THE professional cyclocross entourage has arrived in Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire and what a historic opportunity the arrival of the World Cup is for British cyclocross fans.
Tonight fans who had requested a free ticket were able to join cyclocross stars Sven Nys and Katie Compton in the Trek store in Milton Keynes. Both riders were relaxed and open on the eve of the big day.
Belgian and American champions were thanked by one of the audience tonight for taking time out on the eve of the race to come to the evening event.
Sven Nys - Now it's time for me to come to the fans
"I like being here," was Nys' reply, "I like to promote the sport I'm always happy that my fans come out to support me at the races and now it's time for me to come the fans," he said in a genuine way that does not totally 'translate' in a simple quote. It was heartfelt and quite moving to this British fan.
The Cyclocrossrider team, which is normally spread across the 'cross heartland of northern Europe, has also gathered in Milton Keynes and we also have a stand inside the event's Expo Pavilion.
There are pro team vehicles in our hotel car park and at dinner the adjoining tables were headed by Lars van der Haar, Katie Compton and Bart Aernouts whilst Jonathan Page was outside looking over his bikes.
Personally, the prospect of this weekend in Milton Keynes takes me back some 15 years when I started to become immersed in the European pro cyclocross scene and when 'technology' began to allow super-enthusiasts to record the livestream from Belgium (by some mysterious method). These recordings would some days, maybe a week, later be made available to those who knew where to look and who then got the chance to see the greats in action.
I even asked a similarly obsessed friend (now working for a major British cycling magazine) to burn me a CD (remember those?) of coverage of races so I had something to study at length.
Soon came the era of the almighty Fidea team who not only had the promising young Czech rider Zdenek Stybar, but also ex-World champions Bart Wellens and Erwin Vervecken plus a young Kevin Pauwels. Fighting the might of one team - who naturally launched one attack after another - was a lone legend. I have a soft spot for the 'underdog' although this man was not really an underdog. Sven Nys was already a cyclocross superstar and he took on the big team and quite often won.
Sven Nys and Co will be right there in front of me – racing on British soil
On Saturday, instead of watching many days later on a computer or nowadays on a potentially unreliable live feed, in Campbell Park, Sven Nys and Co will be right there in front of me – racing on British soil (or perhaps grass, or most likely mud).
In the women's race hosts Britain have the prospect of Helen Wyman and Nikki Harris both having the chance of a podium place or even victory, whilst in the men's race British champion Ian Field will be the standard bearer.
Both Katie Compton and Sven Nys were candid and open about their racing and training and fans were able to queue up for autographs and photos. All of the audience left enthused ahead of Saturday's racing - what a thrilling day is in prospect!