The European Cyclo Cross Championships were run for the first time in 2003, and from then until last year, they were a competition for under-23 men, junior men, and women only, with no elite men's race. But something (I'm guessing Telenet sponsorship. Just a hunch) has changed that, and an Elite race has been added to the programme, in a place called Huijbergen, in the Netherlands. It's also known as Tom Meeusen's back yard, but I'll get back to that. The race has been in Huijbergen once before, with none other than Niels Albert winning the under-23 race, with Zdenek Stybar in second.
Here's a video of the course...
Vervecken on tour op het EK Parcours
Erwin Vervecken on tour op het EK parcours!Beleef nu het EK Veldrijden 2015 parcours met Erwin Vervecken tijdens zijn testrit van het dit unieke parcours! Zaterdag is hier de Europese Veldrit top te zien, info en kaarten op ekveldrijden2015.nl tot en met morgen laatste kans om kaarten met korting te kopen.Posted by EK Veldrijden 2015 on Thursday, 5 November 2015
And here's the map.
If you didn't watch the video, there's a long tarmac section, followed by a long stretch of hard-packed earth, before one of the main talking points of the course - the Chicken Run. Often used in MTB, this is a choice of paths. One safer and slower, one faster - but more dangerous. Tom Meeusen says that they'll all go the hard way, it's not apparently too bad. It's near the end of the lap where the biggest difficulty lies. An uphill sand dune where a rider must run, it may be where the winning move is launched.
For the men's I expect Lars van der Haar to struggle with Wout Van Aert, and eventually lose out, managing second with the Belgian crossing the line raising eight fingers in victory. Nine? Ten? If he starts using his toes I'll be REALLY impressed. Sanne Cant will bounce back and win the women's. Incidentally, out of last year's winners - Cant, Van Aert and Iserbyt - none wore the blue jersey, preferring their Belgian kits, in the case of Cant and Iserbyt, and the under-23 rainbow jersey for Van Aert. I imagine Van Aert has to wear the blue jersey if he wins this year. Telenet are showing it, and so are Omroep Brabant. If you're lucky enough to find a feed, Marianne Vos is commentating.
On Sunday there is a race with slightly more history. Ruddervoorde (the race, not the town) was founded in 1988, and in its 24 editions, Nys has managed to win ten. It's a very narrow, technical course with more than forty corners in the three-kilometre lap! At the start, the riders play a little game that I like to call Dodge-the-house.
Sorry for the poor quality. I'd like to say I deemed it apt, but it's be a lie. You have to be in the top three to be certain ofnot being caught in a bottleneck. The lap progresses to some stairs and a set of really great rolling bumps that look great on TV, before reaching some of the race's most important features. There's a difficult uphill turn, and then a sand section. There will be where the race is lost. Will it be won there? I don't think so.
h leaps out to you as well? Thought so. Mmmm, frites.
It is difficult to get away in Ruddervoorde so my money isn't on a Wout Van Aert romp to victory. I think this one is for Lars. Sophie de Boer is back for the women, but I'll say Harris to win. The men are on Sporza, but unfortunately I don't think the women are.
Oh, and one final note: I noticed this tweet from Wout Van Aert today:
9 januari 2016, schrijf het in jullie agenda! https://t.co/basbYyqwPT— Wout van Aert (@WoutvanAert) November 6, 2015
If you click on the link, you'll get to a rather interesting point-to-point cyclocross course full of ordinary - and some other slightly less orthodox - obstacles .It's apparently for the public, and looks very cool indeed. Wouldn't mind seeing this sort of race if anyone could find a track long enough!