Last December we had the chance to attend and experience first hand the Superprestige Zonhoven in Belgium, a unique and spectacular cyclocross race.
At first, we thought about doing a recap of the great battles we saw in all the races from the different categories. However, after considering it with the team, we came to the idea of explaining why attending a Superprestige race, at least once in your life, should be something mandatory for any fan of this discipline or just any cycling enthusiast.
1. Local cycling culture
In most western European countries, bicycles play a huge role in both villages and major cities as a usual way to move around, commute, go shopping or as a leisure activity.
Moreover, in the case of Belgium, cycling is also about competition, and it is together with football the two most followed sports. Belgians grow up closely attached to this sport which tradition is inherited from generation to generation, either as a hobby or at a competitive level. There are races in all towns and villages and, since great mountains are not found all across the country, they focus on the classics and cyclocross, which count with hundreds of thousands of spectators who follow it very closely. It is not rare to see whole families, including newborns and elderlies, leaving their homes on the weekend to attend the most important races of the season.
2. Technical courses
With or without mother nature’s help, race organizers always find a way to put together very technical courses in which riders will have to test their skills and talent on the bike.
There exist infinite possibilities and combinations: stairs, bridges, humps, sand banks, wooden barriers, muddy trails, off-camber sections, grass, etc.
3. The CX elite
Any elite cyclocross rider who wants to challenge the best and become one of the great CX legends, without any doubt, will have to compete in a Superprestige race. It is a series of races taking place throughout the cyclocross season, each of them being equally important for the final general classification.
4. Top teams
Not only are the riders the ones who are interested in attending these races, but also the teams who know everything that is at stake. During race day, the focus is on the riders and their results. It’s a good environment to show off and prove your worth to the sponsors and, why not, make new contacts for future seasons.
Behind each event of such a level, there is a long checklist for getting everything right. From the course layout, security, health professionals and volunteers, to the spectators’ area, VIP guests, media zones and many others that contribute to the overall organization. For sure, a great job, which is not always acknowledged, by all the organizers of each Superprestige race.
6. Media impact
Aside from the local and national press, in events of this magnitude, there is always an endless showroom of media teams who arrive from all over the world. In addition to that, the race is broadcasted live, both on a national and international level, and TV presenters, interviewers, video cameras and satellite antennas are commonly seen along the course.
7. Great atmosphere
In a similar manner as in the great classics, people give it all in the races. It is a great celebration in which nobody wants to be left out, whether by participating in one of the racing categories (almost all age groups are included), attending as a spectator or, even, volunteering. In the last group, it is very likely to find retired people keeping an eye on the crossings spread along the course.
The weather in cyclocross races might not be one of the main reasons to attend one. Nonetheless, it is true that rain and cold are essential in order to experience the cyclocross atmosphere we may have at the top of our heads when thinking of a typical CX race.
9. Food and drinks
The first time I had the chance to visit Belgium, some friends of mine took me out for some typical Belgian food and, to my surprise, we ended up eating in a restaurant where the main dish was French (or Belgian) fries… Thus, in every Superprestige race you will not miss any French fries, sausages, burgers and, of course, stands with beers.
To all of those who might not like waiting between races, there is no need to worry. The organizers have already thought about everything, and you will be able to find giant tents with live DJs playing all day long for all those who, besides attending a sports event, want to party and have more fun.
We hope that with this list of reasons and with the pictures we took throughout our visit to Zonhoven, you can get a better idea of the great experience we lived. We were astonished as we first glanced at the sandpit, called De Kuil, so characteristic of this race and the pure show that riders such as Toon Aerts or Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado put together.
As a final point, next year Zonhoven will step up the game and will no longer be a Superprestige race but a World Cup cyclocross event.
Photos by: Brazo de Hierro