Tom Robertson continues to bring us words and images covering the Euro Cross Campers experience, this time from the Loenhout Azencross. Missed his previous post? Check out his photos from the Diegem Superprestige.
by Tom Robertson
The Euro Cross campers loaded up on an early Wednesday for a drive towards the border with The Netherlands for the GVA race in Loenhout. The race is run on the edge of town, and a large crowd showed up early to see all of the races. When the gun went off for the Junior race the track was still partly snow, but starting to turn to mud. Yannick Eckmann was easily placed inside the top 10 at the start, but a crash in the early laps knocked him back a bit. Andrew Dillman caught up to Eckmann and hung on for a bit, before Eckmann recovered and went on to finish 8th, while Dillman finished 18th. Jeff Bahnson had his best race this trip so far to finish in 20th.
In the U23 race, Zach McDonald got caught up behind a crash on the first turn, and was in 21st by midway through the first lap. By the third lap however, he had worked his way all the way up to 5th and was looking comfortable. One rider was off of the front, but McDonald was in a small group. A long stretch of pavement on the course allowed for groups to be able to get some speed. With three laps to go McDonald’s group had swelled to around 20 or so, but he was still placed nicely towards the front. Chris Hurst was riding a nice race, and was in a larger group not far behind. With two laps to go McDonald again got caught up behind a spill in the same corner where the crash happened in the first lap. His large group splintered and he chased the rest of the way to finish 19th. In recounting his race afterwards he was upbeat about the experience. He said that he would struggle on the surges on the paved sections, but in the mud and snow he was stronger than the rest. Already looking forward to next year, McDonald will have a couple of more years in the U23 ranks, and anticipates racing for podium spots.
By the time the elite race started, the mud was ultra thick in a number of spots. Even before they hit the mud, the elite race had a crash after 25 Meters, with Mitchell Hoke getting caught up behind it. After three laps though, Hoke had already worked his way up in the field, and was gaining speed. Towards the front of the race Sven Nys had a gap after one lap, with Neils Albert eventually catching him. The two of them worked together and amazingly increased their speed throughout. This eventually led to half the field being pulled. Nys had a mishap on the last pit and Albert was able to finish with a 10 second gap.