This weekend’s European cyclocross schedule is as packed as ever, which is sort of a thing now. Not that everyone has to or even wants to race on consecutive days, but the opportunity is there.
And we should take the time to be thankful for it. This weekend’s slate is the Superprestige race at the Spa-Francorchamps race track, plus a stand-alone race the next day at Zilvermeer. Maybe, just maybe, the Two-Man Duel That Ate the Entire Decade will stand down Sunday and give someone else a chance to... to... [checks startlist] ... never mind.
What? Superprestige event for Newbies, Juniors, Beloften (U23), Ladies and Men
Where? Spa, a town in Liege Province, Wallonia, that’s known for... um, spas. Side note: these are cold-spring mineral baths. So Belgian. God forbid anyone be warm before late May. Their beer is better but I’ll take our magma-warmed hot springs any day of the cold part of the year (October thru June).
This actually is different from the map I found for 2015, so the past might not be much of a guide, but I suspect the ginormous run-up and nasty run-down is still there, since it’d be crazy to take those out. Whatever, it’ll be a cross, and people will hurt from riding it. Some more than others.
Features: Ridonkulous hills, both up and down. The descent is theoretically rideable until it gets chunky, then it’s too dangerous. It gets chunky sometime during the Juniors race warmup.
But the uphill is beyond. Riders need to be skilled in carrying their bikes with one limb, because the other three are needed to climb with. You can actually “crash” heading up the thing. Laughing? Think I’m kidding? Check this out (3:00 mark)—
Series Standings: This is the one series where things are actually quite interesting, unless you or your rooting interests are Belgian, in which case Mathieu van der Poel’s lead (by four points) over Wout Van Aert is very, very boring. Van Aert has a commanding lead in the other two competitions, but van der Poel has shown up for this one. Laurens Sweeck is a mere ten points off the Dutchman, so it’s a three-man race (ha ha OK, it’s two, but I’m sure Sweeck can be used for some drafting).
For some reason the standings in the other competitions are a state secret, but Sanne Cant has three wins in the series, so I am guessing she’s atop the women’s leaderboard.
What: A stand-alone race at Zilvermeer, a.k.a. Silver Lake.
Where: Zilvermeer lies in the middle of the Antwerp-Eindhoven-Hasselt triangle, accessible to Dutch and German fans as well as the usual home crowd. It’s actually just up the road from Mol, Tom Boonen’s home area, and IIRC we’ve seen some celebrity riders running the Tom Boonen Charity CX race here. I’m not seeing any such indication now. He has twin babies, charity for the next several years will begin at home.
Anyway, it’s a lakeside course, and I can tell you from experience that those are always fun.
I have no idea if this bears any resemblance to past Zilvermeercross events.
Like I said, I can relate. We have a Silver Lake event of our own, and it looks suspiciously like that, only just out of view of the sand is a truly nasty hill that you go up and down all day, on the off-chance you had any oxygen left in your legs coming out of the sand. It’s actually way harder than this, which makes me harder than them? OK, no.
Weather appears to be dry, both in this video from yesterday and in the forecast, so I’d expect a very fast race here. Maybe that opens the door for someone from the “best of the rest,” a.k.a. the entire field of guys who weren’t sporting a rainbow jersey in the last 22 months. We can hope? [Reality check: WVA is excellent in the sand. Oh well.]
The startlist isn’t very revealing beyond the big names. On the men’s side it’s who you’d expect, but on the women’s side after Cant and Ellen van Loy, it might be a bit thinner.