This weekend is without a World Cup race. Or a Superprestige or bpost Bank series race either. But do not let that fool you, this weekend is not one to take off. Fire up the waffle maker, pull out the beer, and settle into a comfortable position because there are not one or two but four killer races to watch.
Some races do not need to be affiliated with any of the three major European series in order to bring the crème de la crème to race day. And the courses? Have you seen Scheldecross and Overijse Druivencross? If you're a true cross fan you have and you know there is plenty of insanity to make it worth watching. If you're that desperate for a series race, the final stop of the USGP of Cyclocross is in Bend, Oregon.
If you need any more convincing to sit down and watch some racing this weekend, think about this: the weather in both the low countries and Bend is supposed to be miserable this weekend. A snowstorm is moving across northern Europe tonight and there is going to be either snow or cold, cold, cold rain in Bend tomorrow. This excites me, for nothing is more fun than an icy snow race... or watching people race in conditions you would avoid like the plague, amiright?
We head to the north of Belgium for this one, racing over in Antwerp on the banks of the Schelde River. And this course is always a fun one to watch because there is sand. No, not sand like Koksijde, but still plenty of it.
What does GS have to say?
The Scheldecross is in Antwerp, on the banks of the Schelde river, and is really very fun. It's one of my favorite 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.
We don't have video from last year, but we do from 2010... when it was snowy. Hopefully tomorrow will look just like this.
When I start thinking about cyclocross season (ok, more than I usually do in the year), I think about Druivencross. They call it the "mother of all cross races," but that's not why I remember it. I remember the crazy, steep, bumpy, twisty descent towards the bottom of the course. Seriously sketchtastic, and that is why it is so wonderful. If you want to see what I am talking about, go to 4:00 into the video below GS's description.
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 for the whole time to really tire everyone out.
USGP Deschutes Brewery Cup
Earlier stops in the USGP series were in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Louisville. There was good weather everywhere, much to my disappointment. But the series got one thing right - keeping the final weekend of racing in Oregon in December where all sorts of weather shenanigans can be expected. Last year was dry and dusty, which was kind of boring, but not so this year! It's raining in Bend as I type and there is a chance of snow on Saturday and more rain on Sunday. The weather gods have heard my pleas. This course is pretty fun in the slop too...
Series leader and national champion Jeremy powers will not be in Bend, electing instead to go to Tuscon for a 10 day training camp to prepare for the next two rounds of the World Cup. Powers clearly has his sights set on being in tip top shape for his overseas adventures, and honestly he needs to in order to secure enough points to get the front row start at Worlds he so dearly hopes for. In his absence, racing should be fantastically wide open. Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Adam Craig, Jamey Driscol, Zach McDonald, and Chris Jones have all looked good this season... and none have looked terribly better than the others. I can't wait to see who ends up on top.
Holding any event in Oregon in December is an open invitation for horrible conditions, be it week-long rain or slushy snow. The result? A perfectly enjoyable cross race, except for last year when it was dry and dusty and totally non-Oregon like. The course, which was the site of the 2011 National Championships, is situated in and around a natural bowl next to the Deschutes brewery. That means lots of off-camber sections and but little climbing. There are barriers and stairs, but nothing too crazy. This isn't Belgium, after all.
Can Anyone Stop Sven?
Sven Nys is unstoppable in this part of the season, it seems. The story of the weekend in Europe is likely to be who can unseat the Belgian national champion. With a lot of sand in Antwerp, Niels Albert could stand a chance... but if it snows, we may see Tom Meeusen finally come back to the front of the race where he belongs. Tommeke loves a good snow race. Sunday seems tailor made for Sven, but don't expect him to get the victory quite so easily. Kevin Pauwels looks fast again and may have put some of his bad luck behind him. And if you need one more story line to watch for the weekend, check out BMC rider and pro mountain biker Julien Tamaracraz. If he is racing again this weekend, he may improve on his surprising fourth place at last weekend's Roubaix World Cup...
Great news, USGP will have a livestream! Tune in here:
If you're wondering when to do so, the link has a handy countdown clock. Seven hours and 45 minutes to go atm!