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Wow. The video feed doesn’t do justice to the brutality of theCyclocross World Championships course in Koksijde can be under certain conditions. Wednesday morning, with many of you following along on @podium_live, I walked the course to see it first hand. Brutal. Yes, there are the two sand dunes which the course traverses three times – twice for one and a single time for the second one – but there are a lot more sandy sections, uphill, downhill, off camber, all over the course.
Let’s talk conditions first. Back in November for the World Cup, the sand was dry as a bone making it impossible to ride through the longer sections, forcing riders off their bikes to run in ankle-deep loose sand. Well, the sand is now wet after days of rain and packed down so the elites were able to ride the first sand dune during practice yesterday, after figuring out which line to take. But it is now sunny, and the locals are expecting – or maybe that’s wishing – for drier conditions which will dry out the sand. We’ll keep an eye on it.
Okay, onto the course. The start/finish is on a paved road on the military base, straight no problems. The first difficulty comes soon after the right-hand turn holeshot, the first little climb, or kicker, which is sandy and narrower. Immediately down in the sand onto paved section where a small gap could be pushed. A few seconds could be lost here.
Onto wooded section which was muddy on Wednesday morning with a few off-camber turns which hid some gnarly roots. A few more turns to the wide double-pit where both the pit and race lanes are bumpy, being able to choose the right pit box could be important for some.
A right turn out of the pit brings up to the first dune, named after 1994 World Champion Paul Herygers. It’s a gradual uphill, off-camber slog to a right turn and then gradual downhill. Riders were practicing their lines on Thursday, some never able to ride the whole thing.
Time for the first time up the double fly-over and then into dirt and muddy section to more pavement to open up the gas before a quick succession of two sandy run-ups with a drop in between. The course then meanders around a kids playground going from grass/mud to pavement back to grass – the gas will be hit here. Then another sandy runup with an abrupt drop back to flyover and the second time on the Herygers dune.
Back through the pit, another kicker and a pavement to try and garner speed before the second dune, called X-dune. The dune will be named after the winner of the Elite Men’s race on Sunday. The dune starts off with a steep runup and continues to go up gradually until a run turn and a descent, back up and then steep descent onto muddy grass.
Then final push to the pavement, right hand turn and short sprint to finish line.
Check out training ride videos from Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and Christian Heule (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) who each took a lap with an on-bike camera on Wednesday afternoon: Powers video, Heule video.