December is a relatively quiet time for cycling. Early next-year team-building exercises tend to wrap up by the last days of November and riders go home to train and enjoy the holidays. Cyclocross powers on, but the biggest races happen in November, then pick up again in the Christmas Week, and continue through Worlds. The Grand Tour Organizers are nestled in their beds, and the UCI folks are back in Aigle, decorating a massive tree in the lobby with 1000 Euro bills spun together in a chain.
Still, news trickles out. Sometimes big news. Like this...
Great Advent Calendar? Or Greatest Advent Calendar?
I can't tell you how awesome it is that the EuroVelo Cycling Route Network has put some random person on the cover of its Advent Calendar sporting Podium Cafe arm warmers! Wait a second... I think I recognize that guy...
I don't know how this ends, but I'm sure it's with smiles all around. That's what happens when you put Canadians in charge.
More Serious News: Jingle Cross to the Big Time?
I can't pretend I'm all that familiar with Jingle Cross, but I can tell you that it's put in a bid to become the next UCI Series event in the United States. Remember my post on Sven's 50 wins? That's the UCI category. Not all of the best races, but some of them, and with a unique feel.
Why Jingle Cross? Mainly because they have asked. That plus money equals success, and the UCI seems interested in North American cyclocross events as long as they can fit the calendar. By any reasonable estimation Jingle Cross is a big deal: It claims to draw 15-20,000 spectators to the Iowa City locale (and American crowds have a reputation for enthusiastic support of CX). It has a very large infrastructure in place, currently supporting the largest CX event in the western hemisphere in terms of numbers of races, racers, etc. It's actually running this weekend, choc-a-bloc with Christmas themes like the Yule Log barriers, the Grinch's Lair (a sand pit), and an uphill called Mount Krumpit.
But that's Jingle Cross -- not the potential UCI event. Jingle Cross is the showcase for a possible UCI event in September on the same venue at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Presumably this would replace CrossVegas -- a fun time but a dull grassy crit of a course -- or maybe even join with it for a State-side 1-2. But that's a lot of UCI points earned in America in hot weather, so we'll see about all that. Anyway, for more on this weekend's Jingle Cross, go here.
VERY Serious News: Ronde van Vlaanderen Course Announced!
Usually any such post about the next Tour of Flanders begins with me simulating a sort of primal scream. Well, the scream faded in my throat before it could fully emerge upon discovering the Flanders course for 2016... which is basically the same as last year. According to the race director, the only meaningful change is the swap from the Holleweg to the Jagerij as one of the flat cobble secteurs at just past the halfway mark of the race, approaching the Molenberg.
In actuality the route changes every year, particularly the first 100 kilometers, when the race is doing what good national tours do -- touring the nation it represents. Last year the race meandered south from Bruges to Kortrijk before slowly heading toward its date with East Flanders destiny. In the process it caught the Tiegemberg, giving it 19 total rated climbs.
This year the Tiegemberg is out, and the climb total is 18. Instead, the race heads south from Bruges to Torhout, then east into East Flanders where it spends most of the last 187 kilometers, minus a few minutes in Hainault and West Flanders, spinning north of Oudenaarde before making a beeline for Ronse and the Oude Kwaremont, where the 2015 route is rejoined. Is that a tour of Flanders? Meh. But in fairness, all of the towns in East Flanders are part of the cycling heartland of Belgium, and if this is where Edition #100 wants to pass the time, I guess it's hard to complain. Well, except about the part where Race Director Wim Van Herreweghe claims that people are "getting used to the new (post-2011) route." Is there polling on this? Are we ready to forget about the Muur? Fat f--king chance.
OK, back to Cross before I get mad.
Boom to the Dirt
Perpetual CX icon Lars Boom, the 2008 World Champion in the discipline, has confirmed his plans for rejoining the CX circuit where he is remembered so fondly from his teenage and early 20s years.
So my first cross is gone be 19dec in Antwerp. I hope to get selected for the world cups in Namen and Zolder. 1/2— Lars Boom (@lars_boom) November 30, 2015
2/2 After that I will ride in 29dec Loenhout 30dec Bredene and 2 Jan Surhuisterveen.— Lars Boom (@lars_boom) November 30, 2015
The Vlij-man is not changing careers -- he likes his day job riding on the road with Astana, thankyouverymuch -- but CX fits his training, since he was doing it on his own anyway, and undoubtedly has a big emotional connection for him to this day. Boom held the national championship colors of the Netherlands from 2007 all the way to 2012, when he was well into his career as a full time roadie, though it does not appear that he will contest the Dutch Nats in 2016, not that he'd be a strong contender to win, with current World Champion Mathieu van der Poel and top contender Lars van der Haar in his way. Anyway, this schedule ups the number of eyeballs on these races, and for fans like me who already had Zolder and Namen circled, we will be hoping for Boom's selection to add to the fun.
Oh, and Zdenek Stybar, another CX World Champion gone
rogue road, will do his only CX race of the year this weekend in Essen, near his Belgian in-season home. All road for Stybs in 2016. While more CX could fit his calendar, he says he doesn't want to ride them in a state of low fitness, out of respect for the fans and race organizers.
CX Comings and Goings
In case you missed it, the big news over the (US) holiday last week(end) was the loss of Pauline Ferrand-Prevot from the Cyclocross season. Rabo-Liv sent out the following news of a training crash that has ended the season for the World Champion.
Le sigh. Sounds like a bump in the road for her 2016 road preparations, at least. Speaking of 2015 World Champions, van der Poel confessed he was "looking for better legs" after his fifth place in the FlandrienCross last weekend, and posted maybe the photo of the year on Instagram. Given that he wasn't impaled by that fencepost, I am guessing he finds what he's looking for. That it's taken upwards of two races for him to return to dominant form is what counts for "disappointment" in his thus-far glittering career.
Here's a question: can van der Haar or Kevin Pauwels get noticed again this year, once van der Poel does get his mojo back? Both have had their moments, most notably Pauwels with two wins in early November at Niel and Ruddervoorde, the latter against Wout Van Aert, while Little Lars won the European Championship. But neither has really had much of a chance when Van Aert or Sven Nys (briefly) has been at their respective bests, and neither seems likely to figure in any of the final competition standings. Pauwels is closest at second overall in BPost, but more than two minutes behind Van Aert. Van Aert, meanwhile, confirmed his excellence in the races he appears to be targeting, winning all three BPost events, three of four Superprestige events, and holding the overall lead in the UCI World Cup. And that's without van der Poel in the picture. Honorable mentions here; Tom Meeusen, Klaas Vantornout, and a frisky Laurens Sweeck.
Elevating Elevate Pro Cycling
From my inbox, I see that the Elevate Pro Cycling Team has graduated from domestic status to a UCI Continental status for its sixth season in existence. The Texas-based team has added Joseph Schmaltz and Julian Kyer to its roster, beefing up for the increased level of competition. Good luck lads!
Bikes vs Cars, the Movie!
Frankly I'd like to know who wins this competition. I am an eternal optimist, after all. This documentary opens Friday in New York, LA, Seattle, Vancouver WA (Portland suburb), San Fran, Columbus and Albuquerque, with later stops in New Orleans and Hartford, for starters. And it discusses the advances being made in cities around the world with integrating cycling into the transportation systems.