Zdenek Stybar © Bart Hazen

Zdenek Stybar Checking Out the Course at St Wendel © Bart Hazen

Cyclocross Magazine Correspondent Christine Vardaros ventured out to the course at St. Wendel today to bring us the following report of racers taking their first pedal strokes in preparation for this weekend. Read on, and stay tuned as we continue to bring you responses from our racers as they test out their wheels.

By Christine Vardaros

Jonas and I arrived just in time to watch the US National Team spill out of their vans. Within minutes, they were spinning around the course. Shortly afterwards, the first guy returned – a bit too soon though. It was Drew Dillman with a flat tire. After he headed back out, his luck didn’t get much better. He showed up with regular all-around tires and slid everywhere on the super muddy, slick, technical course. He returned to the van the second time looking like a mudball, with his white teeth shining through his oversized smile.

As we approached the course, the first thing we noticed was the elevation gain. There is one long drag mixed in with a handful of steep uphills that were barely rideable for some of the folks. If the course partly freezes, which is expected over the next few days, a few of those uphills may turn into run-ups where some will inevitably make it half-way up before sliding right back down! As it stands now, the one full staircase is not much running, but time will tell if there is more footwork to come depending on the weather.

Among the sea of riders, there were only a handful of top guys and gals. As for the Americans, the ones I saw were Jeremy Powers, Tim Johnson and Jamey Driscoll, as well as Meredith Miller. I was told Amy Dombroski was also in attendance but left before we arrived. The ones I spoke with seemed to be in positive spirits about the course. I also briefly chatted with Juniors Bjorn Fox, Jeff Bahnson, and Drew Dillman, as well as U-23 standout Danny Summerhill. Did you know that Drew is Only sixteen? And that Bjorn thought about setting Worlds as a goal two years ago when his mom suggested it to him? I love kids.

Another top rider I saw was Marianne Vos. She stopped to say hello in the middle of her workout. She said that the course will be hard for everyone and that she thinks she can do something special on it. Then again, I think she can do something special on anything – any kind of bike on any terrain, as she’s proven with her multiple world champion and Olympic champion titles. Oh yeah, European and National champion titles too! Did you know she washes her own bikes? After the pre-ride, she went directly to the power washer while her brother Anton and I looked on. She also washed her own bike just before the Hoogerheide World Cup race last weekend. I found it odd considering all the other “smaller” racers have millions of support staff to take care of those things for them.

As for the other big names, we spotted French National Champion Francis Mourey, Enrico Franzoi, and Zdenek Stybar. Styby was the only guy actually using the pre-ride as a race simulation, doing hot laps for a full hour – while the Belgian TV patiently waited on the starting track for him to be done. Every time he passed them without stopping, they all shook their heads in disbelief in how fast he took his laps.

I’m not sure yet who we can expect on the course tomorrow, but at some point the rest of the superstars have to show up. The only group we know for sure that are expected to be there is the Belgian Elite Men’s Team. Today they had to spend time in the hotel trying to work on their team spirit, something they haven’t had since 2009, when they came together to stop Lars Boom from renewing his World Championship jersey. Niels Albert ended up winning it, with Nys’ teamwork effort giving him the gap he needed.

No matter who shows tomorrow, you can be sure that I’ll be there with my notebook in hand and Jonas with his camera to document it all for our Cyclocross Magazine readers! And don’t forget to order your magazine subscription – you don’t want to miss the post-Worlds special coverage that can only be found in print!

Photos by Bart Hazen

Photos by Jonas