If, in 2004, someone had told me that ten years later we would see Sven Nys and Bart Wellens on the podium at the Belgian Worlds, I would have asked them for some of whatever it was they were smoking. If they had also told me that, in that race, Bart would be hopping the planks while Sven ran, I wouldn’t have toked it.
Sven Nys is 37 Bart Wellens is 35.
2nd place at The Belgian World Championship race was 28 year-old Rob Peeters.
With the emergence of young non-Belgian superstars like Lars van der Haar and Philip Walsleben, is it time for the Belgians to start worrying about their legacy of domination as the next generation comes of age?
There isn’t a shadow of a doubt which country is the strongest when it comes to professional cyclocross racing. (It’s Belgium, just in case you’ve been living in a hole for 40 years or so.)
Belgium & the USA both had their Nationals on Saturday, and there was a striking difference in the fields.
Number of riders in the Belgian Professional race? 15.
In the US race? 123.
22 of those finished on the lead lap.
Included in that 22?
The first and second place riders from both the Master’s 30-34 and 35-39 races held earlier in the week. As cyclocross continues to rise in popularity and prestige in the US, maybe it’s time we reconsider just what we mean when we say both “Master” and “Professional.”
Both the Belgian & US races were held on unusual courses, the US race in a purpose-built, cyclocross-specific park, and the Belgian in a Hippodrome. With no natural elevation at all, all the action in the Belgian race was the result of man-made obstacles, features including multiple fly-overs (one topped with giant horse-head statuary), sand trucked in from Koksijde, and a set of actual steeplechase barriers, complete with little tiny houses holding them up.
With rumors of Olympic Cyclocross making their quadrennial return, it’s worth noting that if that were to happen, courses like these would be the likely future of the sport.
Sven Nys made the Belgian race his second win in three attempts astride the bike of his new sponsor, Trek. He also won it on a bike with cantilever brakes. 3 races on the Trek, 2 on cantis. Also on canti brakes this weekend? American champ Jeremy Powers – after an entire season spent racing on discs – and 10 time American women’s champ, Katie Compton.
Speaking of Compton… 10 National Championship victories.
In a row.
Backstopped by two World Cup overall victories.
In a row.
Words fail. In any other era, we would almost certainly be lauding her the greatest Women’s Cross racer of all time.
Unfortunately, she’s racing in the Marianne Vos era, competing against the woman who may well be the greatest racing cyclist of all time, period, no gender distinction necessary. *
Vos, by the way, won her fourth consecutive Dutch National CX title this weekend, riding in the World Champion’s Rainbow jersey. Could this be the year that Katie finally takes the jersey from her?
(Ok, blecch. Hate to even raise the subject, but Vos has been so dominant that you have to add the asterisk. If she’s clean. Ditto Nys. There it is. Nuff’ said on that topic.)