On a sunny but chilly Saturday of January, ten Master of Finance students visited the Belgian Championship Cyclocross. For the foreign students this was a whole new experience. The race turned out to be a one-man-show by Wout Van Aert. The talented Belgian rider won the race with a 24” lead before Laurens Sweeck and Sven Nys. More importantly, the international students had the time of their lives. Here are some testimonials.
"When I was invited to join a group of locals and some international students to attend a Cyclocross race, I couldn’t say no. Even though I am unable to tell you exactly where it took place, or name the town, I can tell you it was an experience I will never forget. We met at a bus station early in the morning, where we started to drink a few beers before hopping on board a bus (I was glad I had a decent breakfast, and no I don’t normally drink in the morning.)
We arrived at a small town where we expected another bus would soon arrive to take us to the Cyclocross event, but to our surprise they seldom arrived, and when they did they were already full of eager fans of the sport. Our only alternative was to walk, so we began to do so. To our surprise, it was not a 15-minute walk (as one of my friends had mentioned) but it turned out to be close to an hour walk to the event. Needless to say, I had completed my daily recommended exercise, so I did not feel guilty that we continued to drink and eat pretty good food throughout.
I don’t recall who won, but the person whom we were rooting for was someone named “Sven”, who managed to win third place. After the race was over, I expected we would all just hop on another bus and head back to Antwerp, but it was actually after the race where most of the fun took place. We all gathered inside a tent (where alcohol was quite abundant) and danced for hours to a live DJ.
The rest of the day can be summed by trying to drunkenly make it back to Antwerp on a Sunday evening where busses don’t run as often as you would like. Needless to say, we arrived safely and without any regrets. I came back a bit more aware of how life as a Belgian student is, and it was definitely a day I will always remember."
Mario Domogma (USA)
"Probably being the most redneck of the American delegation, this is an event I really enjoyed. It reminded me something of an auto-racing event back home. Being outside, drinking beer, and lots of yelling. It’s the type of event that brings people from many walks of life together, so that is very nice. It is also great that cyclocross is rather concentrated in this region of Europe, so you have the feeling that you are experiencing something you may only experience once if you are an international."
Justin Shaffer (USA)
"To be honest, I am not a fan of cyclocross and I never actually followed any news about it. But I have been told that it’s a wildly popular sport in Flanders that purely reflects a unique Flander’s culture. Let’s face it, such an event is not to be missed! I have experienced one of the weirdest yet most exciting moments of my life. From the passionate crowd that shows up at the racing level, the atmosphere, the screams, the beers, the twisted people you meet, the friends you make…you simply cannot beat racing cyclocross in Belgium!"
Leyla Nehme (Libanon)
"It was interesting to take part in a typical Belgian event such as the cyclocross championship. It was a sport I did not really know existed. Being part of this event and being part of the amazing environment was unbelievable for me. I will never forget this experience. Not only the race itself, but the party tent was a place where a lot of excitement took place. For sure an experience I suggest internationals to take!"
Ricardo Almeida Gomes (Portugal)