Thursday, January 26, 2012

Koksijde 1

Koksijde 1

Air France Hangover on the TGV
Me and Bruce
Out Go the Lights….Twice

So I’m re-opening my blog to give you all my recounts of the 2012 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.

So the departure from Boston via Air France to Paris would be uneventful. I had the unusual departure of 5.30 from Logan. This means an arrival in France of 12:30 in my body but 6:30 a.m. in France.

Having given my liver a break, I could not turn down Air France wine while I read countless European ‘cross results to prepare for announcing my third UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.

I plowed through results and action movies on the flight and touched down in what seemed like no time.

We arrived on a dark and damp tarmac and began the confusing parade of Charles De Gaulle Airport, a massive tube of humanity with countless ports of entry. Paris is a fascinating hub with massive columns of Asian people flooding up against colorfully dressed African women and heavily made up French women. How can French women get away with so much make up and pull it off?

The entire arrival heightens my senses. Every cylinder, every synapse is firing as I bathe in the French language with just enough mastery to convince everybody I actually speak French….which I don’t. So all their directions are in French which means I stupidly do things like walk right off the train platform!

I’ve discovered I’m booked on the TGV from Paris to Brussels! Fantastic adventure! Stay tuned. Next stop is Brussels and then north on a regional train to Koksijde


January in Northern France and Belgium is not all that cold…With a damp mist and gray sky it penetrates every building, every coat, and every soul. I disembarked from the TGV, snared my bag, and then dragged about the Brussels Midi Station to sort out the next leg of the trip, a train to the North Sea.

Given the multitude of languages and cultures and immigrants tumbling about Europe, one would expect to see some comprehensive signage. Nah....One simply must be polite and brave and willing to ask what the hell to do. Frankly, I like it because I have those skills. But this experience would rattle the average American suburbanite.

I bumbled from the info booth to the wrong ticket booth to the correct ticket booth and got myself ticketed for 18 Euros. With 40 minutes to kill I dragged my bags across the trolley tracks, walked a block or two, got a bottle of water to offset the TransAtlantic wine on Air France, and then dug into Cruz Verde for a box of ibuprofen to offset the TransAtlantic wine on Air France.

After a lot of beer drinking over the holidays, I sent my liver to the cleaners for a few weeks to prepare for the Tim Johnson Ride on Washington. Despite a few trip ups after cross nationals, I did really well and felt great. I like not drinking.

But there was no way in hell I was going to Belgium for Cross Worlds without drinking some beer! So this is a beer drinking vacation.

So with this airline hangover, I tramped up the stairs to the train platform for the 11:14 train to Koksijde. I found one person on the platform: Bruce Fina.

Bruce and I are funeral friends. We go a long way back and will undoubtedly go a long way forward. I thoroughly enjoy his personality and passion for promotions. I could tell by the gray hairs that that the strain of pulling off the masters world championships and the 2013 elite worlds had taken its toll.

Our recent division over the calendar, when he wanted me to move Providence to accommodate the USGP moving its calendar date but I refused, has been settled going into 2013.

So we boarded the train and spent the 90 minutes talking about American ‘cross, his life in Austria, World War I battlefields, the NFL, and particularly our appreciation of the New England Patriots. I gazed across the lowland landscape with its modest, brick homes, its fabulous modern windmills, and studied the Fietsnetwerk of bike paths and lanes. We arrived and parted ways; my driver, Wilfred, greeted me and off I went to the UCI host hotel.

Wind spattered rain on the Nissan van as we splashed through Koksijde. The landscape reminded me of Cape Cod or the Outer Banks in off-season. I saw the venue and could not fathom how 50,000 people would cram into such a small area. This venue is one half the size of Stage Fort Park and they would be hosting the world.

There is one key element to Koksijde: sand. I’ll describe this more tomorrow after I walk the course.

After rolling through Koksijde, we rolled eastward to the host hotel. I arrived and checked into a simple, neat four-story hotel with a foggy view of the dunes. I had a gift bag with a bottle of brandy, a deck of cards, and some With that I plugged in my electrical adaptor purchased last year in Germany. And into that I plugged my power strip, intent on charging EVERYTHING I had.


The thing shut off and the strip went dead. And I could not get a charge at all. Dead. With a dead laptop and dying phone, I got a snack in the bar and attempted to sleep….With my body protesting the nap at what it perceived to be 9 a.m. But I conked out lightly. I woke up refreshed, asked for help with the electricity thing, and waited in my room….And waited…..Finally the desk clerk arrived with a new adaptor which did not fit. Frustrated, I grabbed a pile of World Cup results and went to the restaurant.

These trips are wonderful…but also wonderfully lonely. And with a dead computer they are that much lonelier with no e-mail and no Skype. But I drank a double-double Belgian beers, ate small shrimp with the shells on, and ordered the Cassolet de Poisson…which was fantastic.

I pored over results of the Under 23 and Junior World Cups. Here goes my rant on announcing: nobody gets paid to announce the elites. The elites each spend nearly a decade on the trophy shelf of the sport. We all develop a solid sense of who they are, how they race, where they live, what they won, what they lost, etc. We announcers all brush up on the facts before we work a big event but we’re smearing more icing on the cake than most of us can eat.

At the worlds, I put a lot of effort into the Junior and the Under-23 categories. I doubt any of you have ever heard of Vojtech Nipl, but he’s an amazing young rider. These guys don’t have trading cards, look like their 12 years old, and only emerged on the scene in the last few years. I spent four hours tonight analyzing lap times of World Cups this season in these categories. I love that you recognize old names such as Van Der Poel and Frischknect in these ranks. These kids race their brains out. And announcing here fills up my library for future announcing at the elite level.

After dinner I returned to the room, saw the staff had fixed my power outage in one sector of the room. Then I decided to plug in my power strip in another outlet just to try it…..


Only this time, I blew out the entire third floor! Totally in the dark, I groped my way to the desk only to realize they had closed for the night. I wandered into the kitchen and with pigeon French explained the predicament. The bad news is that Belgian circuit breakers are touchy; but they go right back on! And I’m in business!

Thanks for reading. I’ll give you my course report and handicap the Saturday races tomorrow!


  1. Good stuff Richard
    Look forward to more reports.

  2. Great stuff my friend! I hope to hear you in the background when I try and watch from my hotel in Bosie Sunday morning.


  3. Richard,
    I forgot to let you know that I have a friend that visits every year in Sarasota, who lives in Copenhagen. He's an ex-pro who got tickets to the vip section and absolutely loved the announcing you did for the races. He had a video he made on his phone of the finish and your voice is loud and clear. When I told him I was your old roommate he expressed his appreciation for how much more you brought to the event. Best of luck @ CX worlds and will be looking forward to more updates.