My top 3 cyclo cross courses

It’s the article no-one is asking for, but I am writing it anyway!

If there is one thing that the arrival of GCN+ has given us is wall to wall winter cycling in the form of cyclo cross.

I am old enough to remember some rounds being shown on the BBCs flagship Saturday afternoon show Grandstand. I would then spend the Sunday morning that followed on my Falcon/Banana team issue replica bike on the recreation ground outside my house pretending to be a tough Belgian.

The dismounts and remounts were not so easy. Especially as the 1980s and early 1990s trend was to jam your saddle up as high as possible to show a bit of seat stem.

I also wore a pony tail held in by a rubber band as some sort of low budget Laurent Fignon, or the hipsters version, Soren Lilholt. But that’s straying off the point.

What these last couple of winters has shown us is that ‘cross is very much part of the full cycling experience and will forever be linked to road cycling, the spring classics and the grand tours.

Part of the reason for that is at the moment the best riders on the road also enjoy getting muddy in a Flemish field all winter. They are Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock.

With all of their summer exploits still hurting their legs, the three of them aren’t back on the trails as yet. They are all resting and that has left the door open for Eli Iserbyt to take ownership of the discipline.

He is being chased (literally and metaphorically) by team mates Michael Van Thourenhout, Laurens Sweeck and Trek riders Toon Aerts and Lars van der Haar.

Another grand tour rider in Quinten Hermans (who I tipped on this website as being a star of the future) is getting the Wanty team among those riders above.

The great thing about ‘cross is that its raced in laps with sections that need to be run alongside your bike, steep drop ins and a little bit of road. It has the lot.

So here are my three favourite courses of the regulars that are raced during the season. Let me know if you disagree!

3. Koksijde

This course is best summed up by the video “Cycling in Flanders” shot and you can get that here.

Its full of sand dunes and steep banks which leaves you thinking they are racing through a Eurocamp holiday park. Its utterly bonkers and wonderfully brilliant.

2. Koppenbergcross

This is another chance for me to drone on about how many times I have ridden the cobbled climb that is scaled on every lap of this race. But I wont.

I will talk about a course that has everything. It has the climb as well as steep, sweeping curves through farmland and some tight muddy turns.

This is fresh in my mind as it was raced yesterday. Check out the footage of Iserbyt winning but stay tuned in for some of the wrecked bodies and minds who slump over the finish before getting a Belgian face pack falling over.

It’s brutal and having ridden up the climb a few times I can tell you first hand how hard it is. But I wont!

1. Namur

This might be a hipsters choice from me here. But I love the racing this course produces.

The route is based around the finish of the autumn classic on the road that finishes up the cobbles at the citadel above the river and the town.

Its beautiful to look at but savage if you are racing with all the climbing and tight turns through the woodland.

The recent events have been dominated by Van der Poel but have been famous for a crash that Toon Aerts suffered which left him finishing the race with broken ribs.

Here are the details of the upcoming 2021 event from the website “Cyclocross 24”. there is a video of how difficult the course is for you to enjoy.

With only the Koppenberg round having been completed so far there is some decent racing to look forward to on most weekends now until the Christmas tree is down and we can start to think about Milano-San Remo.

Don’t miss out and enjoy the action this winter!

Stuyven upsets the holy trinity in San Remo

That there was a Belgian winner of the first monument of the season, Milan-San Remo was no surprise.

That it was the under rated Jasper Stuyven was.

The Trek man rode the perfect final remaining hidden all along the Capi before hanging in with the attacks on the Poggio.

As Tom Pidcock tried to force the pace on the downhill Stuyven waited and waited before launching the winning attack as the road flattened out.

He was briefly joined by Soren Kragh before timing his sprint so that the fast finshing Caleb Ewan came up just short.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 STUYVEN JasperTrek – Segafredo5002756:38:06
2 EWAN CalebLotto Soudal400200,,
3 VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma325150,,
4 SAGAN PeterBORA – hansgrohe275120,,
5 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix225100,,
6 MATTHEWS MichaelTeam BikeExchange17590,,
7 ARANBURU AlexAstana – Premier Tech15080,,
8 COLBRELLI SonnyBahrain – Victorious12570,,
9 KRAGH ANDERSEN SørenTeam DSM10060,,
10 TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie8550,,
From http://www.procyclingstats.com

The so-called “Holy Trinity” of Mathieu Van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Julian Alaphillippe were outwitted by the winner after their attempts to attack were nullified on the final climb.

To be fair Van der Poel had looked slightly off the pace all day and was a way back on the Poggio.

Van Aert was able to follow the attack of Alaphillippe but the Frenchman certainly didn’t have the kick of previous years when he went.

More questions than answers from this race?

I would say yes. The coming weeks will be really interesting and could we have all be premature in calling those three amigos as unbeatable and miles ahead of the rest of the peloton?

Opening weekend provides excitement (even with sprint finishes!)

Saturday 27th February – Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The world champion Julian Alaphillippe almost pulled off a typcially swashbuckling move to take this one before getting caught on the Muur in Geraardsbergen.

He had, however, taken enough sting out of the legs of his opponents leaving the man of the early season, Davide Ballerini to easily take the sprint finish.

The perennial locally based classic contenders such as Oliver Naessen, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke were left in his slipsteam and in my view look even less likely to land one of the big April races between them.

Having said all that, if you take the British sprinter Jake Stewart out of the top 10, the results could well have been from 2017 with Heinrich Haussler and Phillippe Gilbert rolling back the years.

It was so nice to see narrow Belgian farm tracks back on the menu and even from all the way over here in the UK, my fillings were clattering around my mouth remembering some of those crazy sectors that they had to ride over!

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 BALLERINI DavideDeceuninck – Quick Step3002004:43:03
2 STEWART JakeGroupama – FDJ250150,,
3 VANMARCKE SepIsrael Start-Up Nation215120,,
4 HAUSSLER HeinrichBahrain – Victorious175100,,
5 GILBERT PhilippeLotto Soudal12090,,
6 ARANBURU AlexAstana – Premier Tech11580,,
7 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianDeceuninck – Quick Step9570,,
8 TRENTIN MatteoUAE-Team Emirates7560,,
9 GENIETS KevinGroupama – FDJ6050,,
10 POLITT NilsBORA – hansgrohe5040,,
The top 10 from 2021 Omloop

Sunday 28th February – Kuurne/Brussels/Kuurne

Aka the Mathieu van der Poel show (again). There were over 80km left to ride when MvdP went surging out of the front of the peloton.

He attacked with further to go to the finish than Alaphillippe 24 hours before to start the pre-Tour of Flanders mind games.

Jhonathan Narvaez of Ineos was his unlikely co-contributor, a rider more suitable to the mountains than the bergs but both sped across the gap to the days no-hope breakaway making contact before we got our first glimpse of the Oude Kwaremont for 2021.

This cobbled beast has a special place in my heart, and not just because I enjoy the beer from the bar half way up!

After that we saw the race settle down a lot with a flatter run in and circuits around Kortrijk. A new group with some original breakaways and Van der Poel seemed to be living a charmed life off the front at about 17 seconds but with only 3km to go it looked enough.

However a long drag of crosswind was enough to let what was left of the peloton get back on.

The sprint finish saw former rainbow jersey Mads Pedersen of Trek win easily. Worthy of note was Tom Pidcock making his Flemish debut for Ineos getting up for for third place.

He will be a marked man now!

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 PEDERSEN MadsTrek – Segafredo2001254:37:04
2 TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie15085,,
3 PIDCOCK ThomasINEOS Grenadiers12560,,
4 TRENTIN MatteoUAE-Team Emirates10050,,
5 BIERMANS JentheIsrael Start-Up Nation8545,,
6 COLBRELLI SonnyBahrain – Victorious7040,,
7 POLITT NilsBORA – hansgrohe6035,,
8 VAN AVERMAET GregAG2R Citroën Team5030,,
9 VAN LERBERGHE BertDeceuninck – Quick Step4026,,
10 RESELL Erik NordsaeterUno-X Pro Cycling Team3522,,
2021 results from Kuurne.

In conclusion

There will be those who say that 2 sprint finishes and the mild weather will not make this a memorable opening weekend of classic racing but I thoroughly enjoyed it and now look forward to seeing Mark Cavendish in Le Samyn tomorrow.

This is a race which has a brutal finishing circuit and finishes in the town of Dour… which looks a bit bland!

Meanwhile in Italy…

Whilst the eyes of the cycling world are naturally on France right now, English riders have been proving their worth by winning a couple of big stage races.

Tom Pidcock, a rider needing no introduction to readers of this blog won the baby Giro in dominant style showing that he is more than a cyclo cross rider.

Tirreno-Adriatico finished this afternoon with Simon Yates riding a really strong time trial to keep the overall lead ahead of the chasing duo of Rafal Majka and Geraint Thomas.

The race had seen some epic riding over some of the famous Muro climbs that pepper the Italian coastal areas.

Congratulations to both Brits (apologies for being jingoistic) and let’s hope there is more to come, especially on the mud this winter from Pidcock.