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4X at Houffalize XC World Cup

Been a while since I updated my blog so thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to since working in Andorra on the Vallnord track.

Just before Christmas I spent a few weeks in Belgium building 2 tracks. First up was a new 4X track in Houffalize, Belgium. They’re going to have a 4X race as a kind of demo event during the cross country World Cup. I think it’ll be a pro invite kind of thing.

Building it was pretty good fun. The hillside was originally covered with bush, so they pulled out this 30 tonne digger with a chipper on the end of the arm, and shaved the whole area. Blank canvas. Wicked.

Considering it was November, we were pretty lucky with the weather. A bit of snow and rain, but otherwise dry. Work went well and we finished shaping the track in about 2 weeks.

Actually, come to think of it, we did have one blip on about day 6. We have to shift huge amounts of dirt to build these tracks – this one took about 6000 cubic metres I think. Sometimes you dig up some weird stuff. I was working with a guy called Emile, who’s one of the local organisers at Houffalize. After digging for a few days he noticed something shiny in the ground at the side of the track. He thought it was a pipe so ignored it. Four days later after digging around it/driving over it with a 20 tonne digger, he went back to look at the “pipe” again. He then noticed some brackets sticking out of the side and realised it was actually a bomb! What the hell.

All work stopped, Police turned up, closed off and evacuated half the village until the Belgian Army bomb squad arrived to diffuse it. Turns out it was an unexploded 500kg American bomb from World War II. It would have made a crater 20m wide if it had gone off. When they dug it out of the ground they found teeth marks all down the side from our digger. I like building bomb holes into tracks but not quite like that. We were bloody lucky.

Next time I get ’round to writing this blog, I’ll tell you about the second track in Belgium, at Malmedy. Some crazy stuff there too.

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