It’s that time in the season when the Instagram and Twitter pictures of pro ‘cross riders show them on flights to sunny locations. A non-classification weekend finally allows everyone to recharge the batteries, top up on vitamin D and get some big kilometers in the tank.

Of course, this exodus of riders to Spain leaves opportunities for those riders sticking it out in the cold north. With so many races now forming part of a series, and contracts being linked to participating in all of the events in a particular series, it’s hard for many riders to escape for a weekend.

I’m back in my southern base in France, currently enjoying only my 10th day at “home” since September 11.  It’s certainly no sacrifice to be out and about for 68 out of the last 78 days when it’s for what you love doing so much. It’s such an exciting scene to be a part of, and this year I’ve got to try some new courses and also revisit ones I hadn’t been to for maybe 10 years.

Wachtebeke is one of those events and it turned out to be fantastic. Just northeast of Gent, this was an event that showed me a potentially real positive direction for the sport with new (I know it has been used before) venues that could take the sport forward.

I use the word venue rather than course as so often the focus for ’cross is the course, not the complete package from arrival to departure and encompassing riders, sponsors, media and fans. Great for spectators and racers alike, the course was fun, easy to navigate and the facilities were great.

Race organiser Jurgen Mettepenningen really has the start of something special there; you could run the World Champs there tomorrow and everyone would think it would have been planned for years. It was also nice for him to take the victory with Denise Betsema who is proving to be the season’s sensation.

Changes for Junior Women

Of course, as you’d expect, I’m going to mention the new plans that have come out for Junior women, or more to the point a timeline of future changes. In short, they can be seen from this extract from the UCI newsletter.

UCI Newsletter excerpt re: Junior Women

UCI Newsletter excerpt re: Junior Women


I’ll only talk about the positives here:

1 – There will be a Junior Women’s Worlds in 2020

2 – There will be a Junior Women’s World Cup in 2020/21

3 – There will be Junior Women’s UCI races from 2021/22

All of these are positives, we at least have the all-important timeline to add to the prize money equality timeline we now have.

I would, however, like to say sorry to all the young female riders that will miss these opportunities to compete as a Junior on the highest stage.

The sport has let you down, and it makes me really sad. I really am sorry and hope you will stay in the sport and look forward and stay motivated for goals in the U23 and Elite categories.

Finding the Watts Down South

So back to the sun and that movement of riders to the south and why we do it.

Well there are lots of factors and perhaps the overriding reason is it’s only 66 days to Worlds, and we are trying to find those extra watts. In the past couple of weeks, temperatures in Belgium have dropped, the rain is setting in and it’s harder and harder to get in real endurance training.

With the CXMas period bringing us a huge amount of racing, we have to rest the body for a similar amount of time. That leaves little time for actual training so fitting it in now is important. It’s a shame for the organisers of events where riders are skipping weekends, but I’m sure great races will still take place.

In seasons gone by, I’ve spoken about anyone in the top 10 or 15 being contenders. Now that list is a lot longer, so the stakes are higher than ever for riders in that “potential podium rider” bubble.

I finished 22nd at the weekend in Koksijde, frustrated that my legs just wouldn’t work on lap 1 and 2. I was equally encouraged that my last lap was the ninth fastest of the race (I think, maybe I should add an ‘ish’ in there).  I know many have written me off, but in 21st, a mere 9 seconds in front was Kaitlin Keough, a World Cup winner this season.

Rochette, Lechner and Kaptheijns were behind me and inside the top 30, and I don’t know anyone who’d be surprised to see these names on the World Champs podium in February. Nothing is more exciting than women’s ’cross right now.

Eight different women have won major-series races this season, including Denise Betsema on Sunday. 2018 World Cup Koksijde. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Eight different women have won major-series races this season, including Denise Betsema on Sunday. 2018 World Cup Koksijde. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

I’ll be racing in Spain this weekend as I’m headed to the Basque country for two races.

I’ve developed a huge love of the racing in Spain, and the Basque region seems to have an exclusive arrangement with the mud gods so far this season. It’s such a friendly and supportive scene, and each year it’s growing so fast.

I then head to Malaga for some big training kilometers along with getting my dental work finally finished.  It’s a struggle to find the time to do ‘normal’ things when you are constantly on the road. When I broke a tooth on Christmas day last year, I didn’t realise it would form a part of my “long-term goals” list for its repair.  Glad I’ll finally be fixed.

I wonder if there is such a thing as tooth watts?


Featured image: Andrew Yee