When you stop at the town sign of Houffalize you will immediately get a complete overview of the little village and you will understand, why this is the perfect location for a Mountainbike event like an UCI World cup. The little town between other history-charged locations such as Liège, Bastogne and Spa occupies a small river valley and is surrounded by an almost unlimited number of challenging MTB trails.
Mountain biking is omnipresent in the village although it is appearing a little sleepy on a normal working day. But maybe this is the peculiar charm of Houffalize, which has not only provided a nice location for a race, the village itself turned into a gorgeous MTB stadium with a unique atmosphere during a World Cup race weekend. The race was not just a sport event it was a huge party. And if you have ever seen a cyclocross race in Belgium, you might know, what “party” means for Belgian fans. They live cycling and they love to celebrate their national sport with a beer or two.
A sleepy village in the winter early-morning haze…
…turns into a sport stadium.
MTB is always all around
But not only the spectators love the formerly Center of Cross Country Racing in Europe. Many professional riders have a very vivid memory of the challenging race in the Ardennes.
For Wolfram Kurschat his individual retrospection is very positive: “It was a childhood dream to win this World Cup race in the Ardennes once in my life. This place has something magic and mythic…a small, placid village which is transforming overnight into the “MTB Mecca” for three days. In 1992 at age of 16 I risked a first attempt, in 2008 I realized my Olympic qualification, in 2009 I missed the World Cup victory not more than 15 seconds and in 2010 I was on the podium for the second time. The race was tough, challenging, exhausting, unpredictable and merciless, but it will always be unforgettable moments of my career.”
Also, Ralph Näf, who was third in 2009 and fifth in 2010 liked the Belgium race a lot: “There are many races with great atmosphere. Nevertheless, Houffalize was different, since the fans have not stopped their party when the winner has crossed the finish line. They celebrated the whole race weekend in their typical manner. The course was fast but also required technical skills. Lightweight material for the steep climbs and durable parts for the rocky downhill sections were always the best choice to get through the race successfully”
…and the rocky trails are challenging rider and material.
We felt, that we want to honor “Houffa” as a memorial place for the Mountainbike cross country history. And finally, the little river L’Ourthe Orientale offers a first glimpse, how we will do it. Let’s keep fingers crossed, that we will see a reanimation of the Houffalize XC World Cup one day!
What a nice archaic type of a WHEEL…