A little update from the UCI cat. S1 stage race 2018 “Belgian Mountainbike Challenge” (BeMC): 3days - 260km - 8000m+ meters of climbing.
A very big highlight of my season was to go back to “La Roche-en-Ardenne” (Belgium) to fight for glory in this super nice event.
I won the race already back in 2015 and ever since, I have been on the podium on the following year’s editions. That’s why I was also among the big favorites for the overall victory of this year’s edition.
The race is high ranked and categorized as an UCI S1 event. Some really strong riders signed up for the race: Christoph Soukop from Austria and multiple Belgian MTB champion Frans Claes. Other big opponents were cyclocross star like Laurens Sweeck, Quintin Hermans and Wietse Bosmaans.
Here you find the daily race reports:
Stage 1: 84 km – 2450 meter of climbing. Already from the beginning I knew that it will get really though the next days. I planned to make already a good result on the first day, in order to get into the lead of the race. After only 40 km of racing, only 10 guys were left in the front. As the race was really fast since the beginning and I did not feel perfect, I decided to wait. Indeed the final last 20 kilometres consisted in almost 1000 meters of climbing. When we entered this part I knew it was time to make a move. In the beginning only Laurens Sweeck and Frans Claes could follow me. Finally I got rid of them on the next climb with 15 km left to go. I did a solo ride to the finish and won the first stage with more than 1 minute advance to Robbert de Nijs. Great start and great feeling to wear the leader’s jersey during stage 2.
Stage 2: 100 km – 3050 meters of climbing. This stage caused me most difficulties. This stage was really demanding and comparable to a 100 km long cross country event with a billion of turns. In the beginning I still felt good, actually a lot better than expected. Towards the end of the stage, I was still in a 5 man front group. Suddenly, old cross country star Christoph Soukup from Austria attacked. At this point I could feel I had to slow a little down in order to safe some energy for the last stage also. Soukup dropped me during the final kilometres and I finished in 2nd position. Fortunately I could maintain my overall lead.
Stage 3: 67 km – 2300 hm. According to the classification, I was leading 3 minutes in front of Soukup. As you know 3 minutes advantage turns out to be nothing when you have a bad day or a mechanical problem. Already in the early morning we faced difficult weather conditions: it was raining enormously coupled with temperatures below 10 degrees. As I felt really good since the beginning of the race, I stayed easily in the front group all day long. The track was really heavy from all the rain and I could see my worst opponents starting to suffer in the mud. Towards the end of the stage I started to set a high pace. First Sweeck had to drop, then De Nijs, and in the end it was just Frans Claes and me left in the front. With only 10km to go I attacked with all power on a steep climb. Claes had to let me go. I raced solo until the finish where I could raise my arms as the winner of the stage and the overall winner of the BEMC.
Although I knew from the beginning that this year’s edition would be very difficult due to all the BIG names, I managed to win BEMC for the second time in my career.
As the race has become really important and big in the Benelux region, there was a big interest from the international media (Dutch and Belgian TV and Eurosport Benelux were broadcasting from the event). Some amazing report from this great event will broadcast on Eurosport 1, Thursday May 17th at 22h00 and Sunday May 20th at 10h15!!