It is a rarity that a world cyclocross championship would end without a single Belgian carrying home a rainbow jersey in at least one of the events.
Indeed, you could image that Belgian `cross fans left Sankt Wendel this past weekend more than a little disappointed that the world champions in 2011 hail from France, Holland and the Czech Republic. You might also be wrong about that disappointment, especially for residents of Essen, the town in Northern Belgium two-time world elite men’s cyclocross champion Zdeněk Štybar now calls home.
On Sunday, as Belgians sporting jackets that proclaimed “Supportersclub Sven Nys,” “Neils Albert Supporter,” or even “Supporter Alle Belgen” retired to the big red Belgian party tent to drown their sorrows, the gang from Essen – complete with their own Club Stybar jackets – had ample reason to celebrate.
“Hey, he’s got a Belgian girlfriend,” said one Belgian Stybar fan over dinner on Sunday night. “He’s practically one of us. He’s a local now.”
On Monday, the cyclocross community of Essen turned out to welcome “home” their conquering hero, with a victory bash, a massive cake and a new sign proclaiming the local BMX and cyclocross training park had been renamed in Stybar’s honor.
Hey, if you can’t beat `em, have them join you.