Bring on the mud: the 2012-2013 cyclocross calendar, part II

One of my very favourite pictures by Balint - Sven Nys at the Scheldecross (www.cyclephotos.co.uk) - Balint Hamvas

Don't tell me you thought it was over. It so isn't over.

DECEMBER

1: Boonen and friends

Type: meadow. sand, forest
Previous podium: Boom, Van Speybrouck, De Bie
TV: none. But I'll be there!

This one is cheating a bit, cause it's not really on the cx calendar. Boonen and friends - or 'van de weg naar 't veld' (from the road to the field) as it's also called - is Tom Boonen's charity cyclocross race. I paid it a visit last year, and had an absolute blast. Really, watching André Greipel fight his way through beach sand is hilarious. And he wasn't half bad at it either. Looks like André won't be there this time around alas, but I'm sure the presence of Peter Sagan and Zdenek Stybar (on a cx bike! hurrah!!) will be fun as well.

Website
YouTube Flickr

2: Roubaix (WC)

Type: grass, some hills
Previous podium: Stybar, KVT, Nys
TV: Sporza, 15h

The Roubaix world cup race returns to us after a brief abscence of a few years, with the last edition being held in 2010. It replaces Igorre, which will make Albertina cry but which the rest of us won't mind so much because Igorre wasn't very interesting. Roubaix is fun because A: it loop-de-loops around the - new! - velodrome and even finishes on it, which reminds me of PR, which always good, and B: it has some very cool descents. Especially if it's muddy, which is when things get really fun. So I think we're best of hoping it rains.

Website
Map (pdf link)
YouTube

8: Scheldecross

Type: sand
Previous podium: Nys, Meeusen, DVT
TV: Vier, 15h

The Scheldecross is in Antwerp, on the banks of the Schelde river, and is really very fun. It's one of my favourite races of the season, even though it's not part of any of the three series. There's a very fun off-camber sand section, and then there's other sand sections as well, so all in all: good times. Last year, it rained so much in the week before that they had to change up the course for fear of it being flooded during high tide. Oh, and the octopus obstacle was really cool too.

Website
Map
YouTube (can't seem to find any footage from last year, which is a shame, but in 2010 it snowed. Snow is fun)

Scx_medium_medium

9: Overijse Druivencross

Type: grass, forest and cobbles
Previous podium: Nys, Aernouts, KVT
TV: Sporza, 15h

Ok, let's get the cliche out of the way right from the start: Druivencross is 'the mother of all cx races'. It's old, ok? And that's why, even though it's not a series race, a lot of the stars of cyclocross will show up and try to win. They've changed the course a bit since last year, with a start/finish on a different asphalt section (who cares), and a passage by the pond (could be fun!). Not too gimmicky, but up- and downhill the whole time to really tire everyone out.

Website
Map
YouTube

16: Leuven

Type: grass, forest
Previous podium: Nys, Peeters, Mourey
TV: Vier, 15h

Albertina was there, so she can probably tell us more. I was supposed to be there too, but I was really untimely ill. Damn germs. Anyway, in Leuven we yet again race on a military domain (at least they have some use this way). It's a 1/4 grass, 3/4 forest race, and there's a tricky descent on forest sand and an even trickier climb back up, where everyone is crawling rather than walking (never mind running. or cycling). Last year was the first edition and, to be honest with you, I'm not sure I really remember much of it. Then again, I did have a fever.

Website
Map
YouTube

22: Essen (GVA)

Type: grass, forest and cobbles
Previous podium: Wellens (no, seriously), Albert, Peeters
TV: Sporza, 15h

Essen is a race in two parts - one half is in the field (with a small hill), the other half in the forest. In between the trees it's up and down and up and down and... you get the point. Rain makes this race cooler, but luckily there's plenty of rain in December in Belgium. Or in any other month, pretty much. Aernouts and Meeusen are at home in Essen, so they must be motivated to do well.

Website
Map
YouTube

23: Namur (WC)

Type: HILLS
Previous podium: Nys, Albert, KVT
TV: Sporza, 15h

The World Cup leg in Namur - or, the Citadelcross - is another highlight of the season. If you have to choose between Essen or Namur, pick Namur. Definitely pick Namur. The Citadelcross is incredibly hilly, with a course bordering on mountainbike. The climbs are steep - very steep - and the descents are swift and tricky. And all this in a forest with rocks and treeroots abound.

Website
Map
YouTube

26: Heusden-Zolder (WC)

Type: forest
Previous podium: Pauwels, Stybar, Nys
TV: Sporza, 15h

Merry Christmas! Or merry Boxing Day, which is when this race always takes place. Each country has it's own traditions, and this is one of ours. We don't get a day off, but at least we get a cx race to watch while pretending to work. If it's dry, the trick is to avoid all the roots and obstacles in the pine forest surrounding the race track this race is on. If it snows, the trick is to not fall down. I love snow races.

Website
Map
YouTube

28: Azencross Loenhout (GVA)

Type: forest
Previous podium: Albert, Stybar, Nys
TV: Sporza, 15h

This race is a slugfest, where hard work is more important than pure technique. Lars Boom does well here (which doesn't mean that he doesn't have any technique, but man does that guy have a big engine). It's flat and on grass, though there's usually a lot a lot of mud as well. Crashes aren't unheard of either, last year Stybar did a rather unpleasant (or so I hear) nuts to the top tube manoeuvre, and Nys somersaulted in the mud. The coolest feature is the washboard section.

Website
Map
YouTube

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30: Diegem (SP)

Type: darkness
Previous podium: Albert, Pauwels, Nys
TV: Vier, 17h30

This is one just for the Americans - with a start time two and a half hours later than normally. You're welcome guys. Diegem is special mostly because it's raced in the dark, under floodlights. That's the major obstacle, darkness. As for the course itself, it's pretty straightforward: forest, sand, gravel, hills, beams, grass... a little bit of everything, and all that in the dark.

Website
Map
YouTube

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