dear gs, any chance you cd put up a post with the names & dates & whys of the 'Cross races I shdn't miss? eg koksijde, koppenberg? I would be grateful forever, cos atho I've got the calendar of the 3 big series, lot of the races are stil just names...1000 thnx! I want to make sure i don't miss any of the truly insane ones. Y'know, ones tht wd be mental on a perfect sunny day!
- signed, Pigeons
U vraagt, wij draaien!
Sunday, 7 November: European Championships Frankfurt
Not off to a good start with this one, because there's not a whole lot I can tell you about this race.
Thursday, 11 November: Jaarmarktcross Niel
The race in Niel is a standalone one, but one that sees all the top guys (with the exception of Ian Field) show up anyway. Why? Well, for the past 60-something editions they've had the World Champion at the start line, which is a tradition they plan to uphold. It's a pretty simple race, with long straight stretches and minimal cornering (so, about 30 per lap). There's one nasty hill which caused some Albert vs. Nys controversy (well, more like Albert vs. members of the public controversy), and that hill's the main obstacle to worry about.
Saturday, 13 November: Dottignies/Dottenijs
Dottignies and Dottenijs are the same place, it just depends on what side of the language barrier you're at. It's one of two big(ish) races in the French speaking part (together with the Citadelcross in Namur). Not all the big guns will show up, and I don't think it's on tv either.
Sunday, 14 November: Hamme-Zogge - Superprestige
Hamme-Zogge may be better known as the Bollekescross, and Bolleke may be better known as beer. Which gives us awesome victory pictures such as this one.
The course has been redesigned completely, so it's a bit of a mystery what it's going to be like, but I can tell you that there are three bridges (hurrah), one staircase (hurrah) and a sand pit (hurrah!). The parcours loops around, over and under itself, so it'll be lots of twisting and turning.
Saturday, 20 November: Hasselt - GVA
Hasselt is the race closest to yours truly. Hasselt is the race running circles around the playground and swimming pool of my youth (and let me tell you, those monkeybars used to be a whole lot bigger when I was a kid). It's a nice medley of race undergrounds: sandpits (more than one!), grassland, a smallish snake-shaped hill climb and descent, a foresty bit and a hill which a six year old can only crest if she has a really long run in. Believe me. Personally, I think the Hasselt cross is ace, but then again, I am biased as hell.
Sunday, 21 November: Gavere - Superprestige
The 250th Superprestige race will be in Gavere on the 21st of November. There's a fair bit of asphalt, which is not to my liking. In the field and in the forest though, it's up and down with fast and technical descents, difficult climbs and lots of jumping off and on the bike, which makes up for some.
Saturday, 27 November: Koksijde - World Cup
A race like no other, the Koksijde cross is almost entirely on dune sand. Which is terrible when it's dry, and even more terrible when it's wet. There will be crashes and the riders will be exhausted. Lots of running too. Koksijde is the home of the 2012 World Championships.
Sunday, 28 November: Gieten - Superprestige
The day after the epic sand-cross it's back to Holland. It's way up in the north of the country, so the chances of ice (yeah, ice!) are good (though late November may be a bit early for a full-on snow race). The Radomir Simunek Memorial - as it will be called starting this year - is a field race which saw Nys win his fiftieth Superprestige leg last year. That's right. Fiftieth. There are very few natural obstacles and it can be a bit of a bore I'm afraid. Some highish beams and a bridge which shouldn't even bother Napolitano, that's all.
Sunday, 5 December: Igorre - World Cup
Out of Belgium for this, to normally sunny Spain. Why should you watch? Well, in true Spanish fashion they hand out funky pancake-like hats. Also in true Spanish fashion, the TV director will infuriate you by missing all the decisive moves. It's a typical field race (that's not an absolute given in cross), which is that much harder if it's muddy (which it usually is). Not too many special tricks - no houses in the middle of the road and all that.
Saturday, 11 December: Essen - GVA
Essen. In Belgium, but so close to the border that if you lean just a little to the left (or the right, depending on which way you're facing), you'll see windmills and clogs everywhere. Essen, home of Aernouts, Stybar and Meeusen, so you'll see crossfans everywhere. It's partly a forest race with small stairs (right around a u-corner, haha), and some good steep climbs; and partly a field race with a bridge.
Sunday, 12 December: Vlaamse Druivencross
The Druivencross is known as the mother of all cross races, and it's one of the more prestigious standalone races. As a result, you'll see a lot of big names at the start and the race on Sporza. It's part forest, part field and they even throw in some cobblestones for good measure. You may remember it if I tell you that they ride the length of a soccerpitch each lap. Or you may not. That's also a possibility. You remember Lars Boom though, right? He'll be there.
Saturday, 18 December: Fidea Scheldecross
No technical guide on the website, no videos on youtube, and no recollection of previous events means no info for you lot. But ehrm, Lars Boom will be there. That's something right?
Sunday, 19 December: Kalmthout - World Cup
The Kalmthout website is pretty detailed, so I can tell you that, per lap, the World Cup race in the home of Kevin "yoah" Pauwels has 765 meters of asphalt, 260 meters of meadow and 1.625 meters of forest ground. It has 5 up- and downhill bits of 8, 4, 3, 3 and 2 meters. Last year it snowed so much that they almost cancelled the race, and Radomir Simunek lost his footing on one of the staircases and crashed pretty badly.
Saturday, 26 December: Zolder - World Cup
The World Cup race in Zolder is on and around the Zolder race circuit - which you may know as the battleground between the Germans and the Brits in Top Gear; or as the place where Super Mario became world champ. It's got long and straight stretches, which is very uncross-like. The race is in a pine forest, so it's a though underground with hills and tree roots and other such shenanigans.
Monday, 27 December: Diegem - Superprestige
Now this one is easy to recognise: Diegem is the race raced in the dark, under artificial floodlights. There is one big-ass sandpit turned into mud turned into gravel road and some hills. The race is partly in the field and partly in the forest; but the biggest challenge is the lack of natural light.
Wednesday, 29 December: Loenhout - GVA
Yep, cross on Wednesday. Boy, do I love the week between Christmas and New Year's. Cold outside, warm inside. Good drinks to enjoy and cx on tv, does it get any better than that? In true cross tradition the final week of the year is absolutely mental, with plenty of races to watch. In midweek there's the Azencross in Loenhout, in the north of the province of Antwerp. It's a workers' cross, where the speeds won't reach dizzying heights but the heartrates sure will. There's not too much natural height difference, but there are handful of bridges (one that saw Nys have a positively ridiculous crash last year, flat on the tummy), a big staircase and some really kick-ass washboards. PS - watch out for Lars Boom!
Saturday, 1 January: Baal - GVA
Yeah, yeah, I hear you. "What? Has gs gone bonkers? Surely they can't race on New Year's day!" What you forget though, dear friends, is this: it's cyclo-cross. Of course they race on New Year's day! The Grand Prix Sven Nys - yes, he has his own race - is an anual tradition. There is only one way to properly start the year and that's to watch other people exert themselves. If you don't agree, you're not a cross fan.
It shouldn't come as a big surprise that the GP Sven Nys is a race at which Sven Nys is pretty good. There have been eleven editions, and he's won nine of them. Maybe because he goes to bed at 10pm on 31 December. Or maybe because the race has bunnyhop beams, technical descents and corners where you need a good eye (two good eyes is even better).
Sunday, 2 January: Fidea Cyclocross Tervuren
Hey, they ride on 1 January, so why not the day after? There's no list of participants yet, but the organisers promise us that the best of the world will be there. Well, at least the Fidea boys will I imagine. Tervuren forest is a nice place to race. There's little to distinguish this race from the others, though I gotta say I love a sport where they think spraypainting tree roots and sharp rocks pink is enough to make things safe. I like forest races too, as it always means there's some up and down bits.
Sunday, 9 January: National Championships
Sunday, 16 January: Pontchâteau - World Cup
The second to last World Cup race and the first World Cup race of 2011 is in Pontchâteau, France. I don't know know much about the course, but I'm assuming it'll be on the same parcours as the 2004 World Championships (won by Bart Wellens). That assumption may very well be wrong. It doesn't look too demanding, with fairly long stretches and something that looks like a cross (pun not intended) between bunnyhopping beams and a staircase.
Sunday, 23 January: Hoogerheide - World Cup
Hoogerheide is in Holland, but it's so close to Belgium that you won't know you're in Dutchie land. It's also really really close to the Kalmthout-Essen area, so Aernouts, Meeusen, Styby, Pauwels and Sanne Cant will feel right at home. There's not too much height difference - it is les pays bas you know - just one bridge and one steep climb. It's fast too, the riders only have to get off the bike twice.
Sunday, 30 January: Sankt Wendel - World Championships
Sankt Wendel, Germany, will be the host of this season's World Championships. They had it in 2005 as well. Results back then were thus. Elite: Nys / Vervecken / SVT. U23: Styby / Simunek jr / Zahner (Albert fifth). Juniors: Malacarne (yes, the QST one) / Taramarcaz / Pfingsten. Women: Kupfernagel / Spitz / Melchers (Marianne Vos was ninth, but she was like what, 3 years old in 2005, so ninth is not too bad). More details on what the race is like once we're actually in the right decade.
Saturday, 5 February: Lille - GVA
Is also known as the Krawatencross. It's a nice race, this one, with lots of sand. The race runs around a lake, and they skirt the waterside so closely that they're almost swimming. Not too many other obstacles - just some bridges - but it really is a nice race.
Sunday, 6 February: Hoogstraten - Superprestige
Hey, did you know the winner of a Superprestige race gets €25.000 euros? I sure didn't. But it's what the Hoogstraten website tells me. To get that money, in Hoogstraten our peloton has to conquer a typical field race over hilly grasslands. There are some nice climbs and descents but really, the race is all the more epic when it rains. As is usually the case in 'cross.
Saturday, 12 February: Middelkerke - Superprestige
We're nearing the fakest of Hallmark holidays, so that must mean that we're also nearing the end of cross season. Excuse me while I shed a tear. If any of the riders feel like a good cry, though, they better wait til after the Middelkerke race, as it's the very final leg of the Superprestige, and thus the very final opportunity to climb in the rankings. If I reveal to you the nickname of the Middelkerke cross, you should know where in Belgium we're at and what kind of race we're talking about. Ready? You sure? Alright. Middelkerke is also known as the Noordzeecross. At sea thus. Not that at sea as Koksijde unfortunately, so no beach sand. Instead there's grass and lots of wind.
Sunday, 20 February: Oostmalle - GVA
Oostmalle brings a smile to my face. Last year, Klaas VT sprinted as fast he could to beat the group he was in. He did it. He reached the finish line before the others... with a lap to go. I'm amused by that, I admit it. I'm a simple girl. It wasn't the only thing that went wrong for Klaas though, 'cause with about half a lap to go KVT crashed and hit a pole, quite spectacularly (and painfully too, I imagine). It's in a forest again, this one, with some very nasty bumps in the road. Well, when I say road... There are sandy bits too, which turn ugly and unmanageable when wet.
Picture credit: Hamme-Zogge via www.bobkestrut.com; Koksijde via www.hln.be; Kalmthout via cyclephotos.co.uk; Sven & Thibau Nys via www.destandaard.be