Renaat Schotte works for Sporza on Belgian TV and is often found reporting from the motorbike during one day classics and grand tours, or from the pits during ‘cross races. Fellow blogger Andrew Rafferty managed to catch up with him for a piece for the Dig In At The Dock race programme last January.
AR: I asked him why cyclocross is so popular in Belgium.
RS: ‘There has been a continual process of professionalising and modernising. More so than other countries who were also traditionally strong at cross, like Spain and Switzerland. And as popularity increased and crowds grew, the races got bigger and riders became more successful, which increased the popularity and so on. A virtuous cycle.’
Is it fair to say that it’s a not a Belgian thing, but a Flemish thing?
‘Yeah, it’s not an exaggeration to say that. The races held this year in Walloonia (the French speaking part of Belgium) are actually organized by Flemish! And all other races organized by Walloons in the past have been cancelled.
Cyclocross is part of Flemish life, like speed skating in Holland or Skijumping in Germany.’
Or bagpipe playing in Scotland?
‘Exactly, ha ha.
Look at how things have changed on the TV. In the early 90s you could watch maybe six races a year. Now its three or four times that, with bpost, superprestige, World Cup and National and World Championships. Plus numerous standalone races. It’s getting bigger.
We see the same thing here in Scotland, albeit on a smaller scale as the number of races, participants and spectators grow. And many people watch Sporza broadcasts online. Can you give your Scottish viewers some key words to listen out for?
Greppel (chreppel) means ditch and Beek (bake) means burn or stream. You should hear them in most races. Zandstrook (zandstroke) means sand section like at Koksijde.
Wasbord means washboard, but maybe pumpzone sounds better. And Trappen may sound exotic and glamorous, but it just means stairs!’
Thanks for that. Just one more question: What’s the funniest or weirdest thing you’ve seen at a cross race?
It’s not the funny things you remember, but the dramatic.
The last minute change to the World Championships this year when they had to bring the elite race forward by a day, due to the danger of the river bursting its banks was unprecedented. It was a real adrenaline rush for me and I had to deliver my reports via mobile phone as the normal link wasn’t working. A crazy day.
Another memory was the race where Bart Wellens went mad and karate kicked a fan. He went on to win the race, but was later disqualified and Lars Boom was awarded the win’.
One last memory which sticks in my mind is when world champion Erwin Vervecken went flying onto his stomach in the snow at Loenhout. This was the first race I reported on and the image of him being ‘dethroned’ is burned on my retina!’
Can I just thank you for your time and invite you to Dig in at the Dock on 5 January. Although you may be reporting at a race in Italy that day. (The Rome round of the World Cup was the same day).
‘No, I’m not going to Rome. I told my boss I need to take the time to be with my family’.
So if a family holiday in Scotland is on the cards…
‘Ha ha, maybe’
Bedankt Renaat, and see you in a muddy field.