With a mere week and a half to go until the cycling world (or, at least, a minority of us) turns its attention to Louisville, Kentucky, for the cyclocross World Championships everybody is in full blown prep for the big show. The last major European race before Worlds was the World Cup in Hoogerheide on Sunday and riders are packing their bags for the flight across the Atlantic for the first Worlds outside of European soil.
Some riders are already stateside, pre-empting their rivals in getting jet lag out of the way. Marianne Vos is among those who have made the trip, arriving in Texas on Monday. Why such an early arrival? A number of riders targeting Worlds will be racing in Cincinnati this Saturday in the Cincinnati Kings International race, which has a UCI C2 ranking. Among the European riders registered already are reigning world champion Niels Albert, Wieste Bosmans, Julien Tamaracruz, Simon Zahner, Radomir Simunek, Helen Wyman, Katarina Nash, and Jasmine Acherman. All the big American names will be there, including newly minted national champion Jonathan Page.
Those trans-Atlantic riders who are not competing in Cincinnati this weekend have opted to trade potential jet lag for less time out of their comfort zones. For many, it will be the first time racing outside Europe, though Rob Peeters, Lars van der Haar, and Sanne van Paassen are among podium hopefuls in the elite races that have experience racing in America - all have podiumed in the North American season opener Crossvegas in the past two years. If you're looking for people with an extra edge come next Sunday, this might be the place to look for riders less phased by the travel and unfamiliar surroundings. Among the things contributing to stress might be the logistical nightmare of trying to bring 3 bikes and countless wheels per rider across the Atlantic; the Swiss team has resorted to borrowing wheels for riding on the road and repair work stands from a notable Chicago bike shop.
Meanwhile, countries' rosters are starting to take their final shape. British champion Nikki Harris is out after an injury sustained at the Zolder World Cup worsened; the national federation will not be replacing Harris and will now only field three riders. France is only bringing Lucie Chainel-Lefevre and Christel Ferrier-Bruneau even though it has qualified for four spots, leaving American-based riders Julie Krasniak and Caroline Mani - ranked 17th and 26th in the world - behind despite their insistence they would cover travel costs. The ensuing controversy has prompted a petition to the UCI to change rules such that women ranked in the top 30 in the world according to the UCI must be allowed the chance to race by their national federations, even if the federation does not pay for it. Finally, newly minted Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout will be racing now that an injury sustained in a race on Saturday appears less serious than initially feared.
Check in over the next week for speculation about the course and who might bring home a gold medal. Until then, remember it is only 8 days til racing starts!