It’s hard to believe we’ve been racing cross for a month now. In North America, all eyes were on the Trek CX Cup and round two of the World Cup. The Trek CX Cup also offered a C2 on Saturday. Meanwhile, the European cross season truly kicked off this weekend with three C2 races in Britain, Switzerland and France on Sunday. Here are our conclusions from this action packed weekend:
Riders over 30 simply crushed it.
In our race predictions for the World Cup round in Iowa City, we brought up the large gap in ages between the oldest and youngest riders. This past weekend, we saw some of the more “experienced” riders show the young guns how to do it.
Obviously, the biggest example was Katerina Nash’s victory in the second round of the World Cup in Waterloo. The 42-year old crushed the competition both young and old. More interestingly, including Nash, five women over the age of 30 finished inside the top-15. If we include Katie Compton who finished 19th, that puts two women over 40 in the top-20.
At the Cyclo-cross de Boulzicourt Ardennes, both the elite men and women had some of the older riders land on the podium. In the men’s race, 34-year-old Dieter Vanthourenhout finished in second place, 13 seconds behind Frenchman Joshua Dubau, who is a mere 23 years old. 35-year-old Joyce Vanderbeken finished in second place in the women’s race.
Four men over the age of 30 finished inside the top-ten in Switzerland at Radcross Illnau. Two of those riders, Marcel Wildhaber and Nicola Rohrbach finished on the podium. Even more impressive was that only one rider over the age of 30 finished outside the top-ten. In the women’s race, the oldest rider in the race, and only rider over the age of 30, Marlene Petitgirard, finished in sixth place.
Finally, we have Friday’s C2 race at the Trek CX Cup. Four riders who finished in the top ten of the women’s race were over the age of 30. Topping that list was Caroline Mani, who finished in third place. This race also featured on of the oldest fields we have seen. 53 year-old Elizabeth Sheldon is the oldest elite woman racing this season. Overall, the field had 23 riders over the age of 30 (over 50% of the field) and had multiple riders over the age of 40.
All this proves is that age is just a number.
Women’s racing is flourishing outside of the “power” nations.
Over the years, Belgium and the Netherlands have become cyclocross powerhouses. Four of the past five women’s world titles were won by riders from those two nations. That does not include Marianne Vos’ six straight victories. If we add those in, it would be ten out of the last eleven. On the men’s side, the past five world titles have been won by riders from either of those two nations. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that current World Champion Sanne Cant has not started her season. However, even if she did race this past weekend, not much would have changed.
At the World Cup in Waterloo, seven different nations had a rider in the top-ten. This is not an anomaly for the Waterloo race (there were actually eight different nations last year), but it still shows that no one nation overpowered this race. Compare that to the men’s race, which has seen only one rider outside of Belgium or the Netherlands finish in the top-ten since it became a World Cup.
These numbers were very similar in the C2 race at the Trek CX Cup. Six different nations were represented in the top-ten. Only five of these riders were “repeats”, meaning they finished in the top-ten in both the C2 and World Cup race. This further shows the depth of the field as it means multiple riders from various nations were able to crack the top-ten both days.
If you’re wondering if this new found depth of racing in other nations is limited just to the United States, look no further than Radcross Illnau in Switzerland. The C2 race had seven nations represented in the top-ten. This includes Vera Adrian from Namibia. Adrian started racing with the elite women last year in Switzerland and has continued to improve, with her best UCI race result yet. Overall, the race had riders from nine different nations, which is a trend that we think will continue.
The strong men shine, no matter the conditions.
To compare the track in Iowa City to the track in Waterloo is like comparing apples to oranges. In Iowa City, riders traverse Mt. Krumpet three times in climbs of varying length and steepness. We think it may be the most elevation gain per lap of any World Cup track (we plan to look into this further, but stand by our statement). In Waterloo, the track consists of short punchy climbs and fast, sometimes twisty descents. In terms of elevation and perceived effort, it is similar to other World Cup courses.
This year, course conditions were also polar opposites of each other. Iowa City was fast, dry and very hot. Many of the top riders had water bottles on their bikes to take a little bit of the edge off with the heat. In Waterloo, it was a more moderate temperature, but extremely muddy. Like really muddy. We refuse to call it Belgian muddy, but it was muddy. As a result, the laps were nearly double in terms of time. The women did three laps in Waterloo compared to six in Iowa City. The men did six in Waterloo compared to ten in Iowa City.
With all that said, the most interesting thing to come out of Waterloo was that the lead group was almost the exact same as in Iowa City. Eli Iserbyt and Toon Aerts took the top two spots in both races. Gianni Vermeersch finished fourth in both races as well. Only three riders who finished inside the top-15 in Iowa City did not finish inside the top-15 in Waterloo. Even weirder (nerd stat) is that it was a pure swap of countries. There were two more dutch riders in Waterloo and two less Belgian riders. The other swap was the United States with France.
All in all, it appears no matter the conditions, the strong men will shine. While their placings may have been different, it was the same names at the front of the race. We suspect this will be the case all season.
The American men are back on form.
Having the first two World Cups in the United States is obviously a big deal for the home nation. UCI rules allow 16 men and 20 women from the United States to race the World Cups in the US. This is nearly double the amount that they are allowed at other World Cups. Because of the travel and logistics, we often see even less than the eight or so the US is allowed to have at the European World Cups. With these kinds of numbers and the strength we have seen with the US men, the results from Iowa City were a bit disappointing.
Only four Americans finished on the lead lap in Iowa City. The best placed rider was Curtis White, who finished an impressive 15th. US National Champion, Stephen Hyde, failed to finish. The hilly course, combined with the heat, wore down Hyde’s body and he pulled the plug with two to go. Three other Americans, Drew Dillman, Jamie Driscoll and Kerry Werner all managed to finish on the lead lap. Werner was the last rider to finish on the lead lap in 28th place.
Heading into Waterloo there were high hopes from all US riders, especially Werner and Hyde that things would turn around and they would put in the performances they expected. Overall six US riders finished on the lead lap. More importantly, Werner, White and Hyde were all battling for a top-15 finish. Werner would end up 17th, White 18th and Hyde 20th. It was a great day for the top US riders. Gage Hecht would also finish on the lead lap as would Brannan Fix. Like Werner in Iowa City, Fix was the last rider to finish on the lead lap.
As we will discuss in our next conclusion, the European riders will head home while the US riders prepare for the rest of the North American season. It is nice to see the US riders end on a high note. It promises to be an exciting season stateside and should be even better when White, Hyde, Werner, etc head back to Europe in December.
It’s time to say goodbye.
The first two World Cups have come and gone. We saw some great racing from Rochester to Iowa City and in Waterloo. Most of the top European men and women made the trip and had a major impact on the races. The North American men and women held their own and churned out some impressive results. But with that, it’s time to say goodbye. The Europeans are headed home, while most North American riders will stay to race the rest of the North American calendar.
For the Europeans, they get a bit of a break as there are no major races this weekend. The Toi Toi cup does offer a C1, but most of the riders who raced in Waterloo will opt to skip that one. The same thing can be said for the pair of C2s in France this weekend. The top names will return to action during the first week in October in Meulebeke. After that, the Superprestige kicks off on October 13th in Gieten and the season truly gets under way.
As far as the North America schedule goes, this weekend is also a bit of a break before all eyes turn to Arkansas. FayetteCross is a two day UCI race at the same venue as the 2022 World Championships. From there the other high points of the North American season are the third, and final, C1 in Cincinnati on October 26th and the Pan-American Championships on November 10th. Canadian Nationals take place the weekend before and US Nationals round out the season the second week in December.
The obvious question is when will we see North American riders in Europe? Katie Keough and Katie Compton have committed to a largely European based season. Maghalie Rochette will be an interesting one to see if she heads over for the World Cups. In theory, she, and any other North American riders can do the World Cups and still fit in a great North American schedule. They would have to fly to Bern for the World Cup round there on October 20th. They could then fly back for the C1 in Cincinnati the following weekend, stay for Pan-Ams and then go to Tabor the following weekend. Crazy, yes, do able, yes.
It looks like we won’t see our North American’s battle it out with the European’s until December. So for now, we say goodbye.