On grounds that I should witness at least one ’cross race in person before actually competing, Boxing day saw me and some surprisingly acquiescent family members at Luxembourg’s Fond-de-Gras at Differdange.
The race got off to a blistering start under leaden Continental skies, quickly heading offroad onto a course with an alarming amount of climbing.
The crowd went wild. Dogs wore coats.
As a huge #SVENNESS fan, I got excited when I realised Telenet-Fidea, a team I actually recognised, had a rider in the race. One Ben Boets, if I’m not mistaken.
His pit crew were hard at work making his bikes look cleaner than anyone else’s.
Soon enough, the race split up, with local favourite Christian Helmig looking strong at the front. He faded slightly as the race went on, ultimately finishing 5th. Dave de Cleyn (in black) was the eventual winner, finishing a scant 13s ahead of Joeri Hofman (in green).
The view at the finish line.
Because I like pink bicycles…
As the race took its toll, trailing riders retired or were gently reminded to get out of the goddamn way.
Under 23 champion Massimo Morabito came 11th.
Much Di2 was in evidence, with lashings of Dugast and carbon.
As the highest placing Luxembourger and recipient of the most shouts of encouragement, it was Helmig the press most wanted a piece of in the immediate aftermath.
Second place was well earned.
In keep with continental racing’s traditional scepticism about discs, I counted just three riders eschewing cantilevers. It came as a surprise that Christian Helmig was one of them, but this may be explained by the fact that he’s been racing in the US for the last few years where discs have all but taken over in the pro ranks.
What’s more significant is that this is the first time I’ve seen the new Shimano R785 hydraulics in the flesh. Helmig’s Specialized Crux sported the distinctive levers along with what appears to be custom Luxembourgish bar tape. Perhaps because of existing equipment constraints however, he was running 10 speed rather than 11.
I’m not sure how much I learnt from all this, except that it is blatantly obvious I’m going to be destroyed when it comes to actual racing. How jolly.