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What Albertina and her Camera saw at Loenhout and Bredene, or, Crossmas Part 1!

Once again, I forfeited sun, sea and sand this Christmas week for mud, sand, and….mud. My friends think I’m weird. Maybe I am. Anyway, I spent a week at The Chainstay in Oudenaarde for the second winter running and attended four cross races (GVA Loenhout, Sylvestercross Bredene, Fidea Classics Leuven and GVA Baal) with the gang. The Chainstay houses foreign racers over in the Holy Land to try and make their way on the toughest stage of all, and also caters for hangers on like yours truly. I made friends with them all last year and had such a great time that I couldn’t stay away! My housemates were Gabby Day (GB…you know her of course), Jeremy Durrin (USA), Craig Richey (Canada) and British U23s Andy Hargroves and Luke Grey, and I travelled to the races with them, waving a soigneur’s pass of power. I won’t bore you too much with words, as pictures speak louder, right? In this instalment I will cover Loenhout and Bredene. I have way to many photos to fit in one post, so please indulge me!

GVA Loenhout (Azencross)

Not long after arriving, I had a wander around the campervans of The Bigs. I always grin when I see, in real life, the cross guys I normally only view on a little box on my computer screen. Hello Niels!!

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Parking at Loenhout was a nightmare. We ended up miles away in our unmarked van. Kevin Pauwels on the other hand had had the forethought to hire someone's drive.

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The first slice of action I saw in Belgium was the U23 race, which was won by home favourite Wietse Bosmans. Here, though, is my housemate Andy Hargroves, making his way through the slop. He had a good race.

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I loved Sanne van Paassen's Big Black Bobble Hat.

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Let me introduce you to Hasko Stybar. Just as friendly and polite as his master. 404553_832443012400_202903195_40102594_367984353_n_medium

Daphny and her legendary braids

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As soon as the rain came on, the Basques scurried for cover. Curious, no? 393314_832443461500_202903195_40102603_121946470_n_medium

The ever smiling Bartje Aernouts obliges the TV dude

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The women are gridded

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Vos and van den Brand look way more relaxed than I do before racing. That's Vos' brother Anton with the camera

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Styby Styby Styby! Happyface.

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The calm before the storm

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Egoitz Murgoitio. I shouted AUPA, much to the confusion of those around me. 407098_832446465480_202903195_40102648_1622624278_n_medium

Zlamalik and Stybar have a Czech Czinwag

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His Svenness shows how it's done. But Nielske did it better!

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Sylvestercross Bredene (the one where Styby lost and I was annoyed)406728_832448391620_202903195_40102687_540847487_n_medium

Bredene is a rather quieter race. Look who I met looking all relaxed like! I asked a mechanic if I could have a picture and he yelled 'Niels! An English girl wants your photo!' I blushed. He came trotting out all smiles and one of his entourage took charge of the camera. He couldn't work out how to use it, so Niels sighed, grabbed it off him, and gave him a tutorial. He was really quite delightful and super relaxed! 379124_832448586230_202903195_40102690_1512472987_n_medium

Guillaume van Keirsbulck (above) showed up for some fun by the sea and provided priceless entertainment. He followed Stybar round in the pre-ride, trying to copy him and follow all his lines. Stybar powered into the sand but poor GvK fell off. Ach, whatever, thought he, and got off an walked. He had a nasty moment on this hillock too, just after Stybar had roared up it.

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But he was clearly having a fabulous time, laughing raucously with Wilfried Peeters on the rollers. He wasn't THAT bad in the end either, beating some 'proper' crossers!

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I was a proper soigneur in Bredene, and went onto the startline to collect Craig's jacket and tights. I was so close to everything! Very exciting! Here's Craig getting ready. To my right was Mrs Stybarova, doing the same for her son. 382584_832453586210_202903195_40102736_2119165938_n_medium 386272_832453855670_202903195_40102744_1542108985_n_medium 395197_832453720940_202903195_40102740_1421854187_n_medium

Guess what? A bad start for Niels! He didn't really recover either, but there were bigger races ahead.....406847_832454259860_202903195_40102753_20371669_n_medium

In Part 2, Albertina and Her Camera will be in Leuven (minus the ailing tgsgirl. Sadface) and Baal!

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