Zdenek Stybar conquers his third cyclo-cross World Championship

This blog is a space for minor sports and underground stories that are not usually launched in the main streams. In my humble opinion, cyclo-cross is the most amazing of the unknown sports. Although it is the little brother of cycling, there are few sports so exciting and thrilling, with riders fighting face to face riding full gas for an hour in a circuit full of mood, obstacles and mechanical.

Yesterday took place the World Championship in Hoogerheide, a race traditionally dominated by Belgians and riders from other mid-European countries. Nederlands, Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Cchec Republic have little tradition in this sport and only a few of them can snatch to Belgian rider a place in the Top 10.

Sven Nys was the favourite, all the more since Niels Albert crashed during the morning training and injured his wrist. The World Cup winner, the 23 years-old Lars Van der Haar had not been consistent in during the last couple of weeks and Zdenek Stybar, who had barely ridden on the mood this season, focused in his road race career, was not thought to beat Nys, that lately had mastered the final part of the season.

(Watch the highlights of the race)

But as laps passed, Nys rivals had to give up due to his strong pace and only Zdenek Stybar catch up and stuck at his wheel. The passed the last lap together and when everybody expected Nys’s attack and Stybar’s surrender, it occurred quite the contrary, Stybar, who had been pushing during the whole race, as it is usual in such a brave rider, struggled for the ultimate push and got some metres that Nys was not longer able to chase.

Both had won the World Championship twice, but a memorable race end up with the greatest cyclocrossman of the history giving up against a top class rider that had ridden little during the winter season.

The Cannibal Queen carries on her dictatorship

The female category brought us another exhibition from the greatest female rider of the history, both in race and in the mood. Marianne Vos did not give any chances for her rivals and dominated the whole race, all by herself since the first lap, to win her sixth world Championship in a row and seventh overall. She is only 26 years old. Needles to say how outstanding and one of a kind is this Dutch rider that every year continues widening her legend.

(Watch the full race)

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Cyclo-cross, the most amazing non Olympic sport

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It’s considered as the “poor brother” of cycling, the most unknown modality, but many cycling lovers that can’t wait to the road cycling season calm down the bike angry with cyclo-cross and after become fanatic. This is the main feature of cyclo-cross, the season starts in October and finishes in February, five months of races. Thereby, when there is no road cycling, there is cyclo-cross.

It’s a winter sport and it’s not a Olimpic modality. That’s why its not as known as road cycling, track cycling, BMX or Mountain Bike. Unfortunately, cyclocross is mainly focussed in Belgium. In fact, the first 8 riders in the past World Championship were born in the centre-European country. There are also cyclocrossmans from other countries, especially from France, Nederland, Czech Republic and Germany, but the best no-Belgian riders use the cyclo-cross to gain a good reputation in the world of cycling and join a road cycling team. The former World Champion Zdenek Stybar or Lars Boom did it recently.

Niels Albert in a crowded circuit. Slimbweg.be

The most attractive feature of this sport is that during an hour you see the riders riding full-gas along the circuits, mainly meadows, where the ground becomes muddy and to cycle is highly complicated. The start of the races is spectacular, with the riders placed like F-1 cars and trying to get the first curve in a good position. After the start, the circuit uses to become narrow and in almost an hour race is important to be always in the front of the race.

The sinuous circuits use to have obstacles, as steps, and sometimes riders need to get off the bike and run, carrying the bike on the back or dragging the bike by the side. Sometimes, the have to go up so hard slopes that there is not other way that dismounting and going up walking. Furthemore, sand is usually used to make the circuit harder. Watch here an example:

There are three main competitions: the World Cup, the Superprestige and the B-Post Bank Trophee (the former GvA). The World Cup is the most important one with races all over Europe, including France, Italy and CzechRepublic.  The Superprestige is considered as the second, but to win it gives you a wide reputation in Belgium. All the races take places in Belgium. B-Post Trophee is the third, with a different competition format, by taking into account the chrono of every eight races. Each competition has 7-8 races from late October to early February. 4 months of competition, a short season for the riders that need to be in good shape from the start to the finish, so as to have chances to win in any 3 competitions.

Niels Albert

Every year, usually in early February, this sport chooses the World Champion. This year, the World Championship will be held in Louissville (USA). It’s the first time that the rainbow jersey’s fight will take place in a no-European country. This sport is growing up in USA with many races and increasing number of riders, so the UCI is looking for wide the boundaries of this monopolised by Belgians sport.

Cyclo-cross most important races are usually won by the same riders. Three or four of them share out the main victories. Nowadays,  Sven Nys is the “number one”. The “Cannibal”, as its known, has dominated this sport for many years. He is now 35 years old but he is still the man-to-beat in every races. There is also Niels Albert, the current World Champion, an irregular rider that can dominate a race from the start to the finish or have a bad start and suffer to get the front of the race. He uses to have injuries during the season that, for the moment, have not allowed him to complete a full season in a good shape. The third rider that is always on the front is Kevin Pauwels. An “ice-man”, almost imperturbable,  improving his performances in the most complicated and muddy circuits and dominant in the most flattened and easy ones.

The “big three” will be fighting until now to February to get the glory in this sport. Races are usually streamed by Sporza and links provided by Cyclingfans.com. The most of the races schedule is Sunday at 15.00. I advise you to open your mind to this sport and enjoy one of my favourite sport events.