The Cyclocross World Championships

The world championships kick off this weekend in Belgium, the one event that everyone looks forward to all year long. Sure, the mountain bike worlds is a big deal, as is the version that happens on the track. Even the road equivalent seems to get fans excited. But cyclocross is happening right here, right now. Up for grabs, a set of precious rainbow-colored stripes emblazoned on the iconic white skinsuit that every elite cyclocross racer dreams of stepping into this weekend.

U23 Race: – Saturday – 6am (Pacific Standard Time) – ProCyclingLive

The U23 race is going to be worth watching. Why? Well, one reason is that our very own Zach McDonald is going to be racing. His not one, but two awe-inspiring rides from the US National Championships this year in Madison, Wisconsin have made him one to watch not only this season, but for many seasons to come.

photo by Tom Robertson

The U23 race is where Elite champions are forged. For proof, rewind to the U23 world championships of 2007 and take a look at the start list. There were three key racers that year, each of whom went on to become an Elite world champion. The 2007 winner was Lars Boom, who won the Elite race the following year. Second place went to the babyfaced Belgian, Niels Albert, who, after another year in the U23s (which he won), went on to win the Elite race in 2009. Fourth-place finisher in 2007? None other than current Elite world champion Zdenek Stybar. This really is is where the rising stars of the sport are to be found. Over to you, Zach.

Elite Women: Sunday – 2am (Pacific Standard Time) – ProCyclingLive

The women’s race is going to be just as interesting. US champion Katie Compton has plenty of experience of the legendary Koksijde course (check out CX magazine’s feature, Koksijde: Reliving 42 Years of Cyclocross in the Sand Dunes. She has won on this course before but when it comes to the world championships Katie has never quite been able to put it together. This is in stark contrast to her victories in World Cup events, such as her win in Hoogherheide recently. We’re also looking for big things from Meredith Miller, the next US lady to cross the line in Hoogherheide, where she came 12th. Little Katie Anntonneau could also excel in the sand thanks to her tiny frame and huge power output.

Elite Men: Sunday – 6am (Pacific Standard Time) – ProCyclingLive

Pre-race: Jeremy Powers’ Koksijde Course Preview

The Elite Men’s race is the big one, a chance to see how Jeremy Powers and Chris Jones fare against seasoned international rivals. Only 12 short months from now we will be watching these guys race the world championships on their home soil. See our Cross Continents feature for a preview of the Louisville course which, earlier today, was officially christened as next year’s worlds venue.

So, what’s going to happen? No idea but this is going to be the race to watch (after you have finished watching the U23s and the women, of course.) Why? Because of the sand. Because of the running. Because, as has become increasingly apparent throughout the 2011/12 season, Belgium’s Kevin Pauwels wants to win bike races. It will be interesting to see how Sven Nys and Stybar respond to what has become his trademark, controlling races from the front. Best of luck to those Rapha-FOCUS riders representing the US, and to all the other racers from around the world.

Also, thanks to Adam Myerson for pointing to this video from 2007’s world championship race. Watch it and see what he means when he tweets: “Seriously, every time I watch it, I still think @thejonathanpage is going to win. Can barely handle it.” Watch the video here of the Last 15 minutes of the 2007 world championships. If that doesn’t get your patriotic blood pumping for Sunday morning, nothing will.

Wondering what’s happened to Julie Krasniak, the French rider who has enjoyed an extremely successful first season of racing cyclocross with Rapha-FOCUS? Sadly, Julie will be the only Rapha-FOCUS rider not wearing national colours this weekend. Instead, she is looking ahead to next season, when she has big plans to improve on her best placings this year (15th at the World Cup and 8th in the French national championships) and earn a spot representing France in Louisville.