But, like the end of the road season, there are gems in the final few weeks of cyclocross racing. October holds the Giro d'Emilia, Paris Tours, and the Giro di Lombardia - all stalwarts of the sport and races any racer would be thrilled to win. Hell, there is even a Monument thrown in there. The point is that races may seem superflous after Worlds, but man do they pack a punch.
The same is true in cross. And while you may have grown weary of TGSGirl's and my incessant proclamations about races on the weekends when you just want to get on with your off season from getting up early to watch road races, there are some races truly worth paying attention to in the last two weeks of the season. I won't give you a run down of the races -for you would be better off checking the final chapter of TGSGirl's excellent cyclocross calendar yourself for details. Instead, here are the compelling reasons to keep watching cross instead of, say, the Tour de Mediterranean.
First, the Superprestige series ranking is not determined with two races remaining. Sven Nys - your new wereld champioon! - leads, but only by five points. The points awarded for 1st through 5th placings are 15/14/13/12/11/10, so it is possible Niels Albert could overhaul Sven. This alone will be interesting, for Albert imploded in the final two laps of the World Championships, though he is prone to dramatic drops in placings if his morale leaves him as it must have as Lars van der Haar attacked him for the final podium spot. More interesting, however, is the battle between Albert and Kevin Pauwels, who are at 78 and 75 points respectively. Plus, who would not want to watch Sven take a historic 12th overall victory in the series... in rainbow stripes, for once?
The bppost Bank series, however, is mostly decided. In an interesting experiment, the series (formerly the GVA series) switched to stage race format, deciding to award overall honors based on overall time - with the inclusion of time bonuses at the finish and mid-race - rather than points. Niels Albert leads Kevin Pauwels by 3'53", which is too much to expect Pauwels to make up in two races. The gap from Pauwels to Klaas Vantornout in third is almost as large, and it is unlikely Rob Peeters can overcome a minute plus deficit on an in-form Vantornout, so the overall podium should stay the same barring catastrophes on the part of any riders.
Aside from the Superprestige podium race, why should you keep waking yourself up at 9, 8, or even 6am if you live on the west coast of the U.S. in order to watch races? February is often one of the more exciting months of racing as the temperature tends ever more towards freezing, giving us something we have lacked all season save the final World Cup race at Hoogerheide - snow cross. There are riders for fast conditions like van der Haar and Pauwels, and those who shine brightest in the mud like Nys and Albert. But the snow, it brings out a different type of rider, those that get few chances to shine during the "normal" season. For a prime example, look at the relatively unknown Martin Bina, the Czech rider who won the final World Cup in treacherous snowy conditions.
Enter the Czech riders and Tom Meeusen, perhaps the best rider on icy and snowy conditions in the sport over the past few years. Last year, Meeusen - whose best result in the rest of the season was probably a fourth at the World Championships - won the GVA round at Lille and the Superprestige race in Hoogstraten, both of which are still to come and occurred in snowy conditions last year. Even if you don't get as excited about Meeusen as I do, there is nothing like watching your most revered riders slip and slide uncontrollably on icy corners.
So, soak it all in, the final two weekends of the cyclocross season. Before long, we will be listening to Belgian voices announce the proceedings at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and after that the stage races will come, leaving us longing for the type of men who thrust their steeds forwards through the muck and sand and snow in the worst conditions in an attempt to glean our adoration for a few months a year. Cross is almost over, so savor the dessert.