It's 5.45am. The alarm is going off. Didn't I only just get to sleep? It's Saturday. Why is it still dark?
Fast forward half an hour. Weary-eyed, almost every single HUNT member of staff is clambering onto a coach outside HUNT HQ to embark on a journey towards the heartland of cyclocross. Cue some smart remarks from the parents among the TRF team about how poorly the rest of us are handling the early morning. Ignoring them, we shuffle past the morning people to sit as close to the back of the coach as we can (Gosse agrees with us, it's where the cool kids sit). However, we've no complaints, for we are heading over to Koksijde, to cheer on our man Gosse van Der Meer and further our understanding of cyclocross in the famous sandy dunes of this round of the UCI World Cup. Maybe we'll get a couple of hours kip on the coach... probably not...
We started working with Gosse almost exactly a year ago, to help us better understand cyclocross as being one of the most demanding disciplines out there on your equipment - especially your wheels! Every sponsorship avenue we explore, must revolve around the principles of innovation and development. Working closely with Gosse is no exception. The fact that he's a super nice guy & a pleasure to be around... well that's just a welcome bonus.
As always, the women's race (which, at UCI World Cup events, contains a mix of Elites and U23s) provided the most competitive entertainment, with Denise Betsema becoming the 4th different winner in 5 rounds after a really hotly-contested race.
In comparison, Mathieu van Der Poel opened up a gap on the first lap and simply rode away to another victory, making it 3 comfortable wins in a row of the 5 rounds.
Without wanting to speculate too much, the European Champion's domination of the field makes us wonder... did he only not win the first 2 rounds because he wasn't there?
In any case, it was truly incredible to be a part of the circus that is a Belgian cyclocross race, and particularly one involving riders of such a high calibre. Really being able to see what sort of abuse the equipment goes through in person is something that allows the entire HUNT | TheRiderFirm team to understand what is required of your cycling equipment when racing such tough disciplines. Up until now, those of us in the office who race CX have always been mocked for how quickly we go through components, so it's important now that the whole team understand just how intense the demands are that are placed on the bikes & components! What even us CX fanatics learned is just how harsh the sand can be on your bike. Chatting with riders, it's clear that prolonged sand racing can have significant effects on the lifespan of hub bearings and disc rotors, as well as of course the drivetrain.
Watching on TV really doesn't do their speed justice, and the riders floated through the sand with great majesty. Aside from the racing itself, the weekend represented a rare but amazing opportunity for the TRF family to be just that, a closely-connected family! It's through our shared love of the sport, and a fine mixture of commonality & difference, that each of us love to come to work every day and serve riders as best we can. The sense of community only enhances our ability to work together to achieve this.
After the race, Gosse took the time to ride out of the rider parking area to come find our coach, and he jumped on to speak with us. It was lovely to have a rider make the effort to come and thank the TRF team for supporting him, and he even followed up with some kind words on WhatsApp whilst we were on our way back home...
"Hey man! Taking time for you guys was the least I could do! Without the support of HUNT, it would be really hard for me to be able to do what I do... It was really awesome to meet you guys all. And I would love to spend a bit longer in England, to properly meet you guys all and get some riding in. That would be more than great!" - Gosse van Der Meer
Top photo credit: Tom Jonckheere