The international Cyclocross season is heating up, with both Belgian-based series underway and the last of the Big Three, the UCI calendar, ready to kick off this weekend.
Zdenek Stybar broke his collarbone and damaged shoulder ligaments Wednesday in a crash during the non-serial Ardooie cyclocross event, his second start in the dirt this season. It was meant to be his last, just a carry-over from the road season, and he planned to take a break beginning with his wedding tomorrow. Stybar today seemed in good humor, joking about how he is now unable to practice the opening dance for his wedding ceremony, and might have to practice overnight with his mom. In any event, the injury is forecast for a 4-6 week recovery, which suggests he'll be back more or less in time for his next set of goals.
Weirdly, Ardooie is where Stybar crashed in August, during the ENECO Tour, when he struck a barrier. The West Flemish town is apparently a highly specific misfortune vortex for Czech crossover cyclists. Call it the Stybarmuda triangle.
It's round one of the UCI series. Last year Lars van der Haar kicked off a season-long successful chase of the white jersey with a victory here, on home soil I suppose (though plenty of Belgians live closer to Valkenburg than van der Haar does). The UCI series isn't the most challenging set of races, but it comes with a few perks: a full schedule of events (juniors, women, U23), excellent attendance particularly from outside the Low Countries, and post-race interviews in English.
Here's tgsgirl's description:
Cause if your country is named the Nether-lands, you better race that one hill you've got twice a year. The Valkenburg world cup leg takes place on the Cauberg, and is very fun. The organisers call it a 'Swiss' race, but seeing those 7524 turns I'd say it's pretty damn Dutch. Lots of steep uphill climbs and swooping flights back down. Plus, motivated kid Dutchies on home soil.
Here's what the map looks like.
It warranted four hearts out of five. This is actually pretty high for a UCI race, which are often some of the damper squibs of the CX parcours world (except Koksijde, of course).
Here's a decent video from last year. The UCI restricts access to full race videos but you can find them.
You can also watch an official teaser clip from the UCI, though it gave me vertigo.
In my mind CaubergCross is a slightly less demanding, UCI-ized version of last week's race in Ronse. Punchy climbs and run-ups, lots of off-camber descending, and if it rains enough (it might) then you'll get a heavy, difficult, challenging course. And Sven will win.
[Or not. Last weekend's results had a lot to do with the existence of two races and people making choices. This time, it's all-in for CaubergCross, particularly the Dutch contingent.]
A few notes on entries:
- Powers and Page are the sole US entries.
- Mathieu van der Poel is riding U23, facing off with Wout Van Aert and several other notable Belgian kids.
- The US contingent for U23 is Yannick Eckmann, Curtis White, and Tobin Ortenblad. Lance Haidet, Gavin Haley and Jordan Lewis head up the US juniors.
- Everyone appears to be in for the Women's race. I hate to say everyone, because it sounds like I'm not forgetting anyone, and of course I am. But apart from Katerina Nash, who I guess isn't doing a big European season once again, everyone is here. Vos, van Paassen, de Boer, Cant, Compton, Wyman, Harris, Chainel-Lefevre, and so on.
Coming Soon: Cobbled Awesomeness
I don't know what a "hellish kuitenbijter" is, but it sounds fantastic and apparently it applies to the KoppenbergCross coming November 1. Sporza reports that the organizers are looking to make the race a bit steeper, even run-up steep, in sort of a Stop-Nys effort. Sven has won the KoppenbergCross nine times. Because, of course he has. The race is generally a tough slog, like Ronse but with one long, more or less unbroken uphill kuitenbijter (I can do this), then some long, sloppy descending, with the occasional, brief contact with the Tour of Flanders cobble slope. My suggestion that they just go up and down the road a few times has gone unanswered.
The American CX calendar, currently led in commanding fashion by Powers and less so by Compton, turns to New Jersey this weekend, when the Highland Park CX event happens -- minus the series leaders. This is good news for challengers James Driscoll, Ben Berden and Lukas Winterberg on the men's side, where Powers holds a gap of 250 points or so. But it's great news on the women's side, where Compton is a mere nine points up on Meredith Miller, who is nine points up on Caroline Mani.
Finally, Niels Albert has a biography published, and over at Sporza they list the five best anecdotes. Don't miss em!