In the last week, the United States has seen a commotion of activity, from a crop of new teams and race title sponsors to Katie Compton announcing that she will be starting her cyclocross season early this year. There has been a flurry of news from the cyclocross community in Europe as well. Our elite racing contributor, Christine Vardaros, filled us in on the latest gossip and happenings.

Niels Albert Hopes for a Farewell Cyclocross Ride

Niels Albert said goodbye to his fans and supporters by riding the first three rounds at the Na-Tourcriterium. The race, which translates in English to the “Post Tour Criterium,” takes place in Heist-op-den-Berg, Belgium.

A relaxed Niels Albert takes the win at the last Trophy race of the season. © Bart Hazen

Albert, pictured at the last Trophy race of the season took the win at the Rome edition of the 2014 World Cup. © Bart Hazen

On cyclo-cross.info, Albert is quoted as saying,  “A special moment. I was teary-eyed. This morning I realized that this would be the last time I’d ride in front of the public. A real comeback will never happen, although I’m already hoping that there will be another ‘goodbye’ ride like this in the real cyclocross season. It is possible it could happen in the Oostmalle race. Today was already a nice preview.”

Thijs Al’s Return to the UCI Race in China as ’Crossers Build Up for the Season

Thijs Al, winner of China’s first ever UCI cyclocross race, has officially announced that he will be traveling to Asia to defend his title. We will also be seeing Christine Vardaros in the UCI cyclocross race in China, which takes place on the American Labor Day weekend. She will be joined by Ellen van Loy and her husband, Jonas.

Thijs Al takes the first UCI men's race in China. Elite Men, Qiansen Trophy UCI C2 Cyclocross Event. © Cyclocross Magazine

Thijs Al takes the first UCI men’s race in China. Elite Men, Qiansen Trophy UCI C2 Cyclocross Event. © Cyclocross Magazine

For many elite riders in Europe, the buildup to cyclocross season is full of social commitments and conditioning at road events.  As Vardaros explained last week, European cyclocross racers “show themselves to the public” in road races. Vardaros went to the post-tour criterium in Ninove last Sunday, and competed in a derny race the day before. She reported that her field was exclusively composed of cyclocross racers. For those of you unfamiliar with derny racing, it involves utilizing motorcycles to help pace the cyclists. Vardaros’s next derny event, along with many other cyclocross racers will be held in Edegem, Belgium on September 5th, which is after the official start of the cyclocross season.

A Marriage and a Separation

Late last month, Zdeněk Štybar, the current world cyclocross champion, made good on his word last February when he told us of his plans to get married. This only leaves us with one question: how could you possibly pass up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wear the rainbow skinsuit at your wedding?

Two titans: Nys and Stybar at UCI World Championships of Cyclocross. © Thomas Van Bracht

Two titans: Nys and Stybar at UCI World Championships of Cyclocross. © Thomas Van Bracht

On the other side of things, former world champion Sven Nys is getting a divorce after 12 years of marriage. According to Vardaros, the couple are separating because they have grown apart, and will remain on good terms with one another.

Joyce Vanderbeken has Surgery for Heart Arrhythmia

Two months ago, Joyce Vanderbeken, Belgian mountain bike champion and dedicated cyclocross racer nicknamed “Queen of the Beach,” crashed in a race in Heeswijk. During her post-crash assessment, doctors discovered that she had an arrhythmia.

She held off of racing, knowing of the dangers of an elevated heart rate during competition. Her surgery was yesterday at the University Hospital of Brussels, and according to Vardaros, it successfully corrected the arrhythmia. While the recovery time is as of yet unknown, the operation is minor, and it is not unheard of for athletes to be back racing within two weeks.

Yorben Van Tichelt, a junior Belgian cyclocross racer whose bike we profiled in last year’s UCI China race, had the same procedure done earlier this summer with great success.