Racing under the lights, to a crowd from Interbike, the Vegas World Cup race was fast from the start. Mid way through the race, Wout Van Aert crashed hard on the barriers and didn't look like he was going to finish the race. Picking up his bike, and untangling it from the coarse tape, he grabbed his hip, and ever so slowly got back up. Now back some 20 places, he had a tremendous amount of ground to make up. Slowly and surely he started picking off riders in front of him. After taking the lead of the race, with three laps to go he put his mark on the race by saying time to go, and no one could follow. From someone who's raced bikes a long time, you realize how difficult a feat this is to do. You recognize greatness.
Call up: Laurens Sweeck left, and World Champion Wout Van Aert. To the right is Kevin Pauwels. They finished 3rd, 1st and 2nd respectively.
Friday afternoon while the pro's pre-rode the course, I found my self at the base of Krumpit, near a pool of mud, and struck up a conversation with the stranger standing next to me. I remarked how after the rain, the conditions were very similar to last years Friday night C1 race. I wondered aloud if any of the pro's would be able to ride Krumpit. My new found friend said yes, there are Europeans who can ride this, even with these conditions. Maybe not every lap, but they are capable of riding it. My new found friend, Christoph Roodhooft, coach of Belgian team Beobank-Corendon was right.
In a normal December, the section named Frostbite Forrest would live up to it's name. In the post race press conference, Van Aert said the heat made for suffering, more than Vegas.
The US Challengers
Jeremy Powers has a rough day. A hard crash at Trek CX in Wisconsin the week prior, coupled with the traveling and a cold made for a hard days work.
Top placed US finisher Stephen Hyde crossing though the finish area as the fans start making their way down from Krumpit, in anticipation of Van Aert arriving.
In the press room, Wout Van Aert was asked what had happened early on in the race. "I had a problem with a piece of wood in my derailleur". By the end of the second lap, he was in 19th place. He said this is a very difficult coarse. I just need to focus on my race. By the end of the third lap, he had taken back nine places. With another trip up Krumpit, he'd clawed his way up to 4th place. By the sixth lap he'd put in the fastest lap of the day at 7 minutes and 32 seconds to move into first place. Watching this unfold in person is phenomenal. Watching two back to back come from behind wins is watching greatness.
Laurens Sweeck was asked in the press conference why he was so emotional coming across the finish line. He said here people also cheer for the second guy or ten guy, and that's really great to hear. All throughout the afternoon, you could tell where the race was at by listening to the roar of the crowd make its way around the Johnson County fairgrounds. The crowds and their deafening roar is greatness.