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Cyclocross

‘Snow joke: Blanket snow on tap for cyclocross World Cup’s return to Val di Sole this weekend

Mathieu van der Poel, Fem van Empel, Eli Iserbyt and Co. on course for frozen conditions and deep snow at 1,300m ski town.

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It’s going to be a chilly one for the leading names of the cyclocross pack Saturday.

The UCI Cyclocross World Cup returns to the 1,300m elevation Val di Sole ski resort this weekend, and just like last year, it will be greeted by a full blanket of snow.

Race officials this week shared spectacular images of snowy peaks and coated rooftops surrounding the in-construction course on tap for Saturday’s race.

“Cyclocross meets snow,” reads a message from the UCI cyclocross World Cup. “What a beautiful match.”

The Val di Sole circuit made its debut last season to huge hype and stunning scenes as the UCI took its series to new terrain in the bid to scoop new fans and make cyclocross’ claim for inclusion in the Winter Olympics.

Wout van Aert and Fem van Empel slipped and skidded to memorable victories in difficult low light on an undulating course covered in hard-packed snow and ice.

Gallery: Val di Sole sees spectacular ‘cross debut

“Last year’s success demonstrates that Val di Sole has the potential to become a real fixture in the World Cup calendar, a new classic,” World Cup and Flanders Classics chief Tomas Van den Spiegel said after a recent visit to the Italian resort.

“We are confident that we will see a great show of public once again, this time also with fans from Belgium and the Netherlands traveling over, without last year’s restrictions.”

The 10th round of the winter’s premier ‘cross competition is set to see Van Empel, Mathieu van der Poel, Eli Iserbyt, Puck Pieterse, and Laurens Sweeck at the top of organizers’ snow-dusted start lists Saturday.

Tom Pidcock, Marianne Vos, and Van Aert are all in warmer Spanish terrain with their team’s road training camps.

“As soon as I saw that it fit into my calendar, I didn’t hesitate to add this World Cup to my program,” Van der Poel said. “After all, I have good memories of Val di Sole. I won the MTB World Cup there in 2019 and was already on the podium a year earlier.

“I am delighted to be able to race ‘cross in Val di Sole now as well. Last year I saw the race on TV and I was absolutely thrilled with the course. Even though it’s been a long time since I raced on snow, a surface like this must suit me. I’m really looking forward to it.”

If Saturday’s racing produces as many thrills and spills as that of last winter, we’ve all got something to be looking forward to.