It’s the Koksijde round of the UCI World Cup Cyclocross this Sunday.
Not your average beach run (pinched from Velonews)
Koksijde is located on the Belgian North Sea coast and the parcours makes full use of the sand dunes to create several sandy sections. Riders will constantly have to decide whether to ride or run these zandstroken and those who choose to ride will require to demonstrate great handling skills to ensure they stay upright. For many ‘cross aficionados this helps make the course one of the highlights of the CX season.
Each world cup event has a full day of racing with Male Youths, Juniors and U23s all powering their way around the course during the morning, ahead of the elite women and men. I have pulled together a wee preview of the women’s and men’s races for you to digest at your leisure.
Women’s race : 12.30 GMT
Koksijde has been a happy hunting ground for the American Katie Compton recently, winning the race in 2012 and 2013. Sanne Cant has also enjoyed real success in the sand. The Belgian women has placed 3rd (2012), 2nd (2013) and 1st (last year). That’s the kind of progression any of us would be more than happy with! Cant has been on form in 2015, scoring some big wins in the recent Superprestige races as well as winning the European Championships. Compton cleaned up at the Derby Cup double-header and at the Pan-American Cross Champs, making November a good month for her too. Both women will be keen to get their first UCI World Cup win of 2015/6 under their belt, but there are plenty of others who won’t want to bury their heads in the sand.
Brit Nikki Harris has been on good form over the last few months with several podium finishes. The sand at Koksijde has also been good to her, with two podium places and a top 5 in the last three years. She will also be hoping to get some payback after a slip cost her the chance of victory at the Valkenburg round of the World Cup. The Italian Eva Lechner took advantage of this slip to win at Valkenburg, building on a strong 2nd place in Las Vegas (1st round of World Cup). She also picked up wins in America a couple of weeks ago and will be aiming to fly high on Sunday.
Another Brit to look out for is Helen Wyman, who has finished in the top 10 at Koksijde for the last three years. And keep an eye on the other women in the British contingent: Hannah Payton, Amira Mellor & Bethany Crumpton.
The last few Belgian/Dutch series races has seen Jolien Verschuren finish on the podium regularly, including top spot at the Koppenbergcross, and a 1-2-3 with Harris and Cant would not be a surprise.
Men’s race : 14.00 GMT
The 2014 winner, Wout van Aert, is a red-hot favourite to win here again this year. The Belgian Van Aert has ridden a strong season (read more here) and will be looking to add to a string of victories this Sundayvin the dunes, to strengthen his grip on the 2015/6 season. His fellow countryman, Kevin Pauwels, finished 2nd to Van Aert here last year and will be looking to go one better, after recent back-to-back victories in sandy Ruddervoorde and Niel. Dutchman Lars van der Haar will be in the hunt, and we can also expect to see Koksijde 2012 winner, and de-mob happy, Sven Nijs looking for the elusive victory in his final season.
Koksijde marks a return to competition for the World Champion Mathieu van der Poel. The young Dutchman crashed on the road earlier in the year and had to have surgery on his knee. He is hoping for a top ten spot, but I think he will push the Van Aert & co a bit more than. We won’t be seeing 2013 winner Niels Albert in the sand due to his early retirement from competitive cycling, nor will we see Frenchman Francis Mourey who finished on the podium in 2012 & 2013, but does not appear on the start list.
Field in the sand, (pinched from Velonews)
Ian Field, current British national champ, will be racing in the sand again and has shown progression year-on-year at Koksijde, posting 29-28-24 finishes. I am sure he would like to crack the top-20 this year to continue that upward trend. Fellow-Brit Jack Clarkson will also be mixing it with the world’s best, and considers this race as the most difficult he has ever ridden.
The women’s and men’s races will be broadcast live on the UCI Youtube channel, where you can also watch previous editions of Koksijde and other World Cup rounds if you can’t wait until Sunday. And should you enjoy international cyclocross, why not come down to a local race and shake your cowbell? There is even a Scottish version at Irvine, also known as Jocksijde, being held in a few weeks on the beach at Irvine.
For more information on Scottish cyclocross, have a look here.