Yesterday and today, riders have been out testing the course at St. Wendel, testing gear, lines, and fitness while contemplating the changes Mother Nature might be bringing. Yesterday’s muddy mess today has frozen solid…will it be a hard, fast course this weekend, or a sloppy slog? Either way, we’re excited!
Yesterday, Zdenek Stybar rode for a full two hours at a tempo pace. When asked about his hot laps, he responded that he was just riding a nice tempo, to get a feel for the couse and to get the course in his legs. As he was the only one riding with a water bottle in his back pocket he may be telling the truth. He also kept his mechanics busy by testing five bikes during his workout.
Bart Wellens jumps on the course today. He has already made it public that he is currently at 90 percent fitness level but still feels he can be a serious contendor for the title. He will need to have a super day but he believes in it. He ended with joking that it’s a big one to win as his first win of the season.
Former World Cyclocross champion (in 1994) Belgian Paul Herygers said after his training ride on the course that Sven Nys will be laughing inside when he rides today. It is very similar to the track where Nys won his one and only Elite World Championship title in 2005. If the freeze thaws it will be one for him. Herygers went on to say that it will also favor Stybar but he has full confidence in his fellow Belgians. And the Americans? Read on as we gather opinions from US riders as they test out the course. Keep checking in as we continue to add interviews!
“Ouch. The course was super muddy, lots of slip and slide sections on downhills, uphills and off camber. Lots of elevation gain on short, steep punchy type climbs and long, grinding sections. One steep, sketchy downhill. There’s no faking fitness on this course. If I have good legs and can be relaxed and confident in the mud then theoretically I can have a good day. Everything will have to go just right though. I think that the “make it” spots will be on the longer climbs. For the people who are good mudders, they’ll be able to extend any gaps on the climbs.”
“I hope the conditions stay the same. At least, I don’t want it to freeze. Who does? I’ll be running Rhinos somewhere between 20-22psi. Nothing too special there.”
Miller took a second look at the course and had this update: “I have seen the course this afternoon (just walked it) and it is WAAAAAY different than yesterday. It’s pretty much frozen now. Not like Tabor last year where there were sheets of ice but the muddy ruts are frozen and the ground is rock hard. With the exception of a few icy ruts, the course is actually much more straight forward now. The climbs will be where most of the decisive moves can be made. Keeping it upright in the few tricky parts will be important, of course, and then powering away on the long uphills will solidify any gaps. Tire choice/pressure might change now but I’ll have to wait until Sunday to make the final decision.”
“It’s just about game time!”
“The circuit is fun and reminds me of a roller coaster! Flat track is few and far between some steep and slick inclines and nail biting drops…in fact I think the only truly flat part is on the running track! It’s a challenging course, there’s a lot to it, and I think it’ll pay to get a lot of practice laps on it. It’s a course suited to anyone willing to dig deep into any reserves, so I am looking forward to racing it.”
“The conditions yesterday were wicked muddy, after a few laps my bike was absolutely caked. As more racers do their recon laps and especially after the Junior and U23 race, I think wider ruts will form, as opposed to the maze of single tire treads as was yesterday. However, forecast is supposed to grow colder as Sunday approaches. It was freezing overnight and when I woke this morning it was -1c. So we could see a course reminiscent of Tabor last year. At any rate, I’m really hoping it’s not like Kansas Nats in 2007…frozen, single-tire width death ruts.”
“Tire choice will be a Saturday decision, after I see how the course holds through a race. I have four pairs of Zipp 303s ready for action, so I’ll have some choices at my disposal which is integral to ‘cross! If it’s muddy as Thursday was, the Rhino or any other mud tire will be key. But if it freezes up a Typhoon or Pip could be the tire to run. Tire pressure will be a game day decision, based on what the weather Gods cast upon the circuit. If it’s icy, hard is fast…90psi like I run in rainy crits.”
“The course is pretty enjoyable to ride. At the moment it is pretty slick with some ruts forming in corners and some of the more technical features which made it pretty fun to do some laps on yesterday. I’m hoping that it retains its muddy qualities for our race, since those conditions tend to favor me more than dry and fast or frozen, but we’ll see what the weekend brings. As far as tires go it will be a difficult call, I cruised around on Fangos for a little and I’d say that getting the right pressure (I was running a psi in the range of low) is more important than tread at this point but today will be the true test for tires.”
I really love the course! I think it is a great course and it will be really fun to race on Sunday. I think the start of the race around the running track is interesting. There are some pretty decent steep hills and a longer gradual hill which will be tough but if I had to pick any part of the course I would say the hills suit me the best. Today when I rode the course it was frozen roots. I liked that but it is most likely going to be different on Sunday. Legs were feeling pretty good today. And then for tires today I was riding Rhinos.