With no UCI races in North America and only a handful of smaller races in Europe, we thought it would be a quieter weekend. Most of the Europeans who were in the US would take the weekend off to rest and recover from all the travel. At least, that’s what we assumed. For the most part, we were correct, but as you will see, some riders did race. The big guns stayed home, but we saw some great racing in France, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Here are this weeks conclusions:
Not everyone stayed home.
We expected everyone who raced in the US the past few weeks to return home for some rest and training. In fact, we published our Riders of the Month last week figuring nothing would change. While nothing did change our minds about those riders, there were a few riders in action this past weekend that raced in the US.
Dieter Vanthourenhout got second in Chazal Cup Vittel and raced the next day with his brother at Canyon Cross. They both landed on the podium with Michael winning the race and Dieter finishing third. Steve Chainel was also in action in his native France. He finished ninth on Saturday in Vitell. Unfortunately, he was a DNF in Sunday’s race.
While some men raced in France, not a single woman who raced the US World Cups raced this past weekend. It appears that they, along with most of the top Europeans, decided to take the weekend off and prepare for the next big block of racing.
Watch out for the “stay at home” Europeans.
There were only about 25 European men and 15 European women who made the trip to the US. As a result, there were a lot of Europeans who stayed home and raced this past weekend. They will come together this weekend in Belgium, and there are a few riders to look out for.
Germany’s Marcel Meisen kicked off his season with a pair of C1 races in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The German rider won both races and now leads the Toi Toi Cup (granted there has only been one round). Also at the Toi Toi race in Mlada Bleslav was Switzerland’s Marcel Wildhaber who took second behind Meisen. Wildhaber also raced the previous weekend finishing second Radcross Illnau.
There were also a lot of European women opening up their season over these past two weekends. Most of them are lesser known riders, who are grabbing UCI points and preparing for the bigger races. One rider of note is Laura Verdonschot. After placing sixth at Cross Eeklo at the beginning of the season she has racked up three straight podium appearances in France. She finished first at Cyclo-cross de Boulzicourt Ardennes, third in Vittel and second at the Canyon cross race. That’s a great start to the season for the Belgian.
There are lots of Elite Men in these more regional races.
Obviously the season is just under way and not everyone is racing yet. One trend we are starting to see are large field sizes at the more regional UCI cross races. Obviously the size of the World Cup fields are very limited as are the Superprestige and DVV Trofee races. However, the regional races and National Series are seeing massive field sizes this year.
The first round of the National Trophy Series (UK) saw 81 riders start the race two weeks ago. This past weekend Chazal Cup Vittel and Canyon Cross race took place in France. While they are not part of the Coupe de France series they say 59 and 62 riders, respectively, take the start. The first round of the Toi Toi Cup saw 52 riders start the race. Ironically the C1 race on Sunday in Poprad, Slovakia had the smallest field with 38 riders.
The Belgians are still strong.
A few weeks ago we discussed how the Belgians continue to dominate the Elite men’s races, especially the World Cups. A lot of that is due to the sheer amount of riders they are allowed to bring. This past weekend we saw some of that Belgian domination continue in both the Elite men’s and Elite women’s races. There were only a handful of Belgians present at these races, so the results speak to the depth of that nation.
At the Chazal Cup Vittel, Dieter Vanthourenhout was second and Yentl Bekaert was third. In the women’s race, Laura Verdonschot was third. In the first round of the Toi Toi women’s race, Alicia Franck and Joyce Vanderbeken bookended the podium with first and third, respectively.
On Sunday, at Canyon Cross, Michael and Dieter Vanthourenhout landed on the podium in first and third. Laura Verdonschot continued her impressive start to the season with a second place. At the Grand Prix Poprad, Wietse Bosmans was third and Alicia Franck was second in the women’s race.
The season is full gas from here on out.
It’s that time of year where races start to pile up. There are eight UCI races this weekend in six different countries. The only C1 race is in Aigle for round two of the EKZ CrossTour. The rest of the races are C2 races. With that said, all eyes in North America will be on FayetteCross in Arkansas (United States) where the two-day event offers a first look at the course for the 2022 World Championships.
The start list is a who’s who of North American talent. For the men, Curtis White, Gage Hecht and Kerry Werner will all be in attendance. In addition to those top US men, Logan Owen is on the start list. Owen is now a full time WorldTour road racer and hasn’t raced a UCI race since he was 13th at the 2016 World Championships in Husden-Zolder. Noticeably absent from the list is Stephen Hyde who will be skipping this weekend to train for his next block of racing. On the women’s side, the World Cup battles will heat back up with Katerina Nash, Clara Honsinger and Maghalie Rochette in attendance.
In Europe, things aren’t so cut and dry with races taking place in Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Start lists are hard to come by, but from what we have found, the top riders will most likely be in Belgium for Berencross Meulebeke and GP Pelt. The few outliers are Felipe Orts, Vincent Baestaens and Dieter Vanthourenhout who will be racing in Aigle.
It will be an exciting weekend across the board and it’s time to get used to having multiple UCI races across Europe and North America. The good news is it looks like most racers are focused on the same one or two races and that should provide some exciting action.