Personally I hadn’t noticed any evidence of Luxembourg being a member of the United Nations of Cross until ... OK, I admit it, like 20 minutes ago. Their top-ranked rider is Scott Thiltges, #116 in the world. I could swear I heard that Andy Schleck was one of their ambassadors, despite no obvious connection to the dirt. I guess they hosted the worlds in 1968, according to a grainy Pathé video at the main site. But unlike every other country that has no business inserting itself into the top of the cyclocross calendar, at least Bieles and Luxembourg in general is a short drive for all the Dutch, Belgians, Germans and French riders who actually comprise the sport.
To make up for this odd dynamic, however, the organizers have put together a truly fun-looking course. Spanning a city park and some sort of gravel pit, the course is a pretty breathless string of features that should make for some very challenging racing.
Let’s start with a map:
It’s not terribly descriptive, but if you’re patient and/or understand Dutch, you can watch Bart Wellens break down the course here. There’s also a YouTube video of someone... I dunno, riding the course on a motocross bike? It’s probably more helpful, assuming it’s not an alternative facts version of the trail.
Basically there is a pretty decent hill in the park, and the race goes straight up it, then traverses down it, then traverses back up before going straight into the grade again. Then it meanders over to the gravel pit for a couple up-and-down shots, including a run-up consisting of a couple dozen logs thrown across the course.
From there the course takes a moment to wind through the gravel pit, then heads up, down, and then all the way up the hill in a sand track. My legs are burning from typing this far. After a short respite up top, the course traverses off-camber into the pit, then back up on a long, loose- ... I don’t even know what, wood chips? — climb, then a really long, treacherous off-camber section back to the pit floor. Then there’s an off-camber climb up to the start area, but not before the riders have to jump over a pool of hungry crocodiles, through a flaming hoop. That part wasn’t included in the video, but I think they just finished building it yesterday.
Some shade was thrown over the fact that Adri van der Poel was one of the course consultants, suggesting that he might do something to give his son Mathieu an advantage (as if he didn’t have one already). But for my money this might actually suit a grinder like Wout Van Aert more. That was Bartje’s conclusion, and who am I to argue with a man who had his own reality TV show in Belgium?
Anyway, it’s an odd course, completely devoid of any flow, but I’m sure it’ll make it entertaining to watch, if not to ride. Here are the various startlists. More to come as we ramp up our CX Worlds preview...