2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships - Fayetteville


The biggest cycling event of the year is fast approaching. Do I mean the grand reveal of the 2022 PDC VDS price list? No I do not. The last weekend in January can mean only one thing. It's the cyclocross worlds and they're back in the USA after a 9 year absence. Who can forget that weekend back then in Louisville 2013. It almost didn't happen due to local flooding but it was the great Sven Nys who took the win after a surprising 8 years without the rainbows. Vos won the ladies race while other medalists included a young Mathieu Van der Poel - 1st in the Junior race - and Wout Van Aert - 3rd in the U23s.

But those last 2 are absent this weekend for their own reasons. I know some will disagree but for me this makes things far more interesting.


Course Map

Fayetteville hosted a round of the world cup back in October. Having cross referenced with the route map above I'm fairly sure it's a near identical circuit. There is a woodland section and a section over grassy park land. This link shows Curtis Whyte riding the lap before that world cup round. It was very dry at the time and the course looks fast. Gravelly in places. There are a few sections with box turns, one long stair case and some steep banks that look pretty ridable but a lot will depend on the weather. When they had the race in October is was muddier but still pretty fast. A quick look at the forecast next week suggests it will be dry with sunshine mostly. Temperatures will be below freezing overnight rising to maybe 8C during the day. If that is correct it's likely that there will be a thin layer of mud on the surface with frozen ground underneath. Conditions like that can often mean pinch punctures as low tyre pressures are ridden to maximize traction and rims bounce off impacted stones and hard ground/roots beneath the surface. Could be a factor and for sure we have seen equipment choice decide world championships in the past. Remember Wout's green, and apparently bulletproof, Michelin tyres in 2017? Anyway, I like the route. It ends with a set of sweeping ON camber curves leading into the finish straight so a very fast approach that could be breathtaking if we have some close races. Here is a short highlight video of the world cup race in October won by Quinten Hermans. You can see it was much muddier at the time (it was wet and would have been warmer) but still fast, gravelly in places and punctures were a factor.



The racing starts on Friday with this curious event. A first, I guess it's kind of a trial. Teams of 6. 1 lap each. 1 elite man and woman. 2 U23 men and women. It's bound to be fun and possibly not taken that seriously. The Dutch should win by miles but I guess that depends how hard it's ridden.



Kicking off the action on Saturday are the junior women. Now, when Zoe Backstedt has ridden juniors this season she has won and by some distance. But it's been even more predictable than that as each one of those times Leonie Bentveld has finished second. Zoe has actually ridden more elite races that juniors even winning one, at the age of 17, when some bigger names were at that snow race in Italy. We know Zoe's father of course and her mother is a previous UK women's road race champion so she sure has the pedigree. Many of us were more than happy with the points return her older sister Elynor gave us in VDS last year (and her continuing development is sure worth keeping an eye on as well) but Zoe is the one to watch this weekend for UK cross fans. There could be one complication. Zoe missed the UK championships a couple of weeks ago with COVID-19. I think she has recovered ok though as she was back racing yesterday at Flandriencross where she finished 13th at elite level.



Next up are the U23 men and this is the race I'm anticipating the most. Firstly I think it may be the one fought out for the win by the largest group and secondly because it includes my households' favorite bike racer - Cameron Mason. I keep banging on about how I raced Cameron earlier this year. It wasn't really a race obviously. A friendly gravel enduro where he was the headline act. He's a genuinely nice guy though. Now Cameron has had an excellent winter and has often found himself in a 3 way fight in the U23 races. He won the world cup race in Dendermonde but has otherwise been edged out by either Pim Ronhaar or Mees Hendrikx. All these guys have ridden some elite as well and the Dutch two in particular have made an impressive impact into the top 10 of some big races. Ronhaar is defending U23 world champ and he has generally been the star act in this category if only marginally so. Hendrikx 6th place ride in a frantic elite race at Hoogerheide today looked ominously good.

The things is, though, it's not that simple. Ryan Kamp will be riding. Kamp won this event 2 years ago and was 2nd last year. He won the European U23 champs earlier this winter and has focused more on elites since. He's not been quite there though. A bit off the pace in elite races and further back in the U23 races he has ridden. I think he'll be a bit disappointed with his progress. That said he beat both Ronhaar and Hendrikx in the World Cup U23 race at Flamanville last week so he is in form at the right time.

But the plot thickens further because at that race last week in Flamanville a rider came through and beat them all. Emile Vestrynge. Finally a Belgian to mention. He has plenty top 5s in U23s this winter but has generally missed the podium. That result last week was a surprise to me. Form is everything right now of course so he could be a big factor. On a similar note Joran Wyseure popped up and won Flandriencross yesterday. A race that included about half the names on this list. He's another rider that's been there abouts all year and seems to be improving.

The final name to mention is Thibau Nys. Yet another young thoroughbred. It is possibly a year too early for Thibau. He's been slightly off the pace in the bigger World Cup races. But then again, possibly not. In certain races he has beaten all of the names above including a win at the GP Sven Nys. Nice.

Actually, one more, sorry. Niels Vandeputte has focused almost exclusively on elite races this year where he has generally threatened the top 10. He hasn't won any U23 races but has a couple of 2nd places in the few he has ridden. He should be up there as well.

Phew, this should be some race. I make that 3 Dutch, 4 Belgians and a Brit all in the mix. Too hard to call. For us, Mason will do very well to podium. No shame if he misses that in this company. If he wins, though, the fainting couch round my place will have a busy weekend.



I think we can confidently say that the final race on Saturday will come down to the Dutch, and more specifically, to Brand vs Vos. Brand has dominated the season but on the rare occasion Vos has showed up she has often won including at the Dutch nationals a couple of weeks back (actually I'm being unfair - Vos has ridden most of the World Cup races). Sure, Betsema, Alvarado and Worst are great riders but none of them have really been able to touch Brand or Vos this season. Kata Blanka Vas is a rider that is progressing but not quite looking like a regular on the podium just yet. And, for the home fans, check out Clara Honsinger who won the mighty Koppenbergcross this year as well as her nationals and has 2 world cup podiums, the first coming at that race in Fayetteville behind Brand and Betsema. It's a career year to date for her.



On to Sunday and, similar to the junior women, this category has been dominated by one rider this year. David Haverdings perfect record was only interrupted by 2 Belgians. Aaron Dockx beat him at the European Championships which must have hurt. Yordi Corsus edged him at GP Boom. Those 2 were 1-2 in the Belgian Champs so are likely to provide the main competition to a hot favourite. Nathan Smith, a young UK rider, does have a few impressive podiums recently including 2 in World Cups and has dominated the National Trophy back home. He should be in the mix for a medal.



If you're watching this weekend hoping to spot the next Van der poel or Van Aert then this is the direction you should probably be looking in. Fem can Empel and Puck Pieterse. These girls can ride bikes. U23 women is still not a category that crops up that often as a stand alone race - even at bigger events. There is a world cup standing but the results are taken from the U23 riders in the elite race. As such most of their racing is at elite level and these 2 have made a huge impact. Both only 19 they have been in and around the podium at elite level all season. Van Empel has probably had the slight edge with 2 World Cup wins. The first came at the snow race in Italy, beating Vos who slipped on the final corner. The second was just last weekend at Flamanville in France when, with a few absentees, Van Empel and Pieterse were a class apart from the field and locked in battle the entire race. Breathless stuff. Check out the highlights here. It's well worth it. Van Empel showed there that she looks to have the edge in a sprint which could well be important in this race.

Whilst the focus is surely going to be on these 2 it is worth remembering that another Dutch 19 year old, Shirin Van Anrooij, beat them both at the European Championships earlier in the season. One of the few stand alone U23 races they have. Although Van Anrooij maybe hasn't quite been at the level of those other two on the whole she has never been that far behind so goes in here as a slight dark horse but a genuine contender. Indeed, her 2nd place at elite level Flandriencross yesterday would seem to confirm that.



The weekend culminates in a race that will give us a first new champion since 2016. And it is very much up for grabs. I say that but Eli Iserbyt did lay down a massive statement of intent at Flamville last week where he utterly decimated the opposition and won by over a minute ahead of Aerts and Vanthourenhout. That had followed a pretty lean and inconspicuous 6 weeks or so for him that followed his early season domination. On that sort of form he may well be untouchable. And if his intentions were in any way unclear he has just said, on winning in Hoogerheide, that Belgium need to focus on one leader - that being him ("and maybe a little bit on Toon"). He said that having 5 guys going for the win at the Euro champs, where Ven der Haar won, wasn't the best tactic.

Pidcock and Aerts are probably the other top favourites. Pidcock had a decent month or so of racing picking up a couple of nice world cup wins but never quite matching Van Aert. Aerts has kind of been eternally 2nd or very close this year. For the first portion of the season he just wasn't quite at Iserbyt's level then as his form seemed to move beyond Eli's it was Van Aert that spoiled things for him.

There are other permutations of course. Van der Haar has had his best season in ages with victories at the European Championships and Tabor coming a week apart. Michael Vanthourenhout has always been there abouts. Hermans has been impressive at times, particularly back in October. Sweek has had a quiet one so far (that is until he went and won Flandriencross yesterday). There are others. Vincent Baestaens - 1st worlds at aged 32. Good effort.

Well that's all I've got. Anything I've missed or got wrong - please say. If you're going - some photos and reports would be great. Should be a fun weekend. Get your cowbells ready. And remember...