The cyclo-cross World Cup series holds significant prestige in the cycling world, yet it seems that some of the sport’s leading figures are increasingly willing to bypass World Cup weekends. UCI honcho Peter Van den Abeele has observed this trend with a degree of dismay, conveying to Sporza his concern that if the World Cup is treated merely as a plaything, then the sport as a whole faces a serious problem.
Several top riders, including names like Lars van der Haar and Thibau Nys, have opted out of completing the whole World Cup calendar. While Van der Haar has decided to drop the World Cup classification following his victory in Maasmechelen, and Nys has chosen the Superprestige event in Niel over the World Cup in Dendermonde, female cyclo-cross stars such as Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse are also not fully committed to the World Cup races. Many top riders on the women’s side won’t be doing full seasons – the likes of Shirin van Anrooij, Marianne Vos and others won’t be riding much this CX season.
Van den Abeele has expressed respect for riders who declare they need rest. However, his concern grows when these athletes favour other competitions at the expense of the World Cup. He questions the rationale behind such decisions, especially when the World Cup offers unrivalled prize money in the discipline, suggesting there might be underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Recognising that criticism should not only be directed at the riders, Van den Abeele admits that self-reflection is also necessary within the UCI. As for potential changes to the current structure, Van den Abeele is considering several adjustments. He ponders whether World Cup performances should yield more points, or if the series should be condensed into a shorter timeframe to ensure participation from all top riders, perhaps from December to the weekend before the World Championships.
The urgency to address these matters is apparent in Van den Abeele’s stance. He is keen to discuss these issues promptly with Flanders Classics, the organisation responsible for the World Cup, and other key figures in the cyclo-cross community. His aim is to have the proposed changes expedited and approved by the time of the World Championships in Tábor, scheduled for early February, with the hope of implementing these changes in the following season.
Main photo credit: Cor Vos