Carpetbagging in Belgium – A Report by Sue Butler
Houghton Mifflin’s Dictionary defines a carpetbagger as “An outsider…who presumptuously seeks a position or success in a new locality.”
Some think the popular Portland racer Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale.com) fits this definition, as she’s traveled to Europe battling at World Cups. But her husband Tim has taken carpetbagging to a new level. See our report from Sue below.
Corn Field ‘Cross – Belgian Style
by Sue Butler
There is an abundance of coverage for the pro men’s cyclocross racing in Europe. There’s a decent amount for the elite women and U23 and juniors. But have you ever wondered what the ‘normal’ person does in Belgium? Does the average Joe race ‘cross? Is there a Cross Crusade in Belgium? I had never really had to answer that question myself, until the unthinkable happened. My husband, Tim, decided to join me over Christmas on one condition: that he could race while he was here. I had my work cut out for me.
With due diligence prior to my departure, I did find out that there was an abundance of masters racing in Belgium. Wouldn’t there have to be with the masters world championships here? There are several clubs that put on races for the young, old and female ‘non-elite’ racers. The categories sound the same, A-G, but these are not based on ability, but rather age. And each club has different classifications, just to keep it simple and easy, right?
At any rate, Tim and I navigated our way to one of the LRC (Landelijke renners en crossers) races on Saturday, the day after Zolder. I had had my fun; now it was Tim’s chance. Thankfully I purchased a GPS for this trip and it brought us right to “inschrivingen” in the small town of Wielsbeke. My limited dutch definitely helped, as no one spoke English there. We paid the 10 Euro and Tim got a number. We would get 5 Euro back when we returned the number. All this fun for 5 Euro (about $7). And then he was ready to race!
We pre-rode the course. It was basically a cornfield with a frozen track and lots of ruts. No dismounts whatsoever. A few whoopdee’s, or mounds of dirt and ditches to ride through, but nothing like Zolder. No one seemed to mind. We figured out where the start was and how it was going to work. Tim instantly made friends on the line and there were at least 30 people in the “C” category and they started with the D & E’s following just a minute afterwards. So it was chaos on the course. I wandered around in search of the pit, because I hadn’t seen it in warm up. Finally I had to ask, and was told in broken English, there is no pit. You can give assistance ANYWHERE! Yes, you can wander around the course and change a flat or change a bike wherever. So I kept a close eye on Tim, yelling for him and getting the typical stare. No one cheers like we do in the states, but I didn’t care. This was his first Belgian race! As he began to lap the E category and the D’s, he moved up in the C’s. Then I hear him yell, “SUE, I HAVE A FLAT!!!” The brand new Dugast, was sad and compressed to the rim. I quickly gave him my other bike and ran to the car and put a new wheel on it and found him a lap later. I asked if he wanted the bike, and at first he said ‘no’, but then thought twice, so next time he saw me, he said “sure, I’ll take it”, so in the middle of the lap, we did a bike exchange. It was hilarious!
After all was said and done, we think Tim got second. We got our five euro back and he was awarded his prize. Yes, everyone gets a prize.
As the bartender handed him his prize, Tim and I looked at each other, puzzled. Huh? Tim was awarded…three carpet squares…and a tape measure!We accepted it gratefully, gave hearty thanks and we were on our way to the Tour of Flanders Museum for a little post-race fun.
That, my friends, is what the ‘other’ people do in Belgium to fulfill their obsession for cyclocross.
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