Saturday 28 January 2012

CX World Championships

"@FieldyCX Ian Field
Bigger crowd watching practice today than at any event in the UK. It's going to be huge!"

There's nowhere quite like Koksijde. It's got the mixture of tarmac, grass and woodland that are epected of any cyclo cross course, but it has one unique feature - sand dunes.

Mud, rain, sand, possibly even snow:
Koksijde is unique in CX
(image credit: Alex Robbins CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
If you've ever tried to ride a bike in sand, you'll know how difficult it is. Shift your weight too much over the front wheel and it digs in, then you fall of. Too much weight over the rear wheel and digs in, sucking the strength right out of legs as you pedal harder to overcome the sucking effect, then more often than not you fall off. Get the balance just right and the sand still sucks the strength out of your legs. Try to go round a corner and everything's fine - just kidding! You fall off. Well, that's what happens in dry sand, at any rate; it's much worse when it's wet. Which it usually is on the very westernmost tip of Belgium.

Since cycling is unique among sports in that fans aren't really happy unless they get to see their heroes suffer, this make Koksijde one of the most popular courses in cyclo cross; and that's why it's been chosen as the location of the 2012 UCI World Cyclo Cross Championships, to be held this weekend.  More good news for spectators is that it's been raining heavily for much of the week and though Friday is expected to be dry, more rain on Saturday should mean a nice, soggy parcours - and, best of all, there's a chance of snow on Sunday.

If Vos doesn't like sand, she
might only be 75% as good
as she usually is. That may
still prove too strong for
the rest.
Can Vos be beaten?
Likely winners? As ever, it's very difficult to see any of the women getting the better of Marianne Vos. The 24-year-old Dutch champion quite literally dominated the final round of the World Cup last weekend, powering away from the start line and never looking back. However, it's the opinion of your beloved author that while Vos is a phenomenally talented rider on all terrain (including road and track), sand is not the one she likes best - she lost by 13" to Daphny van den Brand here in Round 3 of the World Cup. Whether she dislikes it enough for it to make the slightest bit of difference is as of yet unknown. Van den Brand, who won the World Cup, will undoubtedly want to do well - she's planning this season to be her last, and retiring a both World Champion and Cup holder would be a glorious end to a glorious career. Katie Compton will be worth keeping an eye on, too - she won here in 2010 and has been having a decent season.

Britain's best hopes
Helen Wyman and Ian Field are the best chances Britain has of a World Champion. Helen is by far our best chance: she came 6th here during the World Cup race back in November, has been British Champion for the last seven consecutive years and says that she has been working towards improving her starts - the long, straight sprint away from the start line is likely to give her an advantage in the early part of the race. Nikki Harris was seventh in November and is likely to also do well in this race. Gabby Day was tenth, but is still recovering from the respiratory virus that many cyclo cross riders have suffered this season and will not be racing.

The Parcours
The start line is situated on the runway just south of the hangars at 51° 5'54.20"N 2°38'38.78"E and leads into a 280m slightly downhill straight section to ensure a fast start before the first turning, to the right and onto grass. Around 150m later, riders cross a narrow track and enter the woods for the first time and, beginning to climb, turn left and right into a paved track. After 90m, they will leave the track and enter a technical forest section which, in the wet, will be very slippery.

Once out of the trees, the parcours follows the boundary of the forest for 100m before turning sharply left and arriving at the pits. Two preserved aircraft - a Hawker Hunter and a Sikorsky helicopter, both bearing Belgian insignia, can be seen from this section. A right turn then leads into a 165m sand dune section (51° 6'9.41"N 2°38'32.56"E) and onto a bridge.  Having crossed the grass on the other side, riders turn left and head over Robert Vandammestraat and into a 218m section characterised by scrubby trees and shrubs - the sort of terrain also known as puncture country - then come to a paved track and follow it as it bends to the left for around 85m. They then turn right onto short grass, cross three tracks and arrive at a smaller sandy section.

Once through the sand and over another track, they arrive back at the bridge and cross into the same 165m sandy section as earlier. They follow a similar path through it, exit where they previously entered and turn left for a second visit to the pits. After turning right to follow the edge of the forest, they turn right again past houses and come to a road where they turn right again to sprint for 90m, then left off the road and into a 100m sandy section and, having ridden through a short wooded section, arrive at another road where they can sprint for 130m before reaching more grass. They cross a ditch and, after 130m on grass, head downhill arrive back at the starting point. The entire parcours is 2.89km in length.

Please note: All tickets have been sold, meaning there will be none available to buy at the event. Please don't waste money by showing up if you don't already have tickets!

Races start: Juniors Saturday 11:00, Under-23 Saturday 15:00, Elite Women Sunday 11:00, Elite Men Sunday 15:00 (all times CET, GMT is -1)

Streams: Sports-Livez are providing live stream of all races, including Juniors and Under-23.


Elite Women

  1    GRIMBERG, Arenda NL
  2    BOER, Sophie De NL
  3    STULTIENS, Sabrina NL
  4    BRAND, Daphny Van Den NL
  5    PAASSEN, Sanne Van NL
  6    RIJEN, Linda Van NL
  7    VOS, Marianne NL
  8    BRUCHMANN, Gesa GER
  9    SCHWEIZER, Sabrina GER
  11    MANI, Caroline FRA
  12    HAVLIKOVA, Pavla CZE
  13    MIKULASKOVA, Martina CZE
  14    NASH, Katerina CZE
  15    DAY, Gabriella GBR
  16    HARRIS, Nikki GBR
  17    LAST, Annie GBR
  18    WYMAN, Helen GBR
  19    ANTONNEAU, Kaitlin USA
  20    COMPTON, Katherine USA
  21    DOMBROSKI, Amy USA
  22    DUKE, Nicole USA
  23    MILLER, Meredith USA
  24    GAMONAL, Rocio ESP
  25    ACHERMANN, Jasmin SWI
  26    HENZELIN, Lise-marie SWI
  27    MAURER, Sabrina SWI
  28    CANT, Sanne BEL
  29    QUINTENS, Hilde BEL
  30    VANDERBEKEN, Joyce BEL
  31    ARZUFFI, Alice Maria ITA
  32    INNERHOFER, Julia ITA
  33    LECHNER, Eva ITA
  34    ROSSI, Vania ITA
  35    SCANDOLARA, Valentina ITA
  36    ERLANDSSON, Asa Maria SVE
  37    SNIHS, Kajsa SVE
  38    MAJERUS, Christine LUX
  39    WASIUK, Olga POL
  40    WHITSON, Genevieve NZ
  41    ARDAVE, Lelde LAT
  42    FURMANE, Madara LAT
  43    HANSEN, Nikoline DEN
  44    MIYAUCHI, Sakiko JAP
  45    TOYOOKA, Ayako JAP

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