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‘Cross Weekend: It’s On Now!

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Kerstperiode (Christmas week) hasn’t officially arrived yet, but CX is hotting up already

Marianne Vos descends one of the gnarliest descents I've seen in a cross race Patrick Verhoest

If there is a single calendar-related tradition that makes Cyclocross great, it’s the Kerstperiode cramming of the sport into your holiday plans. “Kerst” is just Dutch for Christmas, and the “periode” is a week or so, depending on when you have to go back to work. This year’s Kerstperiode doesn’t officially(?) start for another week, but with my kids off this weekend, and some other special events, I am declaring it Kerstperiode right. bloody. now.

Why? One, I feel like it, and two, there are no more one-week spaces between top level races until after the holiday, so the compressed schedule kicks off tomorrow. Also my kids are out of school already. The fun has begun. Here is what’s in store:

Scheldecross Octopus

Saturday, 12/17: DVV Scheldecross

This race is best known for maybe threatening the lives of riders with a giant octopus. I honestly don’t remember where that thing came from, but apparently they’ve neutralized the threat in recent years.

But it’s still raced along the banks of the Schelde and there are many tons of sand on the course, which gets deeper and deeper as the races continue. The course is a reasonably fun mix of other elements too, like forests and a few short ups and downs, plus some very hoppable barriers.

Here are the dudes from last year. All the elites are in attendance despite a World Cup event the next day. This is no time for half-measures.

Sunday, 12/18: World Cup Namur

The Citadelcross is an absolute classic event, just a beautiful event in Namur, probably the signature Wallonian event, in the forests of the fortress city. The course is a very challenging one, full of hills and mud, and devoid of the gimmicks to which lesser events sometimes resort (like giant killer octopi).

Last year’s highlights:

Friday, 12/23: Superprestige Diegem

Switching gears... like, all of them... now we head to Diegem for a nighttime race around the city center. Loaded with gimmicks, including a staircase and a bit of sand, this race needs all of them to keep it interesting, or it would if it were another daytime event. But the visuals are cool, and if it snows all that pavement on the course will be a problem.

Monday, 12/26: World Cup Heusden-Zolder

It’s easy to mistake this for a course lacking in distinguishing features, but it’s really a subtly heavy, grinding course with plenty of off-camber mud, little bits of sand, run-ups, short chutes, and very little rest. Oh, and a couple of particularly long temporary bridges. It’s all about as unlike Diegem as you could get. This isn’t quite the same course as last year’s World Championships, but it’s close enough to justify me reposting this:

I love this more than a lot of things. See you soon LvdH! [Read below]

Thursday, 12/29: DVV Azencross Loenhout

This is an easy one to remember... the Washboard.

That and some barriers are mostly what Azencross serves up. Look for lots of people in mid-air, although they get cheekier in warmups than in the actual race. Here are the ladies from last year:

Sunday, 1/1: DVV Baal (GP Sven Nys)

The Log Race? I can’t think of much else to say, except that it’s now a tribute to Sven Nys and his great career, rather than being the only race named after the likely winner.

Comings and Goings

A few quick notes to pass along...

Tomorrow marks the return of Marianne Vos to the CX peloton! She takes the start in Antwerp under the giant octopus or what used to be the octopus killing zone. Nice to see the sport’s most decorated woman return.

Lars Boom, who apparently spent some time this week detailing his fallout with Astana management on his way (back) to LottoNL-Jumbo, starts his BeNeLux CX period at Heusden-Zolder.

His countryman van der Haar is still a ways off, however. Coming off a torn thigh muscle, he hopes to start up again in January, but told Sporza today that he doesn’t expect to get on the podium at Worlds, assuming he can take the start. He’s only 25, and unlike Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert, he won’t be ditching ‘Cross for the road anytime soon.

One more going... Yu Takenouchi had a little visa trouble in Belgium recently on his way to Namur. Apparently he got deported back to Japan for having spent too many days in Belgium last year based on his visa. As if there is such a thing as too many days in Belgium. He should have been a little quicker to get legal counsel so he could have invoked the “need more time for beer research” exemption to visa limitations.