We have the gravel tennis courts where I got the scar that makes my left knee look like it's been assaulted by a garlic press. We have the pond with the secret path behind it that leads to primo make-out territory. We have the pool whose big slide keeps getting smaller every year, the concrete tunnels which you can use to sneak from one side of the course to the other without having to bother with the security guys and the hill beside the indoor pool which six year old us would crest at breakneck speeds, letting our inner crosser out by stubbornly refusing to ride on the road, which is a meter to the right of the grassy knoll we preferred.
There isn't a Koksijde or Namur in the world that can compete.
So last Saturday I slept in late, had a good brunch and headed off to Kapermolenpark for an afternoon of cross at the GVA race in Hasselt. I was there in time to see the juniors, U23 and elite men as, and I do apologise for this in the name of my town, Hasselt does not have a women's race.
They'd made some changes from previous years to make the race a wee bit more interesting now that the rain is staying mainly in Spain. The logs were a very, very popular addition to the race, and I feel confident we'll see them again. For the men's race, crowds there were three rows thick, which meant I couldn't see a damn thing.
The additional sand pit was good too. It was deep and stubborn, and during warm up many lesser gods were getting stuck, falling over and doubling back to give it another go. Bart Wellens tackled the sand with his usual excellent painface.
The bridges were cool also. I had hoped for some Tom Meeusen or Zdenek Stybar airtime, but alas, they didn't listen. The U23s obeyed me better.
During the men's race, I moved around as I always do. From the opposite side of the pond...
... to the playground area.
You know, cross races are fun and all, but you just can't beat playing on slides. The little guy in orange kept going up and down the slide, up and down, up and down time and time again. His big brother, who couldn't have been over two years his senior, kept admonishing him for not paying attention to the race.
In the end, they reached a compromise: pay attention when the front of the race was flying past, up and down the slide at all other times. A perfect world.
After the race I headed to the rider's area, which is basically a big parking lot filled with vans big and small. The winner was extremely popular, only out-crowded by Nys and Stybs.
Bart Aernouts had his standard silly grin plastered over his face, as always. The more often I see that boy, the happier he makes me.
After a while, all the cooling down was done. Bikes were washed, wheels were stashed, vans were leaving. But one guy I had not seen yet. And I couldn't leave without seeing him. Albertina would've killed me.
While waiting for Zdenek, I happened to encounter Albertina's perfect husband. A dude hanging around the Stybar van, at a cross race...
In the end though, it was worth the wait. Stybar was exceptionally polite. "Ja, alstublieft, dank u wel", after every picture, every autograph, every pose. And there were a lot. When a woman asked him if he wouldn't mind posing with her baby, he gladly obliged. Only, he wouldn't give the baby back. "Can I keep him, please?"
Mom did not like that.
I gave myself permission to use all these pictures. I also own them, so paws off.