Thursday, 16 February 2012

GVA Trofee: Oostmalle

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(image credit:  WSC Oostmalle)
Bad news - Sunday the 19th of February brings the last big cyclo cross meet of the season. However, the upset is slightly lessened by the fact that it's the GVA Trofee at Oostmalle; one of the most twisty, turny, technical tracks to have ever felt the rough touch of a pair of Rhinos. There are some similarities between this parcours and the legendary Koksijde with some sections on runway and some on sand; but the terrain that characterises this race is woodland. The highest points just reach 29m, but with the lowest at 17m on a parcours 3km in length there are some steep ramps with a maximum gradient of around 6.7% in places.

From the start line (51°16'36.78"N 4°45'35.66"E) the riders have a 390m blast along the runway to start off, a state of affairs that will suit Helen Wyman after she's been demonstrating how fast she is in an opening sprint recently,  then it ends abruptly with a sharp left onto sand, potentially shattering the lead of any rider who was fastest from the line and passing over the reins to those riders who can best handle the technical sections. After 200m (look here for an old oak tree which, with its roots half exposed, looks as though it's trying to crawl away), the parcours again turns left and follows a track for a few metres , then turns left to travel past the "Publiekstent" (which is probably where you need to go if you want beer), through a tight V-shaped bend and onward to the pits. After turning right, riders dip briefly into woodland and negotiate a couple of tight left-hand turns, then emerge back onto the sand and follow the edge of the woods back past the runway.

Having followed the perimeter of the woods for 110mm, the riders duck back into the trees for a relatively uncomplicated and straight 100m back through to the sand on the other side and then turn left before the path leads into the woods again 20m later. The following section, just under half a kilometre in length, is entirely in the woods and features some tight bends, sharp corners and all the usual puncture risks that lurk within a forest environment. It comes out back onto sand, then after 23m it's left and back into the woods again. This section has fewer bends than the last, but climbs fairly steeply and then descends fast just before it spits the riders back out onto the sand and into some hairpins. Once through, they make a second pass of the pits and remain on sand as they follow the path around the north-western banks of the lake to a track.

After just a few metres on the track, the parcours leads back onto the sand in the opposite direction it came for around 45m, then turns sharply right into the woods once more. This final 475m is entirely forested and features several technical sections, including sharp corners hairpins and the always-amusing beams over which most riders will shoulder their bikes but those with the skills (or desire to show off) will bunnyhop (51°16'37.51"N 4°45'46.09"E). It emerges at the runway next to the VIP tent near the start line, where another lap begins. On the final lap, riders will sprint along the runway to the finish line located just before the first corner (51°16'28.03"N 4°45'47.98"E).

Altimetry (click for enlargement)
Les Déesses de la Route Choices: Daphny Van Den Brand is the most obvious - she's been on fire over the past month and this, the last race of this year's Trofee, would be a fantastic way to end her 'cross career - she plans to retire once the season ends. Both the Sannes, Van Paassen and Cant, could also do well here and will be looking for a chance to end the season on a high note, as will British riders Nikki Harris, Helen Wyman and Gabby Day. Harris has ridden exceptionally well in her last two or three races and there's no reason she won't do so again here. As mentioned earlier, that long sprint from the start and up to the finish line will suit Wyman very well; however, she says she's been suffering with a stomach bug this week - best wishes for a speedy recovery Helen. Then, there's Marianne Vos, of course - the seemingly unbeatable World Champion. Finally, Christine Vardoros will no doubt also want to do well after her chances at Heerlen last week were ruined by an asthma attack. That she kept going and finished the race on that occasion proves she certainly has the determination!

Programme: 10:00 Novices, 11:00 Juniors, 12:00 Under-23, 13:45 Elite Women, 15:00 Elite Men (CET)
Streams: Cycling Fans are showing the Elite Men. If anyone manages to locate a stream for the Elite Women, please let us know either by email, Tweet or in the messages after this article.

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