Heusden-Zolder lies in an area which used to be known as the
Land of Birdsong
The Cyclocross worlds are almost upon us. As I type, the Junior race starts in approximately
36 35 hours, and by late Sunday afternoon all the rainbow jerseys will have been dished out. Will Mathieu van der Poel double up and take the stripes for the second year running (& riding)? Can Sanne Cant crown a superlative season with the worlds jersey, to go match her Euro Champs version? (The absence of Marianne Vos & Pauline Ferrand-Prevot will surely help her). The way this season has went it would be mad to bet against these two, but there are plenty of riders on the start line who will make life difficult for the two hot favourites.
Last year’s champs: Ferrand-Prevot & Van der Poel
Noun: an attic, loft, or similar space inside the roof of a building
The parcours for this year’s world champs had a very public test run on Boxing Day, when a round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup was held there. Our two champions-in-waiting, Cant & Van der Poel, both won last time out, but only created the decisive gap on the final lap. Van der Poel also claimed Lars van der Haar was the strongest rider that day, but a late puncture did for the diminutive Dutchman’s chances. The key feature on the course, in my opinion, is the steep sandy run up, followed by a further slightly less steep section, which the stronger will ride up: expect to see any number of attacks at here. (Check VdP’s attack at 2.25).
The smart money will go on the usual suspects, but the following all must fancy there chances over the weekend…
The Brits Nikki Harris and Helen Wyman have both displayed excellent form and will be praying for some wet weather and plenty of mud on Saturday to aid their chances. The Dutch contingent also boasts several names to note, not least Thalita de Jong who is tearing through the women’s field like a meteor. The Belgians have strong support for Cant, with Ellen van Loy and Jolien Vershueren ready to ride for her and for Plan B, should Sanne falter. In the men’s race, Lars van der Haar must be a top pick for a medal as is Wout van Aert: can Little or Large knock Mathieu off the top step? A stalking horse for gold is Kevin Pauwels, having won the worlds here as a junior and at several senior World Cups (like Van der Haar), he knows his way around. Several kenners have tipped Kevin, including the event organizer and Adrie van der Poel, and they probably know a heck of a lot more than me!
At the same time there are several dozen riders, who don’t have a chance of winning gold, silver or bronze. For many they will be racing the rider in front and the rider behind, just like most of us do at on our local race scene. They, however, get to do it at the worlds! Riders from Canada, Down Under, Japan and Scandinavia all get to compete and measure themselves against their fellow-crossers from the more established nations at this festival of world cross. They will all be giving it #volgas.
Race programme (UK time)
10am junior men
12pm U23 Women
2pm Elite Women
10am U23 men
2pm Elite men
The UCI Channel is showing all five races
Eurosport will be showing highights on Saturday and Sunday night
The White Admiral
Heusden-Zolder has adopted this endagered butterfly and is trying to save it from extinction