by Christine Vardaros
On a tricky sand-riddled course such as that of Koksijde, Belgium, where the World Cyclocross Championships are set to take place this weekend, anything can happen. There will be pre-race favorites that may end up flat on their backs due to any number of places on the course where a rider can slip or slide. The most technical of all deeply sanded spots comes late on the course, right before the finish. This one spot alone can determine the outcome of the race – possibly even determine the winner.
As with any sandy course, weather is proving to be a determining factor on the course difficulty this weekend. For the last days leading up to the race there has been lots of rain which has matted down the sandy sections, turning them into a sort of highway in some places. But with no rain in the forecast the next days, the sand is expected to return to its more fluid state, forcing the riders to make more mistakes than in the days leading up to the event.
In general, most riders are taking it all in stride, keeping their positivity intact no matter their experience coming into this race.
British national champion Helen Wyman (Kona) explains, “I’ve trained here two weeks ago and Wednesday this week. It changes every time you ride it. And I think in the race it will probably change every lap as well. I’ve had a fourth, fifth and sixth at the World Cup here so I really really want to be on the podium. I think a top five is definitely do-able.”
Countrymate Annie Last has done very few cyclocross races this year as her focus is with mountain biking but she has high hopes that she too can tackle the sand as good as the rest. “You don’t get a lot of sand in mountain biking and this course is very different to the ones I’ve done before but I like it a lot. I’ll do OK.”
Always positive, US national champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha) is raring to go. “No fear, just expectations. It’s fast, certainly packed down and I hope it stays the same. My goal is to control my breathing and stay smooth. If you make one mistake on this course, it costs you so much time.”
Team and countrymate Zack McDonald adds, “It’s fun to ride! I like that it’s packed down more and less running.”
Only time – and Mr. Weatherman – can tell what we can expect on race day.
On another note, 2015 World Championships are set to be held in Tabor, Czech Republic. And rumor has it that Zolder, Belgium, is making a big push to hold it in 2016.