Photos by Jeremy Dunn
Speaking to Marco Aurelio Fontana the day before this latest installment of World Cup cross, he told me:
“Cyclocross is so much fun, but it needs more of this. To get out of Belgium. Hopefully, World Cups like this and the World Championships [in Louisville] will show that to the world. Once the Belgian riders have to travel more than 100k to the start of the race, we will see what happens.”
With the penultimate round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup, the action picked up from its usual place in the Benelux area and moved to Italy. This brought about a whole new set of circumstances for the racers to tangle with. The cloudy skies, slick mud slides, steep off-camber pitches and smoking Belgian fans were nowhere to be found.
In their stead, the racers had to deal with things like sunshine, a straight, fast course and the roaring of Italian fans. The race took place in the Roman Hippodrome, a fully-fledged horse racing track with ancient ruins across the street. It made for a spectacular and very apt setting to watch this somewhat different breed of jockeys hustle on their steeds.
The Women of Team Rapha-FOCUS
Four of the five women racers of Team Rapha-FOCUS were in attendance yesterday and they put in a great showing with this truly international crowd. This race was the perfect tune up, weather and speed-wise, for the impending National Championship races that these women will face this coming weekend.
When they head back to their respective countries Jasmin Achermann (Switzerland), Gabby Day (Britain), Julie Krasniak (France) and Sabrina Schweizer (Germany) will face off against their compatriots as they attempt to bring home their respective National Champions jerseys. Team Rapha-FOCUS have a truly international team with their women racers.
Jasmin, (15th) Gabby (22nd) and Julie (11th) all put in fantastic efforts on a racecourse that could be said to closely mirror the upcoming UCI World Championship race in Louisville, Kentucky on February 2. It was clear that this was a bit of a surprise to some of the racers who spend the majority of their season on Eurpean soils where the racing is more about mud and foul weather than sunshine and speedy courses.
However, the racers that have been spending time in the U.S. — especially with the USGP of Cyclocross including 2nd and 3rd place finishers Katie Compton and Katerina Nash, the Italian course played well to their strong suits.
And Fontana proved the above statement to be true by putting in what won the most aggressive ride of the day on his home course. Working his way through the entirety of the field Fontana earned himself the final spot on the podium for the day in the Elite Men’s Race. A race that saw the UCI World Cup leader Sven Nys finish in 20th. How’s that for mixing things up a bit? Fontana was unclear as to whether or not he would be racing at Worlds, citing his team’s desire for him to continue his mountain bike preparation. But, then again, maybe this World Cup final will show them that the world stage needs this sort of excitement.