2013 ‘cross Worlds preview

The 2013 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships are being held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. There are four races being held today 2 Feb, The Male Juniors will ride of first, followed by the women, male U-23 & finally the elite men.

This is the first ever ‘cross Worlds to take place outside Europe and the scene across the US is growing in size and popularity. Riders from the US regularly head over to compete and hold their own in Europe, while the US ‘cross races are building a name for Europeans heading the other way, especially among women. Britain’s Helen Wyman spearheads this influx and tops the US women’s’ rankings. So the decision to come to the US is an understandable one within the context of globalising the sport.

Bluegrass, Bourbon and the Derby

Louisville doesn’t immediately strike me as being a hotbed of Cyclocross racing: to me it means Bluegrass, Bourbon and the Derby.  It’s also the home of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, but let’s hope no riders use one on any hecklers.  Scratch the surface a little and a fine recent Cyclocross tradition is revealed.  In 2012 Louisville hosted the Masters ‘Cross World Championships and the city is a regular stop on the US Grand Prix of Cyclocross calendar.    Jeremy Powers and Katie Compton won both their races at the double-header held there in November, 2012, during a weekend which organisers viewed as a test run for the Worlds.  They have the beating of the Louisville course, which is a greatest hits of ‘cross features.

The Inside Track

The race is being held on the Eva Bandman Park & Cyclocross venue on the banks of the Ohio River, in the North of the city. This was purpose built for ‘cross in 2009 and is the venue for the aforementioned US Grand Prix in the city. Riders will face a succession of tricky features including a stone staircase, a stepped and ramped flyover, sand dunes and hurdles, all connected with plenty of twists, turns and the odd run up and drop off thrown in over a distance of around 2.7km. Jeremy Powers dipped under 6 minutes a lap on his way to victory in November.  It should give us some fast and entertaining racing.

So who’s going to win?

Last year’s championships on the dunes of Koksijde saw a clean sweep for Belgium and the Netherlands in all four events (barring a bronze for France in the Junior men), but I think this year could see a few more nations on the podium.

The Women

Marianne Vos (Netherlands) won the rainbow jersey last year and will defend it with vigour in Louisville. She has taken some time out from ‘cross in 2012-13 to recover from a busy year where she only won gold in London and gold in Limburg, among other achievements. Vos gate-crashed the 2nd half of the ‘cross season and has already racked up an impressive series of wins, on her way to the US and is looking good for another gold.

Someone who seems to be going off the boil a little is Britain’s Helen Wyman. She had a strong early part of the year, including a win at the Euros and picked up another cobblestone for winning the Koppenbergcross. She also tops the standings for American races, but has dipped a little recently: maybe keeping her powder dry for the Worlds?

And who can forget Katie Compton who will race hard on home soil. She has won a bronze and a silver medal in previous Championships and won the World Cup this year. Can she go one step higher at the Champs and take home the gold?  There are a few other serious competitors for the medals, but it’s clear there is a good chance there will be more than Belgian & Dutch flags being raised during the awards ceremony for the women.

An honourable mention goes out to adopted Scot Genevieve Whitson, who in reality is a New Zealander and will be representing the Kiwis in Louisville. She races regularly at Scottish ‘cross events, most recently at Dig in at the Dock, and picked up some good results at Belgian World Cup events held around Christmas. Gen has featured on this site previously and we hope she does well at the Worlds.

The Men

Last year saw a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 (!) for Belgium, with Niels Albert finishing top of the pile. Albert is flying again this year and looks like one of the favourites to take the jersey. Compatriot Kevin Pauwels has ridden into some good form in time for the worlds and will be hoping to add the senior rainbow jersey to the junior & u-23 jerseys he won earlier in his career. Sven Nys will also be in the hunt.

The Belgian Cyclocross legend has been accused of under-delivering at world championships, having only won it once. And when you consider the large shadow he casts over the ‘cross world, one rainbow jersey on his palmares seems a poor return. His early season form has deserted him due to a run of illness and bad luck, but you never know, the Belgian devil could yet pull it out of the bag.

To continue the theme of globalizing the sport, we only need to look at the last couple of rounds of the world cup, where Czechs, Dutch, Italians & Swiss all featured on the podium Young Dutchman Lars van der Haar will be pushing hard to get the ‘hole-shot’ ahead of his older fellow racers and the American duo of Jeremy Powers & veteran Jonathan Page will be doing their best to get the stars and bars raised during the award ceremony.

It’s shaping up to be a great day with races being held in the afternoon over there, but primetime evening viewing on this side of the Atlantic (for the men). So sit back, relax with a bourbon (biscuit) or two and enjoy…

 

This was originally posted on 26 Jan at cxaddict
Head there to check out some great ‘cross write-ups.

***Since the original post the organizers were forced to bring the elite races forward one day. (Due to potential flooding of the site).

All races are now being held today (Saturday 2 Feb)***

 

 

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