‘Cross isn’t “coming.”
It’s already arrived.
The marquee cyclocross UCI World Cup series kicks off in Waterloo, Wisconsin, on Sunday as the road season recedes and the mud, ruts, and guts of ‘cross comes to the center.
Spain, snow, and all the old stalwarts
Like last year, the U.S. opens the show in the UCI’s prestigious World Cup series with a Waterloo-Fayetteville doubleheader, although last year’s round in Iowa is dropped for 2022-23.
This winter’s World Cup schedule sees the UCI pedaling old grooves while also finding furrows new.
Benidorm and Dublin are among the new entries in the 14-round calendar, while the snowy spectacle of Val di Sole is back after Wout van Aert and Fem van Empel topped the podium in a picture-postcard Sunday at the inaugural event last December.
Murmors resonated through the ‘cross community of a London leg for the coming season. Initial investigations by local organizers showed promise only for the hotly hyped race to fall through the UCI schedule.
Meanwhile, all the old classics remain. Tabor, Gavere, Overijse, and Besancon are back for the umpteenth time as ‘cross stays true to its central European roots.
Brand, Iserbyt begin title defense at Waterloo curtain-raiser
Travel costs caused many leading delegations to trim their teams for the trip to the U.S. this weekend.
Although defending champions Eli Iserbyt and Lucinda Brand are both raising the curtain on their World Cup seasons Sunday, the Netherlands and Belgium both reduced their rosters to protect threadbare budgets. Great Britain won’t be represented at all.
Brand and Iserbyt both already took victories this season and are front-runners for a 2022-23 title repeat as they place full focus on wide-tire racing.
Belgian racer Vincent Baestaens and his Dutch partner Marianne Worst have been plowing a furrow through the early U.S. schedule and are expected to shine all season long. Denise Betsema, Michael Vanthourenhout, Lars van der Haar and 20-year-old ace Puck Pieterse are other riders to watch through the World Cup calendar.
Toon Aerts was at the front of the pack through the World Cup, Superprestige and X20 series last winter but was booted by Baloise Trek Lions for returning a positive dope test. The Belgian is currently “wait and see” as the UCI considers his case.
U.S. champions Clara Honsinger and Eric Brunner enjoyed hot starts to the autumn and will kickstart their World Cup runs Sunday.
So where are Pidcock, Vos, Van der Poel, Van Aert?
Some of cycling’s top names are likely to be missing more than just a trip ‘Stateside this CX season. Cross-discipline A-listers Wout van Aert, Marianne Vos, Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel all have questionmarks over their cyclocross calendars.
Van Aert hung out in Wollongong after racing the road worlds last month and is deep in off-season mode.
The Belgian last year started his cyclocross season late as he prioritized road training and reaped the rewards with a focused calendar that delivered nine victories in 10 races. Van Aert is still chasing Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders trophies and so could tread a similar path focused on the World Cup while steering past other CX leagues.
The story’s similar for defending ‘cross world champion Pidcock.
The Brit ended his season early with fatigue and is reportedly mulling a reduced cyclocross calendar for the coming winter. A long season of racing over three disciplines in 2022 saw Pidcock press pause ahead of time and he’s now reconsidering his racing for 2023.
Even a rainbow jersey defense is uncertain as Pidcock toys prioritizing the closely following “opening weekend” of the classics.
Defending women’s champ Vos is also off the bike and on the couch. Her ‘cross calendar remains unclear but a reduced calendar similar to her 2021-22 season is on the cards.
And what of the under-scrutiny Van der Poel?
The Dutchman races gravel worlds with Alpecin-Deceuninck this weekend but his early plans to push hard in the ‘cross winter are on the wire. His controversial altercation with two teenage girls at road worlds last month sees Alpecin-Deceuninck circling wagons to decide what next for its team captain and his schedule remains uncertain.
2022-23 World Cup schedule
- 9 OCT 2022: Waterloo (USA)
- 16 OCT 2022: Fayetteville (USA)
- 23 OCT 2022: Tabor (CZE)
- 30 OCT 2022: Maasmechelen (BEL)
- 13 NOV 2022: Beekse Bergen (NED)
- 20 NOV 2022: Overijse (BEL)
- 27 NOV 2022: Hulst (NED)
- 4 DEC 2022: Anvers (BEL)
- 11 DEC 2022: Dublin (IRL)
- 17 DEC 2022: Val di Sole (ITA)
- 26 DEC 2022: Gavere (BEL)
- 8 JAN 2023: Zonhoven (BEL)
- 22 JAN 2023: Benidorn (ESP)
- 29 JAN 2023: Besancon (FRA)
- **World Championships: 3-5 FEB 2023: Hoogerheide (NED)**