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The UCI Cyclocross World Cup season begins this Sunday in Waterloo, Wisconsin, and on Friday a day of clinics, junior races, and elite races will serve as a warmup at the same loction at the Trek Bicycles headquarters.
While some of the top ‘crossers won’t be lining up for the men’s and women’s elite races Friday — opting to save their legs for the UCI race on Sunday — competition is still stacked, and racing promises to be tight.
Thursday saw rain showers off and on all day. By the end of the afternoon practice session, which allowed anyone racing throughout the weekend to preview the course, once grassy corners were muddy, and ruts were already forming.
Women’s Elite race
Forty-three women are on the start list for the 50-minute race, and among those on the start list are Katie Keough (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com), Madigan Munro (Trek Factory Racing), Tokyo Olympic mountain bike gold-medalist Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing), and veteran racer Kateřina Nash (Clif Pro Team).
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Keough is a Wisconsin native, so racing at the Trek CX cup may be a bit of a homecoming for her. She got her 2021-22 campaign started two weeks ago at the Rochester USCX stop, finishing in 10th, three minutes behind her teammate and second-place finisher Clara Honsinger, the current U.S. national champion. With some racing in her legs, and less jet lag to worry about than some of her competition, Keough will be looking for another top result.
Munro was on the podium at the UCI world championships in 2020 in her final year racing as a junior. In 2021, she was 11th place in the U23 category. After racing mountain bikes in Europe and in North America this year, she’ll be looking for the podium in Waterloo.
Neff’s reputation and palmares precede her for mountain bike racing, and she returns to the Trek CX Cup as the defending champion. The Tokyo Olympic gold medalist did not ‘cross things up much in 2020. However, in 2019, she won the GP Sven Nys, the CrossTour-Meilen, and the Swiss national championships. She went on to finish sixth at the 2019 worlds.
After a successful summer of racing, she should be on form to defend her title.
Nash, 43, has helped defined women’s cross racing for a generation. She was a racing pro before some of her competition were born, and she’s still at the front. She opened her 2021-22 season with a win last weekend at the Sacramento Cyclocross Race. At the 2020 UCI world championships she finished 11th.
Men’s Elite race
Fifty-three men are scheduled to be on the start line for the 60-minute race following the women’s event. While the men’s field does not have a newly-minted Olympic gold medalist starting, it should still prove to be exciting racing.
Thijs Aerts, the younger brother of Toon Aerts — both of whom race for the Baloise Trek Lions — will be rubbing elbows with racers from Aevolo, L39ion of LA, Trek Cyclocross Collective, and also Stephen Hyde (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing).
Hyde, the 2017 U.S. national champion, raced to a second and third-place finish two weeks ago in Rochester. Last weekend, he was third at the Charm City Cross. He’ll be eyeing up a podium position in Wisconsin.