In Socialist Belgium, Jonathan Page cheer you!

I wrote most of this post last month and never finished it, but in honor of Jonathan Page's national championship victory and the impending world champs in Kentucky, I cleaned it up and added a million photos. I have been a big fan of Page since 2001 nationals and supercup in Baltimore when I watched him win the Supercup race (on a Richard Sachs cross bike) by sprinting full speed around Todd Wells into the last set of barriers, barely holding it together as he tripped/ran/fell across the barriers and holding on to the finish for the win. So congrats to Page for his 4th national championship and read on if you got some minutes.

Jacob Van Artevelde discovers Gent's Socialists Dwelling
Thar be socialists

So there I was in Gent for a meeting a back in early November, I cleverly had built in two days at the end of the trip for bicycle based shenanigans, fortunately my long lost pal Jeff was living in nearby Antwerp and up for said shenanigans. On Saturday I planned on hitting the Soudal Classic Jaarmarktcross Cyclocross race in Niel Belgium. I hopped on on my fixie bike friday early saturday morning and rode 5 rainy kilometers to Gent Sint Peeters station and hopped on a train to Antwerp.

Excellent train murals in Sint Peeters Station
Train Station Paintings

Once in Antwerp I hopped on the bike and rode a couple of km to Jeff's abode. Where I discovered he secretly is the man behind the evil society of the Ned Van Vlanders Flag. We talked bikes and stuff and set up a road bike for me for the next day's cobbly adventure on the RVV course. Finally, due to a cancelled ride, Jeff graciously offered to accompany me down to Niel to watch the race.

Flag of the free state of Ned diddily Van Flaandersen
Ned (van) Vlaanders (en)

We rode down on a very confusing yet well marked bike routes down toward the race. I am glad Jeff had some local knowledge and was able to steer us more or less directly down to the race. The routes varied from separated bike lanes, to sidewalk routes, to suburbs then on to skinny farm roads that eventually dumped us in Niel. The ride down featured varying levels of driving mist and rain. It was clear that it was getting increasingly crossy out there. Once in Niel, we followed the trail of welly wearing superfans, paid our fee and got into the race site just before the start of the women's race. We immediately got tiny beers in plastic cups and frites.

Frites with Diablo Sauce and tiny Primus beers
Frites and pintjes

Jeff watches the women's race from the special vantage place...
Jeff watches the womens cross race

The atmosphere was a bit sparse at the Start-finish line, so fortified with more beers, we went in search of mud. It was found. The course was pretty flat with one impressive off camber muddy chicane. Some of the flat sections were more or less unridable. There were sections where the mens field were running for what appeared to be 1/4 mile or more on pancake flat ground. Impressively mucky.

My feets

Deep ruts even for flyweight riders

Manual assist on the crowd barrier

Jeff and I set up camp at an area with a great view of the muddy chicane and with a turn of the head, we could watch the big screen following the race. We watched the end of the women's race, went on a dangerous mud mission to get more beer and returned to our original watching spot to watch the rider's introductions on the big screen. Sven Nys got the biggest cheer. Niels Albert got boos. Jeff and I were probably the only people at the race who cheered for Jonathan Page. The vinyl jacket wearing superclub supporters (Vantourenhout, Nys and Pauls) in front of us, smirked at our homerism.

Me and Jeff and the Bald Superfans, best photo of my whole trip really...
Me and Jeff and Bald Superfans

More superclub fans, Klaas Vantourenhout, Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels
Super Supportclubs

I really enjoyed watching the top Euro's fight it out. There was a pretty big pack at the front initially with a couple guys turning themselves inside out to stay with Nys, Albert, Aeronauts and the reanimated corpse of Bart Wellens. As the race progressed and the field split up we had ample opportunity to cheer on Jonathan Page and watch the big four duke it out. Some mild gamesmanship occured throughout the race, often playing out on the slick climb right in front of us.

Nys cleans it

Chicaney Goodness, I think Albert with Nys behind him

I know you wanted to see the giant umbrella again, note the freshly trimmed tree for TV coverage..
Giant Umbrella

We spent the race cheering Page on as he slowly moved his way from a position in the 20's up to his final position of 18th. The battle between the top four guys spread out over the mud in front of us and the big screen behind us was pretty cool. At the end, much to the disappointment of nearly everyone there, Albert just plain old ran away from Nys and Aeronauts on the long muddy flat run. He opened a 20 second gap there and finished easily ahead of the rest at the line. Aeronauts jumped Nys on the finishing stretch and Wellens tailed in for fourth.

Field blows on by in the beginning
here they come

Page wings on by
Jonathan Page

Page again

Yu Takenouchi was riding a sweet steel Toyo frame with extra cool downtube
Toyo Steel Frame

Nys hisself

After the race ended, Jeff and I wandered around the pits and checked out the mechanics cleaning the bikes, the cool giant buses and the riders warming down. Nys had a giant personal camper, a big tour bus for VIP's to drink and meet people and a small camper selling Nys branded crap. I bought an ugly ass Nys hat. Other highlights were checking out the Toyo bike and the amazing multi team battle jitney.

Only steel bike in the race
Toyo Steel Frame

Check that Downtube
Toyo Steel Frame Shaped DT

The multi team cyclocross battle jitney Cyclocross Battle Jitney

Washy wash
Washy wash

washy washy wash
Washy wash

Totally typical mechanic guy
Classic Mechanic Guy

Finally, if you are still reading and are trying to figure out where the title comes from, Jeff and I left the circus of Neil and started riding home on the bike path out of town. Right at the edge of town a camper van passed us and as we looked over at it, Jonathan Page stuck his head out of the passenger window and gave us a hearty heckle or cheer. It was pretty cool that he not only heard us, but recognized us, especially given his intense focus during the race. I am pretty sure there was no one else on the course cheering for Page that day, but it was still pretty cool. Later, Jeff forwarded me this twitter exchange:


I was smiling about this for at least a week. After getting the cheers, we then rolled back through the fields and dales back into antwerp and shared some road beers on the way among the cows and misty fields. Rolled in to Antwerp, grabbed some dinner and then I folded up the mud and cowshit smeared bike and headed back to Gent. A perfect bike adventure, even including the extra few miles I rode in Gent in the dark and rain as I got pretty lost on the way back to my hotel from the train station.

Road beer on a road, covered in mud and cow shit, but it was a road
This is a road

Trusty steed on the way back
Trusty steed

Dinner in Antwerp, beef stew, more frites and beers
Beef stew beer and frites

The crapulous bike folded up back on the train
Muddy bike on the train back to gent

So I recommend going to watch some cross somewhere big, whether it is Nationals or a Supercup like event or pretty much any race in belgium or upcoming worlds or something else. It is awesome. More photos from the race here. The entire set from belgium is here


30 Cent Bike said...

Hell Yeah Tarik! So, will you be at Worlds then? Hope to see you!

John Speare said...

You have offici8ally killed me.

cyclotourist said...

Well worth the effort to write it up, thanks!

Unknown said...

Nice, except it's Jonathan Page.

Jon-athon is some sort of endurance event, I think.
another Jonathan

Tarik Saleh said...

Thanks all,
30cent, no worlds for me, NAHBS though maybe,

Thanks, fixed! At least I was consistent AND got the J-O-N part, I have to say, the spelling of things like Jonathan and other variants of John like names make no sense to me.

WMdeR said...

Dear Tarik,

Holy cow. Did you really have enough "road beer" on that muddy road that your bike was hung over?

thank you for the tale.

Best Regards,

William M. deRosset
Fort Collins, CO

ssportsman said...

Great story Tarik! Thanks for sharing, and leaving me completely envious

Tarik Saleh said...

Will, Yep, bike was worse for the wear for sure. The best part was on my next trip, a month later, where upon opening the BF case, my hotel room was showered with dried up belgian mud and cow crap.

I did not tell you about riding the cobbled climbs of the ronde course yet...

Mr. Beattie said...

MFTTS. Or some other reference to KFC, a Beligie 'cross write up well done, drunken fixed Bike Friday mayhem, and cheering on a real New England hard man still getting it done in the mud. Well done sir. Well done. And to JP for winning US Nationals a fourth time. Him too. And KFC. She's alright.

Anonymous said...

Sent you $5 for a club pin. Do you know when you will be mailing it? Thanks in advance.

Tarik Saleh said...

Email me with who you are and I can figure out whether you should have got it yet. I have 3 orders going out soon, but if you ordered more than a week ago it should have got there by now...

Desert Dirt said...

Holy smokes. This writeup and accompanying photos are first rate. Who visits Belgium?