Bart Wellens is one of the few riders on the Belgian National Team who knows what racing in the US is really like. He and teammate Rob Peeters have come over two years in a row for CrossVegas, and this season, they stayed for MFG in Seattle and left only after the first of the USGP series in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. When we sat down to talk to him, he had some of the most comprehensive views on racing in Europe versus the US, and we were excited to hear about what the key differences were, in his mind.
“Hard time!” he said, of his last trip to the US. “We did five races here. Las Vegas, Seattle two races, then here to see the venue. Then I think to Wisconson to ride two places. We saw the races and the hotels, so it was long time for us. Training was not so much, maybe one hour. I was tired.”
Wellens continued to discuss the difficulties of US racing, pointing out how easy it is to travel in Belgium versus the States. “September is a very important. To train a lot. It is impossible because you need to fly, and that time you fly you need to train. Training and resting. It’s so hard. You get tired from it. That’s very different than us. We train, we rest, we eat. We take the camper and lie in bed until we are there. After the race, home, back in bed. It’s not for US. I have so much respect for US guys, not only for here but also to come to Belgium.”
Wellens has five mechanics along with him, as well his equipment, which he says has cost him over 10,000 Euros. “I need to be World Champion on Sunday to earn enough living to be here!” he joked. “But maybe this is the first step to get cyclocross more international.”
And the differences between US and Belgian races? “Here, we say it is a ‘to do’ sport, and Belgium it is a ‘to watch’ sport.”