Last night my heat came on for the first time since spring. The streets were wet this morning for the first time since July. And now, as of this weekend, both Belgian cyclocross series will be officially underway.
I think it's safe to say, autumn has arrived.
With the venerable Superprestige Trophy getting started in Ruddervoorde last weekend, this Sunday's event flips open Belgium's other cyclocross calendar. Formerly known as the GvA Trophy (sponsored by the Gazet van Antwerpen), this colorful series, boasting next month's Koppenbergcross, among others, will now race under the banner of bpost Bank, the banking arm of the Belgian postal group. It's some sort of public/private entity, and like all things having to do with Belgian governance it's probably best not to think too much about it. Just know that they're ponying up the cash for a great series of races over the next three years.
The big development is the format. Rather than the traditional, simple system of awarding points based on finishing place and anointing the guy with the most points the winner, the bpost Bank Trophy will be awarded to the rider with the lowest cumulative time -- not unlike a road stage race, albeit one that goes entire weeks' worth of rest days between stages. There are a few wrinkles to the time element worth noting as well:
- Each race will have time bonuses, one intermediate and one at the finish, with deductions of 15, 10 and 5 seconds for the top three.
- Skipping any one race results in a five minute penalty, e.g. the time of the winner plus five minutes, added to your running tally.
- No rider may lose more than five minutes, however, in a race. If you blow a gasket and finish 8' down, or get sick, it's the same as not taking the start: winning time + 5'.
Over at Sporza, Sven Nys has obviously given the matter some thought, commenting that had they run the time structure last year it would not have changed the standings in the GvA Trophy: 1 Pauwels, 2 Stybar, 3 Nys. Still, the masterful Nys opined that he thought the format would be good for him.
As to this week, the series' opening event is a fun one, to say the least. Here's tgsgirl's entry from her Cyclocross Calendar:
It's only the third edition, but this race has already captured the heart of many a cx fan. Or maybe it's just me, that could be the case also. It's raced on the Hotondberg (highest 'mountain' of the province of Oost-Vlaanderen, at a whopping 145 metres). The hill is its main feature, but the race uses it well. Also, when it rains Ronse is hilarious. Plus, there's this awesome ridge. The GVA-leg in Ronse also goes by the name GP Mario De Clercq, after the Sunweb DS. So Pauwels and KVT should do well here. Theoretically.
And because she loves you, here are some helpful links:
"Good" news: the forecast calls for nothing but rain between now and then. This should be a slopfest supreme.
Pauwels picture by Balint Hamvas, www.cyclephotos.co.uk.