January 26/07 12:20 pm - Cyclo-cross World Championships Preview
Posted by Editoress on 01/26/07
The 2007 Cyclo-cross World Championships begin tomorrow in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium. This is the center of the cyclo-cross universe, with tens of thousands of rabid Belgian 'Cross fans expected to descend on this small town in west Flanders, close to the famous towns of Roubaix, Gent and Wevelgem. Junior and Espoir (Under 23) men race on Saturday (11 am and 2:30 pm local), with the elite women and men on Sunday (same times). We will be providing live coverage starting at 5:00 am EST starting tomorrow.
The course measures approximately 3 kilometres and, as Canadian national champion Greg Reain put it succinctly, "it's hard." Approximately 80% of the circuit is grass, and the wet conditions have already turned it into deep, slippery mud in many places. Add to that many transitions, five descents and two sets of stairs - plus a sand pit - and this will be both a physically and technically demanding race.
It will only get muddier, and traffic will be a problem in the start - after a 250 metre section of pavement the riders make two sharp lefts and hit the grass. They then go under a bridge and make a loop around the end of a lake, where the ground gets sandy. This is followed by the longest straight section of the course, at 400 metres, with a steep and slippery descent at the end. Almost immediately the competitors run back up a flight of stairs, descend again, up another set of stairs, followed by a further sharp descent - all within 300 metres and the first half of the circuit.
Once all of these obstacles have been passed, the circuit opens up for the rest of the lap, as it heads back into the main spectator area. There are still two descents to be dealt with, and three 180 degree turns on the grass/mud. Riders are already slipping in these corners, and they could turn into major bottlenecks.
For the Espoir men it will be a repeat battle of last year, between defending champion Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) and silver and bronze medalists Lars Boom (Netherlands) and Niels Albert (Belgium). A further rider to watch will be Romain Villa of France. There are eight North Americans in the race - Kyle Douglas, Aaron Schooler, Shaun Adamson and Brian Robinson for Canada, and Jamey Driscoll, Chance Noble, DanielNeyens and Charles Marzot for the USA.
The Juniors will see local hope Joeri Adams (Belgium) as the favourite for the title. He has been the dominant rider in races this season. Other possibilities include Jiri Polnicky (Czech Republic) and Thomas Girard (France). Canada has one entry - Spencer Smitheman, and the U.S. five - Danny Summerhill, Jerome Townsend, Nick Keough, Sean Worsech and Carson Miller.