Erwin Vervecken is hanging up the cross bike. © Bart Hazen

Erwin Vervecken is hanging up the cross bike. © Bart Hazen

Erwin Vervecken finished a respectable 11th at the GVA Trofee Finale in Oostmalle, nearly two minutes behind the winning Bart Wellens, but the three-time Cyclocross World Champion may have received the loudest cheers at the finish line. The soon-to-be-retired Belgian raced his last major race on Sunday, and only has an indoor race and a celebratory retirement race left on his schedule.

Fans carrying signs that read “Bedankt, Erwin!”—thanks, in Flemish—lined large sections of the course in Oostmalle, chanting, “Dank U!”—thank you—whenever Vervecken passed.

After the race, Vervecken was emotional. “This was my last big cross…the last two hundred meters I never forget,” he told reporters.  “The crowds were shouting so loud as if I was heading for my fourth world title. It really moved me.”

While Vervecken won at the Planet Bike Cup in Madison, Wisconsin, he never quite found his old form to consistently fight for podiums. Nevertheless, reflecting on his season, Vervecken was satisfied. “I did not retire at my peak, but I am not embarassed by what I put down this year. ”

Vervecken shared the bittersweet day with those closest to him. © Bart Hazen

Vervecken shared the bittersweet day with those closest to him. © Bart Hazen

Many Americans believe Vervecken should also be proud of his role as an ambassador of cyclocross, making multiple trips to the States to race top domestic events and put on a show for us in Gloucester, Southampton, Madison, and Vegas.

Stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine as we bring you Vervecken’s last two races.