A little birdie told me earlier today that the road season was starting. That's nonsense, and we all know it - we haven't even had the World Championships for cyclocross yet, so how can road possibly start? Yes, there are races, far below the equator in Argentina or Australia, but races do not a season make. We all know real cross doesn't actually start in early September with CrossVegas after all. The Tour Down Under may be great fun and all, but don't get too many visions of bikinis and sun tans yet, it's still January, and there's still mud and snow to be dealt with astride a proper bike.
Last weekend we were treated to a host of races as the bigs went home to battle for their respective national championships. There was a little shake up now and then, but things mostly remained the same. Aside from Klaas Vantornout losing his Belgian champs jersey to Sven Nys (as if he doesn't have enough special jerseys to wear right now) and Martin Bina taking the Czech jersey - finally - from Zdenek Stybar's absent shoulders, nothing of real import transpired. But even with familiar skinsuits on their backs, our newly re-minted national champions will be eager to show off their livery this weekend. After all, what's the point of winning a championship if you don't show off the goods?
This weekend we head to the college town of Leuven for the standalone Sudal Leuven race, a coronation of sorts for new national champions. The course is pretty cool, as our local expert says.
The cx of Leuven (Heverlee to be more exact) is a young-un. This is only the third edition iirc, and it's not been as huge a success as it could've been so far. That is to say - crowds have been ok but the race hasn't attracted the hype of, say, Ronse. Which is a shame, cause it's a fun one, with menacingly steep drops.
That said, the racing likely won't be too lively. Someone will win, and others will lose, and they will fight hard. But with national championships behind them and Worlds two weekends away, look for guys to be tired after some of the last hard training days before the biggest race of the year. And as for rain? Sadly, chances are slim 30-40% chance on Sunday and little in the latter half of the week. Oh well, I suppose it's okay for the mechanics to have a light day.
The usual suspects will be there, save Lars van der Haar, who has made a habit of racing less often than his competitors, usually to focus on training for the world cups (hint: with his success rate there, this could be ominous for Worlds...). The elite men will be televised live on Vier. Times for the races are as follows (in CET).
1345 Elite Women
1500 Elite & U23 Men