With the start of the European season right around the corner, we have come up with five questions that we look forward to being answered in the coming months. Here are our five questions about the upcoming season:
Who will fill the void?
In our forthcoming rider preview, we will touch on Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, and what we can expect from those riders. Both riders are going to come into this season tired and will have a late start (in van Aert’s case perhaps not at all). This will leave a major void at the top level of the sport. The obvious candidate to fill this void is Toon Aerts. Aerts was the top rider last year and looks to be the favorite this year. The real question is who will challenge him? The list is long, but consists of the usual contenders. Will someone else breakthrough? We will get some answers in Iowa at the first World Cup round.
Are “super teams” going to make racing boring?
With the offseason merger of the Pauwels Sauzen and Marlux – Bingoal teams, the evolution of European “super teams” continues. With this merger, there are essentially three cross teams that will battle for the win week-in and week-out. The lone exception is Wout van Aert who races for Lotto Jumbo. If we look at last years UCI rankings, 12 out of the top 15 riders rider for one of three teams: Corendon – Circus, Telenet Baloise Lions or Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal. The lone exceptions are the aforementioned van Aert, Spain’s Felipe Orts and Britain’s Thomas Pidcock.
While group racing and team tactics aren’t as common in cross as they are on the road, this dilution of teams in the elite ranks makes team tactics more likely. This may lead to “boring” racing where riders mark each other and group racing becomes even more common. In the end, the strongest and most skilled rider often wins, but with three teams dominating the front of the race, it could change things for the worse.
Is “urban” cross the future of cross in Europe?
Round three of the DVV Trofee is a brand new race in Kortrijk. Normally a new race doesn’t gather much fanfare, but in this case, the organizers are bringing the race to the city center. While the race will not be a night, the race will be similar to the infamous Diegem race which also takes place in the city center.
The course takes place in and around the Leie river in the heart of the city. According to the organizers, the course will traverse both sides of the river and include crossings on a slender foot and bicycle bridge and a more regular auto bridge. The course also features a technical sand section on Buda Beach.
With the popularity of the Diegem race, it is no surprise that another urban race is popping up. This raises the question as to the future of cross courses in Europe. Most races take place near or on the outskirts of a small town. With decreasing numbers of spectators, perhaps this is the right direction to go in. The Run Up has always said “bring the race to the people.” This is the best way to do that.
We are looking forward to the unique course and to see the number of spectators and television viewership this race receives.
Is this the return of the Swiss?
Once upon a time, Switzerland was the place to go for big time cross. Over the past 20 years, Belgium and the Netherlands have both taken over in terms of talent and races. However, the EKZ CrossTour has continued to pick up steam and may soon have the coverage and star power of the Superprestig and DVV Trofee series.
Last year the EKZ CrossTour consisted of five races. Two of the races, and the overall, were won by David van der Poel. More importantly, there were four winners, from four different countries. Combine that with the depth of the field, and it is clear the EKZ races are some of the most diverse and popular races in Europe.
The only area where the series could expand is with TV coverage. There are some places you can find highlights of the races, but live TV coverage would take the series to the next level. There are plans in place to get this done, but it will be interesting to see how and when this gets implemented.
How will worlds play out?
This year worlds is going to be flat. Here’s the course description from the races official website:
Due to aviation regulations, the Dübendorf airfield site is flat. However, the barriers and bridges used in the course ensure a variety of altitudes.
In theory this will provide group racing. However, the likelihood of Mathieu van der Poel laying down power from the start is very high. Even with mud, the course will be fast and not very technical. No matter what, this course should make things very interesting compared to previous worlds courses.
Dübendorf has hosted a C1 race from 2007 – 2009. Simon Zahner won in 2007 and 2009, while Christian Heule won in 2008. It is unclear if the race used a similar course, but it did produce some very close and compact racing. While we aren’t going to go into the politics of worlds being held on a non tested course, we are eager to see what it truly looks like and how the race plays out.