Nys’ reaction to the outpouring of support was hardly unique. Racer after racer, most more accustomed to the cloud of silence that envelops anyone not at the front of the field in European races than the ebullient atmosphere of American ’cross, said the sheer volume along the course was overwhelming.

“It was unbelievable,” said Amy Dombroski, an American rider for the Belgium-based Telenet-Fidea team, who has spent most of her last two seasons overseas, after finishing 11th. “I’m kind of choked up right now. It was absolutely deafening; my ears were actually hurting. It was absolutely unbelievable racing here, and I think America really came out, so it was exciting. It was a big thing for America.”