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Cliché as it may be, Friday definitely felt like the calm before the storm, even more so with the sun shining on the Cyclocross Worlds Course in Koksijde, Belgium. The final day of open pre-ride before the racing starts on Saturday offered up time for the racers to try out their tire pressure and their legs in the sand, and for the fans to enjoy watching the training for free before the madness starts. And madness it is going to be, all tickets have been pre-sold for Sunday, which means over 40,000 fans, mostly Belgians, will be massed in the venue with easy access to multiple beer tents. Madness.
The Cannondale-cyclocrossword.com team, CalGiant trio of Meredith Miller, Cody Kaiser and Tobin Ortenblad, USA Cross Champion Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off Road Team), and the four riders of the Canadian team made their way to the venue early on Friday morning, while the skies were still gray and more rain fell. By early afternoon, the sun was out and more riders were on the course, including Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt), Caroline Mani, Yannick Eckmann (Pearl Izumi), Katerina Nash (Luna), British Champion Helen Wyman (Kona), USA Cross Champion Jeremy Powers, USA U23 Cross Champion Zach McDonald and their Rapha-Focus teammate Chris Jones. It was the second time, ever, on the course for Nash who has never raced in Koksijde while Jones had arrived the night before from his homebase in Spain. Knees injured from that violent crash at the start of the Hoogerheide World Cup, Mani was having trouble walking but said she will still start the race on Sunday. (see photos from Friday)
The sun had started to dry out the sand and it should continue to dry with no major rainfall expected, but some drizzle will probably fall. Will that be enough to really change the conditions? Time will tell.
After doing between 10 to 15 laps at full speed on Thursday, and switching his tire pressure a few times, two-time World Champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) did not train on the course but instead held a press conference on Friday. He stated, “I feel ready for the race, I’ve been training as I should have and I’ve had an excellent approach to the race until now. I’m not feeling the pressure of the race, I’m pretty relaxed. Last week I also worked a lot on a mental level to prepare for the race and this week I’ve tried to relax and finish preparing. I’m calm and confident for the race.”
With a very good knowledge of the course, Belgian Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) has not ridden the course this week, choosing to say at home. He is expected to pre-ride for about 20 minutes on Saturday. According to Belgian media, local Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) spent four weeks earlier this season training on the course.
The pit boxes were assigned for all the four races. For both the Elite Men and Women races, the USA will be in box 14 while Canada is sharing box 3 with Austria. In the U23 race, USA will be in box 12 and in box 4 for the Men Junior while Canada will be in box 9 for both the U23 and Junior races. The pit and race lanes are bumpy and could cause some issues to some riders.
Though everyone thinks of sand when talking about the Koksijde race, there are ‘only’ 815 meters of sand per 2930-meter lap according to the organizers. Of course, those 815 meters can make or break a rider’s legs. The holeshot is 280 meters into the lap while the dash from start to finish line is 140 meters.
A mandatory briefing was held for the photographers on Friday afternoon where the all important colored bibs were distributed. With such a tight course and unbelievable crowds, the photographers will only be allowed ‘on course’ in four areas: one in the Herygers dune, two on the descent down X-dune and the finish line. That’s it. And by on course, they mean a cordoned-off area not really on course but in front of spectators. Any other photo will have to be made from behind the barriers, which will be pretty much impossible with the expected crowds. With limited spots, the organizers divided the 118 photographers into three groups: yellow bibs, red bibs and green bibs. Yellow have full access to all photo spots, red get access to all photo spots but have to be in grandstand behind yellow bibs at the finish, and then green only have access to finish grandstand. All bibs get access to podium area.
Friday continued with the Louisville 2013 presentation for the media and VIPs. Information for the Cyclocross World Championships to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, were presented and well received by the packed house. A nice touch was giving a glass of Kentucky bourbon to all to raise in celebration.
Reminder: all the action will be live on @podium_live
- Saturday 28 Jan. 11am CET (2am PT, 5am ET) : Juniors
- Saturday 28 Jan. 3pm CET (6am PT, 9am ET): U23
- Sunday 29 Jan. 11am CET (2am PT, 5am ET): Women
- Sunday 29 Jan. 3pm CET (6am PT, 9am ET): Men