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How Hard Is A Pro Cyclocross Course? | Beginner Vs Infamous Zonhoven Sandpit

How Hard Is A Pro Cyclocross Course? | Beginner Vs Infamous Zonhoven Sandpit


– [Oliver] Just how good are the world’s best cross riders? And how difficult is it to ride a pro-cyclecross course? Well, I’ve come to the capital of cross, Belgium to find out
first hand with the help of GCN’s resident cross
guru Jeremy Powers, but, first allow me to
just give you some context as to my cross background, or lack of it. (intense music) (record scratch) I’m an experienced road cyclist. I’ve clocked up thousands
of hours road riding in all conditions. I’ve done road races and somehow, I’ve even managed to win a few. However, I’ve never done a cross race. In fact, I know absolutely
nothing about cross. I’m a total newb, so when our
resident cross Jedi master Jeremy Powers invited me
along to have a go at riding the Zonhoven course in Belgium, Belgium being the cross
capital of the world, I thought, why not, let’s give it a go. How hard could it actually be? It’s just like riding around in a field, and Belgium’s like flat,
plus Powers told me that there’s going to be frites,
waffles, chocolate, and beer. I’m mainly here for that. – [Powers] Firstly, for
the uninitiated, Zonhoven, Belgium is home to one of
the rounds of the super prestige cyclocross series. Which is like the
formula one of cyclocross where the best riders
in the world compete. Matthew van der Pool,
Sanne Cant, and Zonhoven happens to be one of the
most challenging tracks on the circuit period. The riders have to
tackle super steep banks, filled with sand and
ruts, and getting off and on their bike, it is a very as the Belgians would say, heavy track. And the best thing about this, is that Oliver has no
idea how hard this is. Which is kind of cool
though, because, well, as a novice, hopefully it will give you an idea of how challenging it
is, and through his hardship, hopefully you guys can learn something. – So where’s this course
we’re riding then Jeremy? – See that clearing right there? – Yep. – Right up here. – All right. The (bleep) is that? What the (bleep) is that? – That’s the cull man. The cull of Zonhoven. – Human beings ride down this? – We are going to be riding down this. – Oh, God. (classical music) – All right, Oly so this
is the cull of Zonhoven and basically everything down
there where you come in that’s like the VIP, all the
pits, everything like that down in that area, in that big field. You fly up here, you
shoot down, this is the infamous drop, that big… All the pictures are right
here, with all the people all wined along the side of it. The course goes right down here like this. Boom, big effort,
Hercules effort up to the top there into that upper section. You drop back down, so
you go back down that second side of the sand pit
where you see those lines, and then you have to run up this side. It’s back down there to do
some other stuff, but this is the heart of Zonhoven. – I just can’t believe that human beings actually ride down that. – You’re going to be one of
those human beings buddy. – All right, I’ll give it a go, but I think I’m going to die. – You’re not going to
die, it’s sand, its soft. You got to keep your weight back. You got to keep your
head up, you got to look at the rut, you’ll be fine. – Look at the rut? I don’t even know what that means, dude. – I don’t know, you’re
going to be fine, let’s go. – Look at the rut? – Weight back. (censor beep) (pop jazz music) (censor beep) – Mate, I can’t believe
how difficult this is. – It’s hard. – I feel like Bambi on ice. Riding in this deep sand is like nothing I’ve ridden on
before and its really hard to stay in those ruts or
whatever you call them… – Yep – And like stay up right. I really find it hard. – Everyone has to start
somewhere, man, and I’ll give you some tips
and you’ll be flying down this thing like
you’re Matthew van der Pool boom, zipping through, dropping down. It’s going to be good, I’m
going to teach you some tips and I think that everybody else that’s just getting going in something like this might find it useful too. – Right, time for a master class. – So, this is what I’m thinking. You, first of all, you need to
get your tire pressure down. You probably, what do you
think you have in there, 50 pounds or something like that? – About 90 PSI. – Okay, yeah that’s too much,
we need to get that down. – Why didn’t you tell me that before? – We had to come in here like a beginner because you are, you’re a beginner. You haven’t done this before. – Right, go on then. – 20, 20, 22, something like
that, let’s bring them down. – Right. (air hissing) – All right and the second
thing that you want to do when you come into something like this, because you come into it like this, you got to think about what gear
you’re going to be in, right? You don’t want to be in your
easiest gear like flopping all over the place cause you
won’t even make it past this first section to get to the downhill. So you got to be in like
a pretty good sized gear. A bigger gear to get some
amount of like traction and not too high of a cadence,
do you know what I mean? – Yeah. – If you’re in too high of
a cadence, you’re going to be like left and right, left and right. So you want to be in like
a mid range gear here to get the momentum and then
you want to get the bike away from you, as far as you can. Push it out in front of you, get it away. Now, you got to pick your head up. A lot of riders, the
first thing they do wrong, they’re looking right here,
where they’re trying to go trying to follow the thing like that. It’s a bad look, why? Because, the weights all
over the front of this and that’s the wrong place
to be, you want to get your weight as far back, like,
like you’re a mountain biker. Like you’ve got your, like
way over the back of the bike. You’ve got it way out in front of you and that way all of your
weight is on the back and it’s very light on the front tire. So your front tire is just
kind of going into the rut. It’s finding its way on it own. As soon as you put
weight on the front tire, that’s when it digs in and that, unfortunately, as you found out, is when you go over the bar. – Still got sand in my teeth. When you’re going down this,
and there’s the ruts in the sand, you’re telling me to
try and stay in the ruts, but what if I come out of a
rut or I don’t make it to the rut I’m trying to get into, is that game over then,
am I going to stuck it? – Probably not, if you do, it’s just, it’s going to be nice and soft. Like the sand, it’s fluffy, it’s like jumping on
a bed, you’ll be fine. – So here’s the thing I’m wondering, what’s the deal with braking? Like, what’s the technique? Are you suppose to use your
brakes when you go down there? – It’s not one size fits all, right? Like it’s personal
preference, but I would say no, because you, yeah you don’t want to lose momentum typically in the sand. You want to carry your momentum. I mean you, genuinely
have to commit to the rut. – So, when Matthew van der Pool rides down here, does he brake? – I don’t think he is. I don’t think he is, no. No brakes on this for the pros for sure, I mean this is all about just sending it. I think if they’re in an oh-no situation then maybe there’s a bit of a brake grab but I’d have to review the tape but my general sense is, no brakes. All right, Oly, remember,
kind of mid gear range. Keep pedaling, get your weight
on the back of the seat, pick your head up, look
up, look up, hit it. Get your weight back. Okay, now off, now way behind
the bars, way back, way back. Get your weight back, yeah weight back. Whew, yeah good job man! – God. – Let’s see your carrying
technique, oh no. – How’s this? – No. – I look pro right? – No. – Oh God, I’m going really fast as well. – Come on. – Oh mate this is well steep. (zippy music) – I’m going to show you
how to carry a bike too. – Yeah? – Yeah. – I thought this was like, legit. – That is like, um, yeah that’s like you killed something in the woods, like a deer and you’re like carrying
it out of the woods, it’s, yeah exactly, yeah that’s even better. (Oliver grunting) – Yeah, that’s exactly how they do it. Van der Pool should be taking notes. – I might have created
like a new way of doing it. – Okay here, I’m going
to show you real quick. You grab it here, right hand here. Just hoist it up. Okay, put it up there, yep get it through. Now hand here, hand here, let go, let go. Goes underneath there,
and then it goes there. – On that? – Yeah, that’s exactly, there you go. Now, you are a good pro cross rider. – Like this? – Yeah, exactly. Don’t let me see that
other Hercules stuff again. – Okay. – Okay, that was good,
high five, high five. You did a good job. – Thanks man. – You ripped down that. We’ve got to put it together though, man. This is one of four parts,
to conquer the cull. You got to go down this, then we got to go up that hard section, back
down this other steep one, and then we got to run up here, remount and get back on the bike. – Okay, – You ready? – Yeah. – Let’s do it. – I don’t know how to do the remount. – At, we’re going to work on that. – Okay. (upbeat music) Show off. – What did you think of this? – It’s knackering. – So hard isn’t it? – Yeah, really hard. – Yeah, like when you watch it, at least when I’ve seen
it on TV, cause I’ve never been here actually but when I’ve now come down this like this, and
then I’ve seen this section where someone like van der Pool is able to ride it but he
decides to get off and run. That’s what I was talking to
you about with the momentum, like your ability to carry
your speed up it and jump off and run is often times
faster in cyclocross. Like, if you have to do
10 huge, thirty cadence drills up this thing in
the middle of a race, it’s like you already
know how hard that is. – Yeah. – And you know how hard this
is, and then if you just throw in a weight session
here with your legs to get up this, versus just jumping off and hopping back on, with it being faster, you can see how a section like this, it, in cyclocross land, it’s a lot smarter. – Yeah. – Saves your energy, save you those big efforts for when you actually need them. (techno music) – So you can see the
difficulty in this after you fly down on the big decent,
you got to get off and run up that, then you got
to do a huge effort here, hit this rut perfectly,
which drops you off to that insanely steep run. – Yeah, oh God. – Cardiovascularly, it is such an ass. – It is incredibly, I can’t
believe how tough it is. It is like doing the hardest
interval session you’ve ever done but then also
the technical skill is just blowing my mind. For someone like me, it’s
really, really difficult. But it is fun! – It is fun, but I think for
everybody it’s difficult. That’s the truth, that it’s
not easy even for the pros. This it like one of the
most challenging, you know, finesse, technique,
needed tracks that exists. – Nice. (upbeat music) – So this is the second sand
drop in the Zonhoven cull, and this one’s got a
little bit of an arc to it. So, you’re going to need to
lean the bike a little bit, you can’t turn the front tire. If you turn the front tire
with your weight up front remember what I said? Straight over the bars. – Yeah. – So you’ve got to lean the
bike over and keep momentum, so through here you actually
want to be kind of like pedaling with your weight back to
about here, and then you just want to get the bike out in front of you, and I know, I know what you’re thinking when you look at this. – Yeah, I’m thinking it looks really hard. It’s like that one was hard. With this one now I’ve
got to kind of go turn through this big, deep rut. – You’re going to do great. Are you ready to try it? – I’ll give it a go. (pop music) (censor beep) (epic music) – This is the final part of the cull. Now for this, you need
to get off the bike, and you need to be running with it, before you lose momentum, right? Just like that one, that
one’s a little different. This one has some grass
running so it makes it a little better but
this thing is so steep. – Yeah. – It’s terribly steep. – It is. – You want to look for the
holes that are already there from the riders in front
of you, and we’ve done this a couple times so there’s
already some holes, and you want to put your feet in those. You don’t wan to be
breaking a new path in this. You want to use the ones
that are already matted down, because that’s going to make
like, it’s little stairs there. Like little cow hooves. Like the cows have
followed the other cows. – Okay. – Do cows even follow other cows? – Well, if you say so, but I think anyone who has watched GCN
videos in the past and seen me running will know that
I’m really good at running so this bits probably the bit where I’m going to do really well. – Yeah, especially if
you’re carrying the bike the way you’ve been carrying
it the last couple times. – Watch and learn Powers. – Dismount, now start
running with the bike. Now, pick it up on the down tube, and find some other holes to get. (Oliver exclaiming) – Where have the cows been? – Maybe they’re over here. – (Bleep) bloody hell. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed
watching me, fall off, but, if you’d like to
see it done properly, then you can do, because
we’re going to have coverage of the Super prestige Cyclocross races over on the GCN racing YouTube channel. It’s free to subscribe and
watch it, so head on over. – Yeah, and if you want to see
other videos like this one, please check those out right over here, and if you want to subscribe
to GCN click right here, and definitely leave us a comment too. Let us know what you think
of Oly, and how he did today. – Maybe don’t. What about those waffles and beers you were promising me? – Oh yeah, yeah yeah yeah,
all right let’s go get those. – Yes.

100 comments on “How Hard Is A Pro Cyclocross Course? | Beginner Vs Infamous Zonhoven Sandpit

  1. How do you guys care about not getting sand in your lever. I fall of few times into a sand and it was the end of the fun and had to get back to home. Had to clean it cuz I couldn't change gears

  2. Powers is a great addition to the channel. He makes this kind of riding look like a lot of fun. (It really isn't.) : )

  3. Ollie taking one for the team like the legend that he is.

    Can anyone at GCN confirm that the blooper reel is an hour long? 😂

  4. Best episode ever. I know others have mentioned this but each time GCN tags one of the presenters to try CX, it's like a death card. Hey Ollie, maybe Dr. Polley needs a lab tech

  5. Jeremy is great addition to this network. When are we going to see GMBN come over for some cx training? Blake Sampson and Jeremy would be a great combo for a how to videos

  6. The thing about cross that loses me is the running. I am into the sport for the cycling, I'd rather not run in cycling shoes, thanks 😀

  7. Sorry… Not a fan of Jeremy. His know it all attitude, and smug I'm better than you attitude in all the cyclocross, easily, make him the worst presenter on GCN. Could the really not find someone with a CX background that isn't a prick!?

  8. JPow, you didn't even take him over to the last sand climb (after the 180). That's my favorite part of that course. Epic battles there over the year (Niels vs. Sven is my favorite)

  9. i dunno.. i like riding bicycles, long and/or fast. what i dont like is, having it on my shoulder while i run on sand. this was an interesting video, by cyclocross aint for me.

  10. Hey GCN, this is a weird request but can you guys do a react series on an anime called Yowamushi Pedal? It's a cycling anime, and I want to watch you guys dissecting or breaking-down some scenes where the show does right or wrong. You can call the series like "Cyclists Reacts to Yowamushi Pedal".

  11. One of the most entertaining videos here. Hilarious! Made even better since most of us would identify with Ollie on this one.

  12. Awesome video, loved it.

    I've just into CX myself and I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds it bloody hard work.

    Incredibly fun though 🤩👍🚴💩💩💩

  13. Stupid question from a cross curious mountain biker/BMXer, why don't cross riders use enduro style clipless shoes something like a Five Ten Hellcat? It seems like those would have more traction for running and climbing when you have to get off the bike.

  14. Ollie really should be a presenter on children's TV. That's about his level. Afraid I can't watch any more GCN when he's the main presenter.

  15. Hi guys, I have a suggestion for a fun video for you guys and girls to replicate. Have some fun with this one. This is a music video from The Style Council-My Ever Changing Moods. I think Dan and Ollie could play the main characters and have Si at the start line. Full on retro cycling kit, and slow  motion sequence, over dramatic character expressions etc. All in all a fun retro cycling video done to cool music. With the correct permission of course. What do you think? Might even figure out a way to do this in cooperation with a designated charity? Just an idea.

  16. Great stuff JPow. Super surprised you never raced Zonhoven and kinda sad for you man. Look forward to seeing you there this year.

  17. I feel like you need to get Ollie vs. Blake at GMBN to do this course… I have a feeling that would be the best cx video ever!

  18. Good thing he had SPDs. Can't imagine clipping and unclipping quickly with Ultegra or DuraAce pedals. Plus having MTB boots would help with the uphill slogs.

  19. Well done Ollie! As a novice (read Cat 5) Cx racer, those sandy hills are killers. You did well with no prior experience. Great to learn from a Pro too. Good coaching session Jeremy.

  20. I was looking forward to Ollie's attempt to remount. Any bloopers coming up? 😀

    Valiant effort and great video. Thanks!

  21. there is no way i am subjecting my babies to all that sand. my hareem would be destroyed in seconds. No way. No.No way !

    Mutual respect. I look after them… they look after me. Sand aint happening !

  22. HAHAHA, So out of your comfort zone Ollie! Loved to see you trting to run up that last hill. Don't give up your day job. Giles @ New Zealand

  23. Everytime I see "de kuil" on tv or videos it doesnt look that steep. But believe me that's one big decent. Also the area around de kuil is beautiful for riding gravel, mtb or cyclocross.

  24. I find Ollie’s description of Jeremy Powers quite amusing. But perhaps what’s more entertaining is that Ollie’s expressions can easily be meme’d in so many ways.

    But hey, I admired that he still powered through it.

  25. The running technique is short sharp steps. You can see the difference between the ‘stride’ pattern of Ollie and Jeremy and the results speak for themselves 🙂

  26. no brakes may be the way to go but i guess if you were gonna touch a brake you'd wanna go for the rear, right? ….makes sense in my head at least.

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