I am lucky enough to be staying with the Japanese team in Koksijde in the week leading up to the World Championships. Japan isn’t quite a powerhouse when it comes to Cyclocross, however they are very competitive across each category, and certainly not just making up the numbers. They have a team of 7 riders, and about 8 staff members including mechanics, a photographer and assistants.
We rode out to the course yesterday and immediately I was wondering what on earth I’ve gotten myself into. About 1/3 of the course was made up of sand dunes. That’s not to say I don’t like it, it’s simply unlike anything I’ve ever seen or ridden. For the somewhat less proficient riders such as myself, this means a lot of fairly exhausting running, and some treacherous descents. Things such as when to remount and how to shift your weight when riding the sand are completely new to me, but I am learning from watching the other riders, and speaking to Yannick and Keeichi who are more than happy to share advice. During official training the organisers had school groups visit to cheer on the riders. There would have been about 1000 students lining the exciting parts of the course, which was certainly a nice way to be welcomed to the World Championships. I stopped to take some photos with the children, and immediately was swarmed by them all trying to get my autograph.
Yesterday the course had dried up a bit, and the channels in the sand were a little more defined, making the tricky sections a little easier to ride, but still very difficult to link up, without having to dismount. Watching the professionals ride these sections is truly amazing, and I’ll do my best to emulate their skills tomorrow.
Japanese freelance photographer Sonoko Yakana has some amazing photos she's kindly allowed me to use. If you wish to use her photos, please contact her first. email@example.com
I'll throw up a post of her photos next week, they're stunning.
The aim is to beat 3 finishers, and finish on the same lap as a few quality riders in front of me. Not a ridiculous wish, but the sand will wreck havoc, so anything can happen. Fingers crossed!