One of the few races on the cyclocross calendar which needs no introduction is coming on Sunday — the Vlaamse Duinencross, a/k/a the Mother of All Crosses, a/k/a the best thing to happen to Belgium since God created cobblestones. It’s a World Cup now (has been for a while) and more importantly, it’s been a full two years since it was last raced, following cancellation last year due to a raging storm that threatened to blow away every temporary structure on the site. And while cyclocross racing is rarely bothered by any weather you can name (apart from warm sunshine), it definitely has a lot of temporary structures, and it’s not cool for the riders to get hit by them when they go flying. So yea, no Duinencross last year.
[Note: there is an upside to the cancellation — Duinencross is the lone race where you can still say “last won by Sven Nys.” Maybe we should freeze it in time?]
The forecast for Sunday calls for typical fall weather, so it’s game on again. And when last we looked, the game consisted of lots and lots of sand. [You probably guessed that “duinencross” has something to do with dunes.]
Unlike Zonhoven last weekend, with its three long, fast drops in the sand and a ton of flat riding afterward, Koksijde features an endless series of stabby little off-camber ups and downs, mostly in heavy sand, and punctuated by short flat sections which may very well turn to thick mud by the time Sunday is over. There is no recovery happening on this course, so the winner will be defined by strength, skill and luck, in that order.
“Oh Right, the World Cup”
Like I said, Koksijde is WC status, something that takes a back seat to the majesty of the race itself but is undoubtedly not overlooked by the riders. On the men’s side, Mathieu van der Poel (160 points) has a healthy 50 point lead over the usual Belgian suspects, but more notably 75 over Wout Van Aert and 71 over Lars van der Haar. He’s virtually certain to end the weekend in the white leader’s kit, barring a disaster, and is looking to extend his WC winning streak to a perfect three for three, having swept the two American events.
In the women’s competition, Sanne Cant has the overall lead after Katie Compton suffered an asthma attack in Waterloo, Iowa and withdrew. Cant has 200 points to pace the field, followed by Americans Kaitlin Keough (160) and Ellen Noble (140), but Cant is undoubtedly looking forward to padding her lead on home “soil” given that she won the last two Duinencrosses.
Oh By the Way
Before we hit the sand, there’s a Superprestige round in Boom (I know), just outside Antwerp on Saturday. It’s the De Schorre Cross, and I can’t find a startlist, but these people seem to like racing constantly so I would expect the big names to be there, though the results might reflect priorities around the next day’s event.
Oh, and yesterday was Ardooie, the Kermiscross, won by Van Aert over Toon Aerts, with no van der Poels on hand. It was the World Champion’s first victory of the season but we’ll see what it means this weekend.
Speaking of van der Poels, David is off to an interesting start, taking fourth in Zonhoven. Whether he’s moving into the pack of riders just behind the champions is yet to be seen, but I’m sure Mathieu benefits from his older brother staying as close to his wheel as possible.