1.07.2016

Cyclocross: In Loenhout with Angus Edmond

I can't find the start. This story is like a tangled skein I kept too long in my backpack. I look at it in despair. Because a story needs words, doesn't it? I wrote down nothing and barely asked a question. I made myself invisible to stay out the margin, out the border, out the frame. I made myself an intent eye and dedicated listening. But when I think about it, silence is all I get: the speaker's voice - deaden, from far - brakes' noise. I'm sure there was some music. 
Loenhout is a small rural village lost somewhere at the border with the Netherlands. It takes one hour to come here from Antwerpen by train and bus. Cows, fields, a church, few houses and once a year a cyclocross race.
I'm sure it was noisy, at least in the crowd gathering at the riders' campers and at the gate. Walking further there were this typical line of creatively parked cars with kids, parents and bikes. I was looking for Angus Edmond and Niner's bikes. 
We were supposed to meet in Diegem but Angus had got sick. In Loenhout I was going to spend the whole day with him and it felt strange because we are almost daily on touch but just had met once. In spite I know Angus because of the cyclocross it's hard for me to think about him just or especially like a rider: he's a friend and a very interesting guy, with original ideas and personal opinions, with a complicated life that I can understand very well or at least I feel not so different from mine, because he has got a son, a daily job that isn't cycling and a passion that's more than a hobby but doesn't make a living. I can relate.
Read his blog if you didn't yet. The last one is about Loenhout, well written and touching. "I have moved heaven and earth to be here" he says "made all kinds of sacrifices, my friends are putting me up (and putting up with me), helping out as much as they can, and it all results in me sitting fatly on the sofa wondering what I am doing with my life. I was falling into a dark place." I know that feeling... Fortunately he started feeling better and racing in Loenhout wasn't so bad. 
So there he was, in the same orange jacket he was wearing last year in Diegem, the loaned car he had driven all the way - from Denmark to Mouscron and from there to here - parked by a construction site, packed and quite messy. Next to it there was a gazebo with his bikes and his mechanic Bender was talking with his manager Pieter: the "staff".
We said hi, with smiles and hugs. There is something wrong in talking so often and meeting so few but that's friendship in the internet era.
He was looking sad or anyway down. He asked me about the race in Zolder: "I'm sorry I didn't race it" he said. 
When I arrived he was in a hurry: he was supposed to ride a recon. But they had got the schedule wrong, the U19 were racing so he left the bike and we went to see the circuit on foot.
The sole question I asked, I asked now and it was a banal one: 
"How did you end up a cyclocross racer?". His answer was a surprise:
"How did I start? Mhm... I don't know... I think I'm a pure cross rider, probably because it was a cheaper winter bike... Cyclocross is less expensive than road cycling, races last less...". And yes, it's a completely different world, way less cool, commercial and glossy.
My son races on the road but he would like to try the cross. The problem is that in Italy it isn't very popular.
"There are two ways to do it" Angus said "If you want to race for fun, everywhere it's ok. But if you want to become really good you must to race here. Here though it's harder because there are many and the level is higher. If you race in Italy and you are quite good you can get better results and manage to race the Worlds because there aren't Italian riders, or there are few."
As a single parent I don't like that much the idea to drive my son to and from Belgium once a week! Unaware of mom's cospiracy he was happy so far, drinking Belgian beer and eating friets.
There was a break before the Elite Women's race so Angus went riding the circuit. I took some pictures and remained to watch the start of the Women's race, then I went back to the Malteni/Niner camp. Angus got off the New Zeland kit to wear the orange and blue Malteni jersey. "That's the same in every cathegory." I said "The pinning of the number..."  Siting in the car, his jersey on the steering, Angus was applying a 51 on it. Then he asked Bender to fix the saddle and rode to the start. We followed: Bender, Pieter, Angus' friend Zombiker and his little son Sander.
I went straight to the start and found a decent place. Angus rode a few times up and down, then he dispeared at the back of the group gathering by the grid. One by one the riders got named and took place. Ready, standing, go! the race was on.
I spent it running from a barrier to another one to take pictures and to cheer Angus adequately. It must be said that Belgians are very supportives and have a big respect for riders like him so at the back of the race there was a lot of yalling.
After the race I found Angus siting at the car, a Malteni in his hands, looking tired but happy. "Angus did pretty well today"  Zombiker commentated on a pictures of him "if you consider him being sick most of the week and having a team manager who took him beershopping after the race instead of driving him to a masseur."
‪Indead, he did well. He did even better the next day in Pétange, where he finished. He had fun and that's why you race, isn'it? 
It was time to put all back in the car and I helped to folder the gazebo. Seeing me so willing Angus came with a handful of pins: "Can you gather them please? Do you know how?", "Yes, sure." I'm used to deal with my son's pins. Meanwhile Angus was tearing the glued numbers off the jersey's sleeves so I was: "Hey! I want the number!". Not sure it's a lucky one but I have it on my wall now.
The car was packed, the sun went down and we had to rush to get the bus. More smiles and more hugs. One day it's too short. I didn't find the words, nor now nor that day.

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