And so, my friends, it is time to prepare for the final round of the Cyclocross World Cup. It has been a rollercoaster of a season, which has taken us from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the Las Vegas desert to a French menagerie. And now we get to do it all one more time, until next season of course, at Hoogerheide: one of the classic locations.
The toap park
Hoogerheide literally translated means ‘the high heath’, as it sits above the river Wal. This is the same river that the name Wal-lonia comes from, ie French-speaking Belgium. It’s in the Dutch province of North Brabant. Not the Belgian province of Brabant. And it’s dead near the Belgian border. But it’s in The Netherlands. Got that? Good. Hoogerheide should sound be pronounced something like ho-cher-high-duh, but I have no doubt that it will probably sound like who-grr-hay-de on the UCI channel. (Yes, this is official phonetic rendering).
The town is also the birthplace of famous Dutch cyclist Adri van der Poel, winner of two monuments (Ronde van Vlaanderen & Liege-Bastogne-Liege) and numerous (semi) classics, as well as a Cyclocross World Champs. It’s no surprise to learn that today’s race, first held in 1988, is named in his honour: Grand Prix Adri van der Poel. And yes, he is Mathieu van der Poel’s dad (and David’s for that matter). Mathieu won this race last year and will no doubt be keen to write the 2016 edition into the wins column, but let’s look at the men’s race shortly. First lets check the World Cup standings and prospects for the women’s race.
Women’s ranking & race
- Sanne Cant 282
- Eva Lechner 250
- Ellen van Loy 205
The winner of a round earns 80 points, dropping to 42 points for 10th. Given the points distribution it’s unlikely the top 3 women will change position unless something dramatic happens, like a DNF. With Sanne Cant on the form of her life, it would not be a surprise to run away with the win, but it’s quite clear what Helen Wyman is looking for to help her get stuck in:
The course does have a tendency to muddy up under the right conditions, so this may well play into Helen and other mudvreters (mudeaters) hands. It varies a little from previous years due to building works in the area, and a set of stairs has been thrown in to add to the difficulty. The organizers have also made good use of the topography, and riders have to get up and down the wee bump that makes up bulk of the course several times. I hope to see Caroline Mani & Thalita de Jong continue their progression in watershed seasons for both riders in the ‘cross.
Men’s ranking & race
- Wout van Aert 406
- Lars van der Haar 385
- Kevin Pauwels 356
- Sven Nijs 351
- Mathieu van der Poel 305
The men have the same points distribution and I can’t see the top 2 changing, barring a catastrophe. But expect a ding-dong of battle between Pauwels and Nijs for the final step on the podium. And it is clear to see that Mathieu van der Poel would be right up there in the top 3, had he not missed the first two rounds due to a knee injury. There is nothing to suggest Van der Poel, M, and The Van Artful Dodger won’t continue their titanic struggle to dominate cross. It is the last major race before the World Champs, so it will be interesting to see if any of the larger teams show their hand regarding tactics which could be used the following weekend.
While you are waiting for the race you could always watch the 2014 world champs, held at Hoogerheide. Click here for the men’s race and see the carnage within the first few hundred metres (race start 19’37”), and marvel at how Mourey stays upright through a slippery corner (24’19”). I won’t spoil things by telling you who wins. (It was Stybar: it was two years ago!).
The races will be broadcast live on the UCI channel on Sunday:
Plus highlights on Eurosport 2 on Monday evening.
Alternatively you could come down and see the races at the DoonbankTrofee in Ayr on Sunday instead! You will see me floundering around there for a while too.