This past weekend, all eyes were on Jingle Cross for the first round of the World Cup. Jingle Cross offered three days of UCI racing (including the World Cup). Naturally there is plenty to talk about, so we will jump right into it and look at our conclusions from Jingle Cross.
The United States is home to “easy” points
Jingle Cross offered a points-packed weekend with a C2 on Friday, World Cup round on Saturday and C1 race on Sunday. Last weekend in Rochester, Diether Sweeck admitted that once Vincent Baestaens got away, he wasn’t going to risk losing second place because he was here (in the US) for the points. Remember, in Europe the DVV Trofee and Superprestige series are often C1 and C2 races. So points are hard to come by.
The C2 at Jingle Cross is the day before the World Cup, so the bigger names often skip it. Belgium’s Lander Loockx lead the way on Friday, as Europeans took the top five places. While no one will call a World Cup “easy points”, it was dominated by Belgium (more on that later). Unlike Friday’s C2 race, the C1 was attended by some European riders and all the top North American riders. Gianni Vermeersch picked up the win, and only two Americans finished in the top-ten. It was another massive points grab for the Europeans.
Waterloo hosts the next round of the World Cup as part of the Trek CX Cup. They are offering a C2 on Friday, with the World Cup on Sunday. Like Jingle Cross, most of the top Europeans and North American riders are skipping the C2 race. With that said, we still expect the Europeans to take the top spots and a lot of the points.
This conclusion is not a knock on North American racers, rather it shows that the depth of the European field causes many riders to find ways to get points. Some will choose to travel to Spain or Italy where the caliber of rider is similar to that in the US. Others will make the trip to the US early to gather up even more points. We even saw some Belgians in China and Australia earlier this season.
The only downside this causes for North American riders is that there’s only one C1 race left in North America. The first two were dominated by the Europeans, leaving less opportunities, and less points, for the North American riders. We however love the Europeans racing in the US and love the fact that it brings everyone to a higher level.
Figuring out who is who in the Elite men is hard
We wrote a bit about the effect these new “super teams” will have on the European races. In 5 questions about the 2019/20 European cross season, we discussed if this would have a negative impact on racing. Last week, we basically answered our own question with an emphatic “no”. This past weekend, specifically in the World Cup, we discovered a new problem… How do we tell who’s who?
We follow cross closer than most, and have a general idea of what each rider looks like, their style on the bike, etc. With that said, there were a few times where we went “who’s that guy?”. The evolution of the super teams mean that there were only five, yes five, different teams in the top-15. Tom Meeusen (Corendon – Circus) came to the US essentially as a privateer while in the US, because the rest of his team is in Europe. Without him, we would have been down to four teams. Fortunately for us, Gianni Vermeersch rides for Crefan – Fristads and finished fourth. Then there was Curtis White. The American managed to finish 15th and rides for Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld. That gives us three riders from three different teams.
If you’re with us, and you’re doing the math, that leaves 12 riders, from two different teams (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingol and Telenet Baloise Lions), in the top-15. You can see where our confusion begins. When the racing returns to Europe, it will be the same teams at the front, so we need to get used to it. So, while it hasn’t affected the racing, it does require us to learn a lot more about these riders and to rely on those on screen graphics…that sometimes never appear.
Belgium dominates the World Cup
It what should come as little surprise that the Belgians dominated the World Cup round in Iowa City. They had 13 riders in the top-15. And all 15 of their riders finished inside the top-25. Even by Belgian standards that’s impressive. Part of this domination has to due with changes to the UCI rules that were implemented a few years ago.
Originally, nations were limited to eight riders. You could get a ninth rider if your country had the World Champion. Thus, Belgium was limited in the number of riders that could race a World Cup. Now, if a rider is in the top 50 of the UCI rankings, they qualify. Nations with fewer than eight riders in the top 50 can still bring eight riders. Therefore Belgium is no longer limited to the number of riders it can send. In fact, right now, they have 20 riders in the top 50.
When we look at how this applies to Iowa City (and Waterloo), Belgium brought 15 riders over. That’s nearly 50% of the entire field. Just based on sheer numbers, they have a major advantage. If we look at last year, where the numbers were similar, Belgium had nine riders in the top-ten (including 1st – 4th place) in Iowa and eight out of the top-ten (including the top-five) in Waterloo.
The odds shift a bit once things get back to Europe, because it’s a lot easier for riders to travel. Looking at last year (in Europe) their best results were at Tabor and Pont-Château where they placed five riders inside the top-ten. Their “worst” result was at Hoogerheide where only four of their riders finished inside the top-ten.
With that said, yes, things may shift a bit when the World Cups head back to Europe, but for now, Belgium owns the World Cup.
Maghalie Rochette owns cross right now
After dominating both rounds of Rochester last weekend, Rochette was definitely a rider to watch in Iowa. Like many riders, she skipped Friday’s night time C2 race to focus on the World Cup and Sunday’s C1 race. While the time may not show it, she simply dominated both races. In Rochester, Rochette went to the front of the race on and never looked back. She did the same thing on Saturday where she used her running skills to gain time on Mt. Krumpet and held off a hard charging Katerina Nash.
On Sunday, all eyes were once again on Rochette, and she delivered. After joining the lead group midway through the first lap, Rochette played it cool until she attacked on the penultimate lap. Once again, Nash gave chase, but was unable to catch her.
Rochette has made it clear she has accomplished almost all that she can in North America. She’s a multi-time Canadian National Champion and won the Pan-American title last year. Now, she has picked up her first World Cup victory and will change her focus to Europe. When she heads over, and how she fares, remains to be seen. As of right now though, she’s the woman to be in Waterloo.
North American women dominate
Unlike the European domination we saw in the men’s field, the North American women held their own on home soil and turned in some impressive results. Arguably, the biggest ride of the weekend came from America’s Clara Honsinger in Saturday’s World Cup race. The 22 year-old finished in third place, 15 seconds behind Rochette. In fact, she pushed hard on the last lap and got very close to Nash and second place. Honsinger has been racing for a long time and her breakout results this year (check out Rochester) are not too surprising. However, third place at a World Cup is something to talk about.
Looking at the weekend as a whole, the North American women had great races all three days. In Friday’s C2 race, Canada’s Jen Jackson took first, while American Raylyn Nuss took third. As previously mentioned, a similar Canadian/American bookend happened on Saturday with Rochette and Honsinger. We would like to argue that North America swept the World Cup podium, but America’s adopted Czech rider, Katarina Nash, is still legally Czech. Finally, on Sunday, we saw a little break in the domination as Rochette took the victory, but the next top placed rider was America’s Katie Keough. With that said, North American riders took home six of the top-ten places.
With two UCI races in Waterloo this weekend, the North American women will hope to continue their domination…and we think they will.
What conclusions have you made from Jingle Cross? Let us know below.