World Cup #6 / Grit World Racing in Namur

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The Namur World Cup is one of the most classic races on the cyclocross circuit. The track sits atop the citadel hill that overlooks the capital city of Wallonia, Belgium. The track climbs the steep hillsides and plunges through the forest, for some of the most technical and physical racing of the entire season. Andrew Juiliano of Grit World Racing p/b Shimano went headfirst into the race, and he gives us a glimpse into the wild ride in Namur. 

 

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The trip begins the day before the race. Andrew and his landlord/”Belgian Uncle” Christian De Clerq outfit the back of the van, so it will hold three race bikes, 11 DURA-ACE wheels, a power washer and gear.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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Christian secures the Lobsters on the homemade rack for the back of the van. Belgium has no shortage of roundabouts and winding farm roads–best to make sure the bikes aren’t flying around in the back on the hour and a half drive to Namur.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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Namur features one of the most iconic off camber sections in the entire sport. While it looks like a web of mud and ruts, there are actually three main lines, high, middle and low. Andrew speed dabs through the middle line. No need to push here, gravity pulls riders faster and faster toward the off camber exit into the woods. 

Tomás Montes / Arriere du Peloton

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Almost to the end of the off camber. Warmups provide invaluable intel on line choice. This section will eat up 20 extra seconds if you wad up in the lower course tape.

Tomás Montes / Arriere du Peloton

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Brook Watts, the man responsible for bringing the first World Cup race to North America with Cross Vegas, was on scene in Namur. He popped over to wish Andrew good luck during the callups.

Balint Hamvas / Cyclephotos

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Cyclocross starts are one of the craziest spectacles in cycling. Positioning is crucial and it’s literally zero to 1,300 watts right out of the gate. The jockeying can be fierce, and in Namur, the unusual crash happened in the start straight. Andrew managed to squeak by on the left and took the fast track to 27th place heading into the opening climb. It was a gift from the cyclocross gods after starting 50-somethingth call up.

Tomás Montes / Arriere du Peloton

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The start in Namur comes off the cobbles and nukes up a muddy rocky climb to the crest of the citadel hill. It’s full gas for almost a minute, before diving back down the slopes.

Tomás Montes / Arriere du Peloton

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The Namur course offers little respite. If riders aren’t grinding or running up a steep incline, they are plunging over the edge of a steep drop. Here, Mathieu Van Der Poel negotiates the roots and muck after a quick remount after a short run up.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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This is how close the remount is to the drop. It’s all about keeping the forward momentum–no time to pause. Clipped or unclipped, time to send and hope for the best (especially given the rut and abrupt transition about 20 feet lower).

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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Andrew, sliding his way over the edge.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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The crowds gather on the off camber to watch these ruts give grief to the best bike handlers in the world. The speed and squirrely nature make for some spectacular saves, and even better crashes when riders launch over the low side course fencing.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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The ruts are tough enough in practice. Throw in some extra cross racers for a real jolly time!

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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@drewliano, rut surfing.  

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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The section has a mucky, off camber exit. There is a rut in the middle that is the point of no return. Stay above it and you can carry speed around the post. Get stuck under it, and you’ll slide into the course fencing and lose time and speed.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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The steep drops and run ups through the woods are real crowd pleasers. The masses gather on the muddy side-hills to watch suffering on the way up, and sheer acts of bravery as racers drop into the muck.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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This guy dragged his brother around in the mud all race. He’s going to pay when that little guy hits his growth spurt.  

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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Mud slip and slides, on and off the course.  

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing

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The course was so muddy that the power climbs turned into foot slogs. This is the crest of a two tiered run-up that also featured an off camber rut and tractor pull mud pit in the middle. Andrew’s face tells the suffer story.

Balint Hamvas / Cycle Photos

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Headed out for one last plunge and long climb back to the parking lot.

Tomás Montes / Arriere du Peloton

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Coming in toward pit number 2. There is about 300 meters of flat on the course–really the only chance to recover before nuking it up the start climb for another round.

Tomás Montes / Arriere du Peloton

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Flat tires and flat legs sent Andrew back to the van early. Christian scrubs off the bike, while Andrew ponders what might have been after such good luck at the start. Alas, he’ll have to wait a year, for another shot at this iconic track.

Annick Lamb / Grit World Racing