1 January: GP Sven Nys, Baal (Bpost)
How long do you reckon it'll be before they rename Hoogerheide into GP Mathieu van der Poel, or before Herentals puts on a Grand Prix Wout Van Aert? Not too long I'd guess, but up til then we'll have to make due with GP Sven Nys. On the first day of the year our crowd of cyclocrossers exerts itself in Sven Nys' hometown of Baal, while the rest of Belgium is wiped out on their (grand)parents' couch nursing a hangover and watching the race. It's a tradition as important as - if not more than - New Year's eve fireworks.
4 January: Leuven
Cyclocross has a thing with racing on military domain, and Leuven - or its hamlet of Heverlee more specifically - is no exception. I studied at the university of Leuven for six years, and spent a couple of those years living in Heverlee, so this one tugs on my heartstrings a bit. It's a fun race with some scary steep drops and narrow downhills, but it's not really gotten much recognition in its first couple of years on the scene. Hopefully that'll change.
11 January: Nationals
It's time for nationals! British women, Dutch men and Belgian men should be most interesting. Belgian nationals will be live on tv and will be held in Erpe-Mere. One of the earliest cx races of the season is always in Erpe-Mere. It's never televised so I don't know much about it (yet), but Lars Van der Haar has called it "one of the hardest races of the season".
25 January: Hoogerheide (WC - last one)
Dansel said it best in his preview for last year's worlds.
In all honesty, the venue is pretty bland, its stubborn presence at the highest levels of the sport more a product of its organization than the course. The track is the sort which makes true purists go "meh" at the lack of technical features. The course is split between a boggy field and a small plateau that overlooks it and has changed little over the years [...] Every now and then the course hops up onto the plateau via a power climb or run-up, then drops back down after some time up top.
There are a couple of changes this year - a bridge has been nixed and there's a different run up to a steep hill, but all in all GP Adrie van der Poel - yes, Mathieu's daddy - will be much of the same.
1 February: World Championships, Tabor
You'll hear all about it as it draws near, but we'll all better start practising our ice dance skills.
Rating: ♥ OR ❅❅❅❅❅
7 February: Krawatencross Lille (bpost - last one)
It's the final bpost race of the season, and the first chance for the new world champions to show off their multicoloured stripes. It's a good venue for it too, because the Krawatencross is fun. The race skirts the edge of the water and then turns into a pine forest for some fast corners and sharp hills. Oh, and if you're wondering: the inhabitans of Lille are called krawaten, and krawaat somehow morphed from its original meaning 'Croatian soldier' to 'naughty boy'.
8 February: Hoogstraten (SP)
Three bridges, one staircase and some beams: that usually means we're racing on grass and need some additional obstacles to keep things somewhat interesting. There's not too much setting this race apart from the rest, but it's the penultimate Superprestige race and so far it's a mighty exciting overall. So there's that.
14 February: Middelkerke Noordzeecross (SP - last one)
If only they'd move a little closer to the sea - as their name implies - we'd have a really kick-ass race. Alas the Middelkerke Noordzeecross stays too far away for super awesomeness and stays safely in 'oh, well' territory. They call themselves 'the oldest cross in the country', with 55 consecutive editions since 1959. That's kinda the marketing trick the Druivencross is banking on too, but they only started in 1960, so way to go Middelkerke. If you can plan on staying, there's a 'camping Moby Dick' nearby.
22 February: Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle
And now, the end is near, and so we face the final finishline. My friend, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case, of which I'm certain. We've had a season that's full, we've raced each and every meadow. And more, much more than this, we did it our way.
So yes, eight days after the final series race there's the Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle. Getting the stars to the start was all fine and dandy when it was the last race of the bpost series, but now that it's a standalone organisation I'm not sure how many guys will want to postpone their vacation by over a week.
28 February: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
And so it begins again...