Tomorrow – June 11 – the racing spectacle erupts at Challenge Geraardsbergen. Just now the press conference took place and professional athletes looked ahead to the race that will lead over the Muur van Geraardsbergen twice. Almost everyone agreed: Joe Skipper is the biggest favorite. Skipper himself, by the way, thinks otherwise.
In any case, Skipper has one big advantage, as becomes clear from one of his comments, meant with a laugh and a wink, by the way. “The race starting at 11am is a big plus for a not morning person like me. The times I did best in Roth, I did Geraardsbergen two weeks before, full gas. And yes, the bottles in the belly will make an appearance again.” Still, then, Skipper does not see himself as a favorite. “Those are Jonathan Wayaffe and Antony Costes,” he said.
At least Costes knows not to underestimate the course. “People forget we also run on a part of De Muur van Geraardsbergen. It’s not just the bike.” Wayaffe also knows the course and is keen for a good result. “Returning after my crash at Gran Canaria, my focus is on my return and everything’s looking good and eager to race.”
In the women’s race, defending champion Diede Diederiks is the big favorite. She recently became World Champion Cross Duathlon. “I’m looking forward to the Muur as I like the cobblestones being also a mountain biker.” Local favorite Katrien Verstuyft knows some things are expected of her, but tempers those expectations somewhat. “I won’t call myself the favorite but I’ll give the girls a run for it.” Emma Bilham opens her season in Geraardsbergen and, of all the women, has the most experience in the high mountains. “The Muur is quite short coming from Switzerland, but challenging nonetheless.”