience was invaluable.
It was also a first time visit for Gary Rowing-Parker who promotes the Solihull round of the WMCCL, so the experiences gained all round will really benefit the regional league. The riders would like to take this opportunity to thank the WMCCL and Waldrons solicitors for this fantastic opportunity.