With the waning embers of the road cycling season flickering out, cyclocross takes centre stage, infusing the sporting world with muddy thrills and spills. The 2023/24 UCI Cyclocross World Cup is set to ignite tomorrow at Trek Bicycles’ international HQ in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
Course manager Scott Daubert promises a battlefield meshed with meadows, woodland stretches, and draining ascents. Of note are the Trek Factory Hill and a trio of tactically-placed bridges. With a recent loop addition at the hill’s base and a deluge of torrential rain, this circuit screams brutality.
Eli Iserbyt: A three-time winner at Waterloo and Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal’s crown jewel, Iserbyt is a cyclocross tactician. His forte in navigating muddy labyrinths and hurdle-jumping is renowned. However, the presence of burgeoning talents raises a conundrum: Can Iserbyt adapt to fresh threats while retaining his tactical edge?
Thibau Nys: Fresh from a spectacular win at Beringen, this young gun from Baloise Trek Lions packs a punch. Known for rocket-fuelled starts and keeping the pedal to the metal, Nys has the makings of a future legend. His debut on Waterloo’s complex circuit, however, will be his litmus test.
Michael Vanthourenhout: A seasoned veteran with multiple titles, Vanthourenhout’s analytical prowess shines in his race conduct. Adept at turning rivals’ flaws into his own stepping stones, his racing IQ could be his ticket to podium glory in Waterloo.
Lars van der Haar: Flying the Trek flag on home turf, van der Haar mingles raw emotion with refined technique. His audacious tactics and brisk accelerations aren’t just for show; they’re part of a comprehensive plan to bring glory to the home team.
Niels Vandeputte: This Belgian cyclocrosser is no pushover. With a balanced skill set that tackles ascents, mud, and descents with equal vigour, Vandeputte’s adaptable racecraft may just throw a spanner in the works for the favourites.
Fem van Empel: At just 22, van Empel already boasts a world champion title and arrives in scintillating form. Her win at Beringen wasn’t a fluke but a showcase of her explosive sprints and technical agility. She pairs youthful zest with veteran wisdom, a combo hard to beat.
Puck Pieterse: A recent Cross Country World Cup win catapulted Pieterse into the limelight. Her ability to strategically dissect courses could be her trump card in Waterloo’s convoluted race terrain.
Shirin van Anrooij: This Canadian wildcard is a force of untamed energy. Famed for her daredevil starts and relentless chase, van Anrooij could throw off the rhythm of the race, carving out an opening for a shock win.
Zoe Backstedt: A burgeoning talent, Backstedt’s knack for deep efforts and late-race surges are her unique selling points. In a field laden with experience, she’s the disruptor in the mix.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado: The Dutch rider brings a proven track record and unwavering focus. With a skill set tailored for cyclocross—be it sprints, hurdles or mud—Alvarado is one to keep an eye on.
Broadcasting and Schedule
For UK fans, Eurosport/GCN kicks off its live coverage at 19:40 BST. Women’s Elite races begin at 18:40 BST, followed by the Men’s Elite at 20:10 BST.
Forecast: Mud, Mud and More Mud
Recent rains have turned the course into a swampy cauldron, forcing riders to adapt both strategies and expectations.
To sum up, the Waterloo opener offers an incendiary mix of tactical genius, youthful audacity, and muddy warfare. While Iserbyt and van Empel are the pundits’ picks, the treacherous conditions could shake up the leaderboard, ensuring a spectacle that’s anyone’s game. Strap in for a cyclocross masterclass.