Here are the stories from three different SRAM riders and wrenches about last weekend’s World Cup Mountain Bike Races in Houffalize, Belgium (Note: Pictures don’t necessarily match up with the text):
Jill Kintner is on the scene with authority, and taking no prisoners:
Where else can you find Nike swooshes carved into the facial hair of puma slippered wearing men, and waffles so delicious that you can barely resist the smell passing by? Belgium.
This was our first trip to Houffalize for the world cup 4x event, and for me what makes each place unique is the the enthusiasm and culture of the fans who set the tone for events to come.
People showed up in the thousands, speaking French, German, Dutch, English, etc ready to cheer on their favorite riders and see the show.. It DidnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hurt that the Belgium beer was a flowinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, fireworks blasting, and of course bar to bar excitement of the worlds best bike riders racing at night under lights for entertainment. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to put into words what all of this experience means on the other side, as a rider. I love the places bike riding takes me, but I think I like the places that I come out victorious a little better:) It is true you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t win them all, but I now have a special memory from Belgium and my 14th career World Cup win locked in.
Powered by SRAM BlackBox components, ‘Little Whitey’ (my Intense Tazer hardtail) did well, and we now drive through Europe to the next 4x round in Andorra to see if our good fortune will continue…
Bryn Atkinson’s andÃ‚Â Bryan Dalton’s stories and pics after the break…
Bryn Atkinson is Jill’s teammate, and tech for Jill during the Houffalize event:
Flying into Frankfurt on Tuesday morning, we rented a motor home for the month that we are here, and hit the road for Houffalize, Belgium. Not too long into our drive, I was watching the GPS to see where to exit the Autobahn.. Not really paying attention, and switching from daydreaming to real life, I exited the highway tagging an Audi in the process, not really the type of car you want to hit… Lucky for us we got comprehensive insurance on the olÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ motor home (now named The Battle Truck), couple of little scratches, and she is battling on…
Originally I was coming to Houffalize as a wrench for Jill in the 4x, little did we know there was a Red Bull Belgium DH race handing 3000EUR out to the winner; sign me up! The track was super flat with about 12-15 seconds of actual DH, but I had my SRAM equipped M6 evo all ready for World Cup racing in La Bresse, and it worked great on the mini DH.
After Jill winning a tough 4x final under lights and in front of a huge crowd last night, we ended up coming out on top, Audi smash and all. Yeeah. France here we come!
Bryan Dalton is one of SRAM’s newer techs. This was Bryan’s first trip to a European World Cup:
Houffalize was an incredible experience for my first European World Cup. The town is really cool and we could not have asked for better weather, sunny and very warm.
We had dinner one night at LaChouffe brewery in the town of Achouffe. The smell of freshly brewed beer was very noticeable as we rolled up in the parking lot. I ate rabbit for the first time ever. It was delicious! I was truly bummed we did not get the chance to eat there again. I can not wait to return next year and will definitely order the plate with two rabbit thighs next time. I figure it costs a little more because it requires a head shot. The McChouffe was also very good, it’s the darker beer. Thanks to Jon Rourke, Reg (the European team mechanic) and Matt Opperman of Subaru Gary Fisher for picking up the check.
We all kept it pretty mellow as far as overall alcohol consumption. Mark the team mechanic for GT definitely wins the ‘Most Hung Over’ award. The morning after 4x his eyes were completely wrecked. The home field advantage might have worked against him.
I did not meet to many new faces but did get to build on some relationships with a few people I had not seen since Canada last season. Julien (Julien AbsalonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mechanic) or ‘The Smoking Mechanic’ as I like to refer to him, is probably my favorite Euro wrench. That dude is so mellow. He always looks like he is waiting for the next set of waves to roll in.
The 4x racing was awesome, with great pile-ups the first half dozen or so heats. The crowd was unbelievable and is comparable to that of AMA Motocross racing in the States. The XC race fans over here are truly fanatics! I am still blown away by the passion these people have for XC racing. They actually pay to come and watch the racing. I would say it is right up there with NASCAR enthusiasm back in the US. People were two rows deep standing and staring at riders as they warmed up on there trainers, unbelievable. And not just to watch the girls in their lycra, the men were an even bigger draw.