The Superprestige has begun, folks, and if you don’t know how important that is, well, the Euro’s know that the only classifications that matter are the Superprestige, GvA Trophy and the World Cup. Nothing else is important. But we have some important matters to discuss relative and not relative to the significance of another year of cyclocross. First, has the Superprestige really taken the intention of the new C1 rule for women to heart? Nys has never won the race in Ardooie, is that even possible? Stybar to pedal in anger again, finally, but is the world champion we know from last year able to stay up there? The return of the Ryan Trebon? Katie Compton and Katerina Nash: who is the top woman? Helen Wyman continues her winning streak across the pond. Two words: Justin Lindine. Meredith Miller focusing a bit more on ’cross? Sea Otter brings in a ’cross race: spectacle or growing support? Working Man’s Edition: Tristan Schouten.
Separate But Equal, Is that Equal?
Over the past few weeks, it was brought to my attention that regardless of the decidedly awesome new UCI rule requiring cyclocross event promoters promoting C1 men’s events to hold a C1 women’s event, not everyone is buying the hype. This rule may sound like an awesome move for women ’crosser’s in Europe and women ’crosser’s in general, but the Superprestige is not going down without a fight. So, they’ve clearly complied with the letter of the new rule, but the schedule puts the women at 10:30 in the morning. ’Cross in Belgium is a little less participant friendly than here in the US, so the only other races on the day are the U23’s, the Juniors and the elite men. 10:30 in the morning is the first race of the day. That means a whole host of different things. No spectators, no TV crews, often difficult logistics considering racing schedules (especially if they race the day before). I have to admit, this is a pretty ridiculous attempt to show that the Superprestige promoters don’t think that women’s ’cross is worthwhile and that it’s just a hobby for these professional athletes. But if you really want to know the extent of their respect for women racers, they couldn’t even bother to get the start list names right at first. On the list, Sanne Cant was Sanne Gant. Helen Wyman was Helen Wijman. Our very own Christine Vardaros was Christine Vanados. So, are things moving in the right direction? Well, the UCI Overlords are clearly trying to make that happen, but I guess old stodgy Belgian men will be difficult to change. Maybe we adhering not only to the letter of the rules but the spirit is the way to go. And, hey, equal payout may not be something bad to consider either.
Nys Has Never Won Ardooie?
Even though the first World Cup is this weekend, and I anticipate it will be an exciting one, there is a little matter of mid-week racing to get through first and that is the race in Ardooie. Before we even talk about the results (of which I am sure most of you already know the outcome) there is a little interesting bit of history here. It turns out that The King, that’s right Sven Nys, has never won this race in his entire cyclocross career. That is a long career, my friends, for someone of Nys’ caliber not to have come across the line with his arms in the air. I apologize if I spoiled anything for those of you who don’t know what happened yet, but he didn’t do it this year either.
Instead, the World Champion unleashed a massive World-Champion-style sprint on Nys and came home with his third win of the year. But this brings up a whole other question. Stybar was riding solidly at the front this weekend in Ruddevoorde and then faded later in the race. He couldn’t even manage to stay ahead of Nys, who was having serious mechanical troubles that day. In the end he came a measly sixth. So, is the win in Ardooie a sign of the return of his form? I’m not sure. Mid-week races like this, though they attract the talent of the big guns (especially if the start money is good), are rough since everyone has to have the World Cup this weekend in the back of their minds. So, did Nys not go 100% or the rest of the field hoping to save their legs a bit for the weekend? It’s hard to tell. This weekend will be a good sign as to where the World Champion is in his form.
Is this the return of Ryan Trebon?
There is no doubt that Ryan is fast and has been fast the past few years, to say otherwise would be ridiculous. But, the truth of the matter is that he has not been as dominant as he once was in the American ’cross scene. This may have caused some to question whether he would be able to rise to the level that American ’cross racing is heading. I had no doubt that he would and he has started this season off with a big bang in that way. Two wins at the USGP’s already (one day in the mud, even, and Ryan is not quite the slip-and-slide mudder that Tim Johnson is). But, man, did he pull out all the stops this weekend in Fort Collins. He nearly sealed the deal again on Sunday as well. With only two more weekends left in the USGP this year, can Ryan keep proving that he’s back?
Who is the Fastest Woman?
The battle for the top of the women’s field has grown increasingly tight the past few years between Katerina Nash and Katie Compton. It’s too bad we never have a chance to see them battle against each other at the National Championships, but the USGPs and other international events will suffice. So, after this past weekend, will we be able to say who is faster and who is the best American? No. After Saturday I thought, oh, Katie doesn’t have the form she used to have and couldn’t just ride away from the field. Then Sunday happened and, yes, she does. So, I guess the next chance to stack these two up is at the World Cup this weekend.
Union Jack Flies Proud for Another Two Wins!
The first part of this season, we saw an influx of British ’crossers coming over here to “steal” our UCI points and experience early season American racing. I guess that’s good for us because as a nation we’ve developed to the point where people want to come over here to race our races. Anyway, back to the point at hand. One of those racers, Helen Wyman, came over in style and won everything she lined up for: nine races in total. Then she went back to Belgium and won two more races, including the Superprestige in Rudevoorde. Wow, Helen, are you just going to win everytime you pin a number on? That would be kind of cool if you could do that. For more info on Helen Wyman, check out this awesome interview by Bart Hazen on the British wonder woman.
Two Words: Justin Lindine.
Justin has been given a lot of credit in the working man’s edition of this column over the past year, and deservedly so, but I think his shenanigans this weekend in Providence move him out of that class of racer and put him squarely in the pro ’crosser category. Maybe that should just be a rule: if you can win a C1 then you are no longer a working man even if you hold a day job. What do you think? Anyway, Lindine stole the show in Providence this weekend taking the fast and dry course on with style. Good job, Justin, looking forward to bigger things for you in the future!
Meredith Miller, Another ’Cross Convert?
Meredith has been a name on the tips of everyone’s tongue in the US ’cross scene for a few years now. Her big engine from years of road racing has been worrisome to the women’s field here. But she is not 100% there on the handling skills side of thing. A big engine isn’t everything in ’cross racing (good thing, too). But, turns out we’ve caught whiff that Miller will be focusing more on ’cross leading up to Louisville by reducing her road racing schedule and adding in some mountain bike events and doing ’cross prep work before August. These are all good things for ’cross and especially women’s ’cross. Looking forward to seeing where this goes for the strong woman from Fort Collins.
Cyclocross and Sea Otter?
Most of you have probably seen the article on Sea Otter’s addition of a ’cross race to the big bike festival affectionately known as the Sea Donkey. But is this just a spectacle, or even sacrilege to our wonderful sport? Sea Otter is in April, that is not ’cross season: that is base training time or even mountain bike or road racing time. Why should we pull out our tubulars for what will be a ’cross race at the wrong time of year? There are some redeeming features to the week long cycling event in Monterey (it’s in Monterey for one thing, a beautiful part of the country). Only time will tell whether this is good for ’cross or not, but personally, I’m still skeptical.
Working Man’s Edition: Tristan Schouten
It’s been a bit since we mentioned Tristan here, but not because we forgot about him, we certainly haven’t. After his rides this weekend in Fort Collins, taking a fourth place finish on Sunday, he definitely deserved a little bit extra love again. Good job Tristan. Look out for an interview with him coming soon. Here’s to the 9-5 racer!