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Rumors and Rumblings returns with the latest in cyclocross. In this issue, we take a look at Van der Poel and Van Aert’s racing plans, Americans racing in Europe, Belgium’s new COVID policies and Caroline Mani’s new team.

Happy New Year (ft. Wout van Aert and Mathieu Van der Poel)

A quick check of Van Aert’s Strava debunks all our worst fears about the cyclocross superstar turning full roadie. With that much success on the road, could we really blame him if he forgot his roots as a mudder?

The Belgian racer seemed to have begun his cyclocross training at the beginning of November, when he posted a ride titled “Back in the woods 🥳”. Since then, he’s been training for cyclocross almost every day. “I hope to get back to my old level grow and be at my best in January especially with the championships,” Van Aert said in an interview with Red Bull, “to compete again with Mathieu and the other riders.”

“I hope to get back to my old level grow and be at my best in January especially with the championships, to compete again with Mathieu and the other riders.” -Van Aert, to Red Bull

As for Van der Poel, we don’t know nearly as much about his training beyond spending a week in Dubai—he hasn’t touched Strava since July. However, according to Wielerflits, we do know that he will begin racing at X2O Trophy Antwerp on December 12.

Van Aert will be getting a head start on Van der Poel, with his first cyclocross event being X2O Trophy Kortrijk on November 28th. The following day is the first World Cup date, which Van Aert will be attending.

On December 23, the two juggernauts will have their long-awaited face-off at X2O Herentals in Belgium. Will Van Aert avenge himself after the Tour de Flanders or will Van der Poel get the better of him again? We can only speculate for now.

The two should meet again at Baal on January 1, 2021. All we know is that New Year’s Day should have some great fireworks!

Americans Flood European Cyclocross

It’s not uncommon to see a few ambitious Americans show up at the major European races every year.

However, it’s the middle of the pandemic and travel restrictions are tight, so naturally, Americans are holding off on European racing, right?

Apparently not. Without UCI pro racing in the States, the top North American pros migrated to where the work is—in Europe—and escaped the U.S.’ record-setting second wave of infections.

Following the penultimate race of the Shimano GRX Cyclocross Series, Clara Honsinger and Kaitie Keough all hopped across the Atlantic for GP Leuven. The following week, Katie Compton and Rebecca Fahringer joined in for Superprestige Merksplas.

Only one American showed up on the men’s side: Curtis White of Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld.

Additionally, Cyclocross Magazine columnist Corey Coogan Cisek has been showing up to many of the bigger European races. In fact, she was the first American we saw this season. Recently, her column has been telling the story of her journey to Europe and the races she’s attended.

Three Canadians have also arrived in Europe: Maghalie Rochette, Ruby West and Siobhan Kelly. Rochette and West have been racing in Europe for a few races by now but Kelly made her first appearance at Superprestige Merksplas this past weekend. She’s moving forward with her Euro campaign, despite us first getting her name backward!

Belgium Mandates Stricter Pre-Race COVID-19 Testing

With Belgium holding some of the biggest events in cyclocross, coupled by the fact that it was one of the first countries to get the second wave of the virus, it was only a matter of time before Belgium mandated negative COVID-19 test results for racers.

With the situation here in America, it might be surprising to hear that Belgian cyclocross races do not require attendees to provide COVID-19 test results. Effective November 28th, racers will be asked to provide a negative test to attend any Belgian events.

To expedite the process, Sven Nys is investing €15,000, or approximately $17,700, into a rapid test station for his team, Telenet Baloise Lions. Every member involved in the race is now subject to a rapid test. This includes managers, mechanics, the press, carers and of course, racers.

Hopefully, this new system helps to alleviate the situation.

Caroline Mani Joins Team Fuji

Last October, Zach Schuster of Cyclocross Magazine had the opportunity to interview Caroline Mani.

Now, we have another bit to add to that story. According to a recent Fuji press release, Caroline Mani is now officially being sponsored by Fuji Bikes.

Mani follows long-time sponsor Edwin Bull, formerly of Van Dessel Cycles. Bull is the new Road Product Manager at Fuji, and brings his favorite cyclocross world championships medalist over to the Fuji family.

This winter, Caroline Mani will be racing the Fuji Jari Carbon 1.1, which we reviewed last year. While the Jari was aimed at gravel, the frame isn’t that different than Mani’s Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie, with slightly longer chainstays.

“I’m super excited to be on a Jari, it’s a really good looking bike and I’m super stoked to be on it,” Mani said about her new partnership with Fuji.