Ellen Van Loy, kitted up and ready at the start. © Bill Whitman

Ellen Van Loy is ready for tomorrow’s World Championship race. © Bill Whitman

Before tomorrow’s Elite Women’s World Championship race, Cyclocross Magazine’s Christine Vardaros sat down with Belgian racer Ellen van Loy (Young Telnet-Fidea) to talk about her season, find out how she’s prepared for Saturday, discuss the other favorites and see what she has in store after the World Championships.

You can read our preview of tomorrow’s Elite Women’s race and also see all of our 2016 UCI Cyclocross World Championship coverage here.

For most riders on Saturday’s start line for the Elite Women’s race, a podium spot would not occur even in their wildest dreams.

But for a handful, it can be theirs for the taking, if luck and good legs are on their side. Belgian Ellen van Loy (Young Telenet-Fidea) is one such racer.

She is ranked third on the UCI classification, fourth in the overall World Cup and in the BPost Bank Trofee Series and fifth in the Superprestige Series, all of which proves she is a steady rider. But this is not exactly what makes her a threat.

Her top results at fast events such as Superprestige Diegem, where she led from start to finish, may get her noticed by the others, but what really makes her one to watch is that she placed third only a month ago at the Zolder World Cup, the same course where the World Championships are to be held. Crossing the line, Van Loy was only a few seconds behind winner Sanne Cant and second-place finisher Katie Compton.

When reminded of her of her accomplishments this season, Van Loy was a bit taken aback.

“For this season I had the feeling that it was going to be very difficult to get the same results as last year, because of the girls returning from injury as well as the up-and-coming, fast younger riders. Now, almost near the end of the season, as I look back I am more than happy with my season,” said van Loy, who added that she “had my down moments but I had a strong end-of-season. I never really panicked, but I was a bit doubtful when it went a little bad. A season is long and you should not be blinded by a short period. I have proven again to be a steady rider and I am more than proud of this!”

One reason why she may have taken yet another step up is that she went from full-time to part-time with her job as educator for older mentally challenged individuals.

Van Loy explains, “Naturally working fewer hours gives me more opportunities for training and recovering. You create more time and this time you can spend on helpful stuff like kinésiotherapy, stabilization, etc. I am very satisfied with my way of working—good planning is important and so far it’s worked well for me.”

Ellen Van Loy might have defended her title as top full-time worker, with her 8th place. Elite Women - 2015 Cyclocross World Championships © Mike Albright / Cyclocross Magazine

Ellen Van Loy on her way to a top-10 at the 2015 Cyclocross World Championships © Mike Albright / Cyclocross Magazine

As for last week’s final World Cup held in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands, Van Loy explains, “[y]eah, my race was somewhat disappointing. The start was crazy fast and chaotic when we turned into the field. A little farther in and a rider hit the ground just in front of me, so I had to put a foot down. This lost me several places, then it was trying to pick the riders off one by one as quickly as possible. Because of this, by the end I actually lost more places. All the heavy sections, stairs and long running sections also didn’t play in my favor. An 11th place was the highest possible finish for me.”

Although most of her fellow competitors opted for a hard training week leading up to this race in hopes of extra form at Worlds, Van Loy took it easy so she could fully recover from the exhausting effort she put in the week previous at the incredibly fast Lignières-en-Berry World Cup in France where she placed second behind countrywoman Sanne Cant. She also had a long drive home from there which can wear on a person. Either way, an overload in training was not in her specific plans as she would rather stick with what she’s been doing the last couple of months to maintain her good form.

Even with top fitness on her side, Van Loy admits it will take more than that to overthrow the other women vying for top spot on that podium.

“To get that step higher in the results, I will need a super day with a good and fast start and I’ll have to ride more tactically. I will have to position myself at the front of the technical sections to be able to go full gas on the fast sections. I’m sure everyone will have the same plan as me, so the job is to race alert [grins].”

The other riders she will surely be keeping an eye on are the young ones such as Thalita de Jong and Eva Lechner, as well as the other top women who are riding well now, such as Katie Compton, Nikki Harris, and Sophie de Boer.

The Women's Elite podium (l-r) Katie Compton, Sanne Cant and Ellen van Loy.

Van Loy has stood on the podium with the sport’s most notable riders. Can she best them all tomorrow? © Bart Hazen/Cyclocross Magazine

“Then there’s [Cant],” says van Loy “who has also proven for a long time to be in good form,” adding, “[l]et’s just hope for an honest, nice battle where the strongest may win. But it sure would be great if I could land on the podium. The feeling of being on that big stage, I can already taste it! [laughs] The tens of thousands of Belgians—and some Americans of course [grins]—lining the course make it even more special. Hopefully it’ll be an unforgettable day for everyone.”

If she were to land on that top spot, Van Loy surmises that, “[b]ecoming world champion will probably give me a completely different feeling, my daily life will not change though. I think, perhaps, new doors will open with some great new opportunities.”

Amongst the Belgian men, you can be sure that there will be some discussion over tactics to overthrow clear pre-race favorite, Dutchman and current World Champion, Mathieu van der Poel. As for the women, Van Loy says that there have not yet been any such talks although she is curious if there will be. Belgian Coach Rudy de Bie, though, has made his thoughts known on public television, stating, “[Sanne and Ellen] can both go for their chances. Ellen has the motor and maybe Sanne can finish it off.”

No matter the result at Worlds, Van Loy’s post-season plans remain the same. “After a short break, I leave with good friend Christine Vardaros to Canada for our third time racing the infamous Paris-Ancaster gravel event where we do the 70km distance. As winner from last year’s edition, I’ll be extra motivated to stand at the start. Afterwards, I’ll plan the rest of the spring, holidays and then start to prepare for the next season.”

Considering her growth from year to year since she began racing, we can expect to hear more about this friendly face in the peloton.