Bart Aernauts and Gergen deKnegt climb the stairs during course inspection.

Bart Aernouts and Gerben de Knegt climb the stairs during course inspection.

Cyclocross Magazine Correspondent Christine Vardaros ventured out to the course at St. Wendel today to bring us an update of the course conditions. Read on, and stay tuned as we keep you updated on all things Worlds related.

by Christine Vardaros

Yesterday we saw a wave of riders, a rather festive bunch I might add! But today most of the faces were different, literally and figuratively as they mainly had that stoic look on their faces…doomsday looming closer I suppose.

Thanks to the sub-freezing temps overnight, the course did a complete turnaround.  While yesterday was a real mudfest, today the course was fast and icy.  The mud may have added a technical dimension to the track, but it paled in comparison to the frozen ruts they had to navigate today.  A few turns were especially exciting to watch, as one out of every handful of riders who passed would inevitably take a spill.

Only a few of the top Belgian elites came out to play, namely Niels Albert, Bart Wellens, Bart Aernouts and Kevin Pauwels (whose idea of a solid race is a fifth place finish – so humble.)  A few other notables were Katie Compton, Jonathan Page, German Champions Hanka Kupfernagel and Philipp Walsleben, who took a nice spill on an icy rutted turn, Swiss Champ Jasmin Achermann, British Champ Helen Wyman, national teammate Gabby Day (who is hoping for a strong race after suffering from dead legs last week in Hoogerheide), Pavla Havlikova, Dutch rider Eddy van Ijzendoorn who excels on the icy stuff, his AA-Drink and National teammate Thijs van Amermongen and Gerben de Knegt.   The full Polish team, led by season standout and National Champion Mariusz Gil showed up as well.  Amongst the returnees that I saw today were Franzoi, Summerhill and Kaiser.

I caught up with Compton after her training and she was feeling good about her fitness and preparation as well as solid about the course. Her only real concern, as with many of the other riders, is the icy ruts where it is hard to keep the bike upright.  All the grooves formed in the mud from the riders yesterday froze overnight.  There was one section dangerous enough that they had to take a bulldozer to it to dig the dirt up, eliminating most of the grooves.

Watching the racers pass felt like an actual spectating of the World Championships since most were wearing their national colors.  The Belgian elites I think had no choice since the theme of this race has been a “United Belgium – one versus all…namely Styby.” The only way I was able to tell it was just a pre-ride was obviously the absence of numbers on their clothes, but more importantly the absence of the 30,000 Belgians expected to show plus the 5,000 Germans and the 2000 that fall in the “other” category.

The Belgian contingent is expected to be so high that the organizers constructed a special “Villa Belgica” tent.  This very oversized beer tent plays Belgian oldies but goodies – their folk songs mainly, and has Flemish-speaking bartenders.  In true Belgian cross-fan form, the tent was already partly filled today.  Some of its partygoers were seen dancing on tabletops and completely wasted…and it’s not even race day yet. Funny.

Tomorrow is the big moment for the Juniors, followed by the U-23s.  Stay tuned for full reports, rider quotes and photos. Let us know who you’re cheering for in the comments and we’ll be sure to get some good stuff from him / her.

Photo Gallery – Rider Inspections:

Photo Gallery Course Preview: