This article has been reproduced from the original piece published by Mark Uzii. Read the original here.
Take a look at Mark’s other work here too. He’s currently travelling internationally and exploring (and photographing) the best that local Canadian CX racing has to offer! Don’t forget to follow him on Instagram.
Western Australia’s own CX protege currently racing in Belgium, rubbing shoulders with the best in this sport.
How were your preparations in Belgium leading up to your first race?
So I arrived on a Thursday with my first race Sunday the following week, this gave me plenty of time to acclimatize. I didn’t really have too much jet lag although I was hitting the sack around 6pm for the first week (it’s dark by 4.30). I’m staying at the Flandrien Hotel which is half way between Brussels and the French border. They are super helpful here and while I look after myself with meals, washing and shopping I always have them there if I need. Training is COLD cold, layers is the name of the game. After a few hours your toes are replaced by ice blocks regardless.
I was sick the week before travelling so when I arrived I got some k’s in the legs early in the week along with some really high intensity sessions to open the system up.
Which races will you be attending while in Belgium?
Total of 17 races lined up all the way through early February ‘23. The next few races are:
- 18/12 National Calendar – Balegem
- 13/12 Exact Cross – Mol
- 16/12 World Cup – Gevere
Any challenges riding in such low temps?
It still isn’t easy to control the urge to get past people as fast as I can in the first few laps; the course being so congested definitely helps. The low temperature isn’t so bad. Warming up on the rollers means no wind so you warm up quickly. Then I just layered up until the last minute on the start line and staying pretty warm, once I was racing it was no worries. And no weather induced mechanicals so far, touch wood!
Have you met any of the big names yet?
I had a quick chat with Pidcock, we both went the wrong way trying to get on course for Antwerp recon. The whole weekend was awesome riding on the course with MVDP, Wout and all the big names, watching and following lines. The riding style is so different over here, the courses actually take such technical skill to ride fast.
Give us a brief run down on what your Race Day is like?
Race day starts at 6.30. Whip up a Spanish omelette for breakfast at 7.
Travel – I’ve been driving the hotel team car to the races. The left hand drive is pretty spicy.
Once I’m at the race I hand over my bikes to the mechanics who give them a check over and adjust pressures for the first recon. The mechanics are from a neighbouring town and I pay them each race. They wash, service and prepare the bikes as well as provide pit support during the race.
Rego is next to collect numbers and wrist bands for the pits. Same as local racing; You sign your name off.
I then get ready for first recon of which there are usually 3 through the day. In recon I learn the track then work on line choice and tyre pressures. Sitting in the car with the heater on full blast in between!
I do my warmup on rollers and head to the start line for callups. The mechanics take care of the second bike in the pits. I have an awesome soigneur, Luc, who grabs my jumper at the start line and is there at the finish, he also helps giving updates and insights from the sidelines through the race.
How does it feel starting in the back rows? Is it chaos back there?
Chaos is an understatement. I had a much better start this week in Essen, making up a bunch of positions in the initial sprint.
Although both races I’ve been caught up on the inside of the first corner. Some may say there’s (something) to be learnt!
How’s the vibe back there? Is it pretty civil or are people giving out elbows all day?
The start and first lap have been very physical, especially at Essen! Copping elbows, everyone’s bumping and shoving. I could only start moving up once everyone had settled into a position – otherwise people look at you coming past and sprint you for the next corner.
It’s only been 2 races so far, but what’s your favourite feature/section so far?
Downhill hairpin at Antwerp World Cup. The lead-in was a steep pinch climb then it dived into this super steep slippery downhill hairpin. It was back up the hill out of it into an off camber for a few metres before diving back down into the main straight with screaming fans 3 deep.
Least favourite feature/section?
The sand at Antwerp, I was unprepared for the running, so through no fault but my own it was brutal.
Are the frites better than chips?
Honestly and I’ll be ridiculed, no! The batter to potato ratio is not it, crunchy, dry, like a full box of bottom of the bag chips. The chocolate on the other hand…
Favourite moment so far?
The fans at Antwerp. They are passionate and louuud. They can’t get close enough to yell loud enough in your ear! Aussie, go Aussie, go.
Want to see where Tristan is racing this European winter?
Where can I watch the racing?
Many of the above races are televised/streamed, although some can be trickier to access than others. Australian audiences can generally get all the World Cups live on the UCI YouTube channel.
The Exact Cross, Superprestige and X2O Trofee races are televised live on the GCN+ app to Australian audiences. A paid subscription is required for this which, at the time of writing, is $15.99/month or $64.99/year. Note that GCN+ does also televise the World Cups too, but they’re geo-blocked in Australia (so you’ll need a VPN if you want to watch them on this platform).
Some CX races are also sometimes televised on other platforms such as Kayo and Foxtel. Check your guides to see if they’re available.