The big topic of conversation today in St Wendel, Germany was the conditions of the course, more precisely the icy ruts that developed overnight. How will they affect the outcome of the Cyclocross World Championships where four rainbow jerseys will be awarded this weekend.
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The conditions. Cross racer Shaun Adamson (Cycle-Smart) is on hand in St Wendel to help out the Canadian Team and pre-rode the course both on Thursday and Friday.
Adamson had this to say about the course conditions, “I did a few laps on Thursday and a few laps on Friday. Both days were cold, but the course was completely different! It definitely wasn’t any easier though. Thursday sent us through quite a bit of mud, I was slip-sliding all over the place. You could just sit back and push through the mud and ride over the ruts in lots of places. It was a lot heavier course with grass and mud building up on my bike and my bike was just heavy after a few laps. I kept thinking how hard it was. The winner of the race would definitely be worthy!”
The conditions changed dramatically overnight, from sloppy, heavy mud to icy ruts. The ruts were considered dangerous and crews were brought in to shave a few sections down.
Adamson continued, “Today, the course was frozen! The ruts were pretty sketchy, I was bouncing all over the place. Some sections of the course got a lot faster with the ground being really hard. They made a few changes to the course, shaving off the ruts (which would have been pretty dangerous) one major descent, and opened up new lines on a muddy off-camber section and another sweeping descent. The two long drags are going to be hard, but I think it is really going to come down to the person who makes the least mistakes. It isn’t really technical, but there are lots of place to bobble or crash. I saw one Czech guy go right over the fence at one point and lots of people making little mistakes. The one part that I really want to see if things stay the same is the short, seemingly innocuous rutted section just coming off the track on the start. It doesn’t look like much, but with 50+ people fighting for it, it could be exciting.”
Weather predictions are calling for more of the same, freeze overnight with temperatures hovering around 32F/0C.
“It will be interesting to see the course and how it changes between now and all four races.” Adamson continued. “I think it could change a lot with people riding it, freezing temperatures, and maybe some sun. I wouldn’t be stressing about any one part until my last pre-ride. Again, I think it’s simply going to come down to whoever makes the least mistakes.”
One degree one way or another could make a world of difference, especially as sunny skies are called for. “If it stays like it is now it will favour a strong rider that has some speed and somebody that doesn’t lose focus. I would pick Stybar or Nys in conditions like today.” explained Adamson. “If it melts a bit it’s going to be interesting, the ruts could flatten out and it would be really fast, but just slick in the corners. Or it could make the ruts just really slippery and hard to ride. The softer it gets the deeper the ruts are going to get as well, which could change some lines and/or make for some pretty good crashes.”
The races. As in 2005, all the action will take place on the 2.8km course around the St Wendel sports center. Natural terrain makes up for 85% of the course with 65% of the course either going down or up.
Future stars toe the line on Saturday which brings the Junior Men and U23 Men races at 11am and 2pm CET respectively.
Will USA’s Katie Compton finally win the title after years of trying? She has focused on whole season on one day, in order to bring home the jersey. She will face stiff competition from German Hanka Kupfernagel who won the title in 2005 and defending world champion Marianne Vos of the Netherlands. The women start at 11am CET on Sunday.
Czech Zdenek Stybar is a favorite to win back to back titles on Sunday but he will face a very strong Belgian team with Sven Nys, Niels Albert and Kevin Pauwels. Will the Belgians work together? Also, a few are mentioning that an outsider might take the win, with Frenchman Francis Mourey’s name whispered in the same breath. Will US riders achieve the goal of breaking top 10 on Sunday? Elite Men start at 2pm CET.
So many questions. All will be known by Sunday evening.