Riding is Life


Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado races for the win at the World Cup CX round in Troyes, France.

Cyclocross Gallery: Fast tracks in Troyes

Puck's back, but can anyone stop Ceylin's streak?

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 19.11.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Fall and winter weekends here in Colorado often start with a ritual of sorts: grind the beans, pour the water and, while the coffee brews, fire up GCN+ for some cyclocross over breakfast. But as I opened the laptop on Saturday, I felt something other than my usual eagerness for another weekend of start grids and pit stops: a sense I can only describe as anticipatory grief.

This last week was, of course, when the shocking news arrived that GCN+ will shut down soon – a month from today, in fact – taking with it the sport’s broadest and best, most-accessible, high-quality source of live streaming coverage. Along with the more-than-100 people who have reportedly lost their jobs, the demise of GCN+ will reverberate through many corners of the sport. World Cup mountain bike racing, long found for free on Red Bull TV, moved to GCN+ this year. The UCI Champions League track events are on GCN+, as are many smaller, more niche road races like Tro Bro Leon or Giro dell’Emilia that make up in quality and originality what they lack in exposure.

Perhaps no part of the sport will be more deeply affected than women’s road racing. GCN+ has, since its launch in 2020, broadcast more women’s racing than any other platform, and its “Upcoming Races” tab features women’s events at equal billing alongside men’s. Women’s WorldTour events are required to provide minimum broadcast coverage, and GCN+’s coming shutdown may make it harder for those races to satisfy that requirement, and for fans – especially outside Europe – to find coverage when it does exist.

But the blow will be felt first in cyclocross. GCN+ will go dark on Tuesday, December 19, right at the start of cyclocross’ beloved “Kerstperiode,” the packed slate of holiday racing from December 22-January 1: three World Cup rounds – Antwerp, Gavere, and Hulst; two of the best courses in the Superprestige series – Heusden-Zolder and the night ‘cross at Diegem with its massive crowds, klieg lights, and narrow, gritty course carved into the town center; the races at Mol and Loenhout; and the New Year’s Day celebration of the Grand Prix Sven Nys.

The Namur World Cup, December 17, is our goodbye party: it will be the last race shown live on GCN+. My race-watching ritual will continue after that, but amid the uncertainty of what will replace it outside of the Eurosport region, it will undoubtedly change, especially in the short term as we time-travel back to the bad old days of hunting for a stable feed.

In the meantime, these precious few weeks ahead offer some final chances to appreciate what GCN+ has brought us these last few years, and a small hope that perhaps something, whether from owner Warner Bros. Discovery or another party, will pick up the torch.

Racing this weekend was a tale of two tracks: mud in Merksplas at the Superprestige round and mostly hero dirt in Troyes for the French stop on the World Cup series. In the men’s race at Merksplas, Baloise-Trek Lions saw a win from its fourth different rider of the season already, while on the women’s side, for all the interest in the return of riders like Lucinda Brand and Puck Pieterse, it’s Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado who’s on a hot streak with four straight wins, including a weekend sweep.

Full results are available at First Cycling.

Sanne Cant races in the sand pit at the Superprestige round in Merksplas.
Former World Champion Sanne Cant has had a relatively quiet start to the season, but her form is rounding into shape the past few weeks with a series of top-10s, including 9th at Merksplas.
18-year-old Nette Coppens runs her bike in the sand pit at the Superprestige Merksplas round.
On the other side of the age spectrum, Nette Coppens is just 18 years old but is in her second season of CX racing. On a hard course, she was the last rider to finish on the lead lap.
Annemarie Worst shoulders her bike while running in the sand pit.
We haven’t talked much about her this season, but Annemarie Worst is absolutely a threat; outside of DNFing at the European Championships, she’s finished in the top 10 in all but one of her races this season.
Marion Norbert Riberolle cleans mud off her jersey to point to the Crelan-Corendon logo as she crosses the line for third place.
Marion Norbert Riberolle had the presence of mind to salute her sponsor with her third-place finish, her career-best in a C1 or higher race.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado gives a weary wave to the crowd as she wins Merksplas. Her head is down and she's absolutely covered in wet mud.
When you’re too tired to even give a full victory salute: Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado is soaked to the bone for her first victory of the weekend.
Toon Vandebosch leads a teammate through the course at Merksplas. The light is grey and cold, and he's covered in mud. The tip of a gel packet pokes out from underneath a short leg.
The men’s was an equally mucky affair for Toon Vandebosch and Co. We’re not sure if we’d eat that gel without a thorough cleaning, Toon.
Felipe Orts grimaces as he leans his bike for balance while riding in the sand pit. The sand is deep, almost up to his rear derailleur pulley cage.
Our favorite cyclocrossing Spaniard, Felipe Orts, gives it the old English in the sand pit, en route to 4th place.
Joris Nieuwenhuis offers a one-handed victory salute as he wins Superprestige Merksplas. His blue kit is covered in mud, logos unreadable, and his full beard is also full of mud up to around his eyes.
It was Joris Nieuwenhuis who rode clear for the win. Normally Nieuwenhuis is easily recognizable thanks to his full beard, but neither that nor his team affiliation (Baloise-Trek Lions, for the record) was readily noticeable.
Eli Iserbyt grimaces crosses the finish line. He too is covered in mud, and only his teeth, showing as he smiles or grimaces, are clean and white.
White teeth and almost nothing else for Eli Iserbyt, second on the day.
Gerben Kuypers wipes mud from his face with a towel handed to him by a woman. He holds a water bottle in front of his filthy, unzipped skinsuit.
Seriously, how many washing machines do you think these racers destroy a year? Gerben Kuypers contemplates warm, dry things.
Lucinda Brand and Puck Pieterse wait at the start line of the World Cup in Troyes. In contrast to Merksplas, it's sunny and dry, with warm late afternoon light. Their kits are conspicuously clean.
A much different scene on Sunday at the French round of the World Cup in Troyes. Puck Pieterse (right) picked the right event to come back after a break, while Lucinda Brand is rounding back into form after an injury layoff.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado warms up for Troyes. She's riding a bike on a trainer, with sunglasses and big over-the-ear headphones on.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado gets the eye of the tiger going in warmup. The 2020 World Champion is on the hottest of hot streaks right now.
Puck Pieterse hits a drop on the course at Troyes. She's photographed from above, looking down at her distinctive red-white-and-blue kit of Dutch national champion.
Pieterse didn’t waste much time getting back to her front-of-the-pack ways after a month off.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado rides up a small incline at Troyes. She's shown in the distance, amid large crowds in warm light, and no other racers are visible.
But it was World Cup series leader del Carmen Alvarado who rode away with things for the second win in as many days; not bad for a weekend’s work.
Ryan Kamp leans into the course tape in a corner. He's in full flight, with a small crucifix necklace dangling from his unzipped skinsuit.
Ryan Kamp is a notoriously fast starter, and on the grippy grass track in Troyes he went straight to the front for the hole shot.
Thibau Nys suitcases his bike up the stairs at Troyes. He's shown from behind, with bib number 13.
There’s been a lot of talk – maybe too much talk – about riders’ schedules, but Thibau Nys showed up at Troyes even as the UCI says it will “initiate reflection” on requiring riders to race World Cups.
Eli Iserbyt and Lars van der Haar fight the off-camber section to stay up right. Eli, in front, is slightly out of focus as he leans his bike into the hill, while Van der Haar, behind, is sharply in focus as he puts a foot down for balance.
Meanwhile, Nys’ teammate and World Cup leader Lars van der Haar laid down a hard attack to take a mid-race lead, but Eli Iserbyt fought back on the tricky off-cambers to make the catch and pass.
Iserbyt crosses the finish line to the confetti cannon, which shoots colorful paper out at him. He's smiling and his kit is much cleaner than yesterday.
Iserbyt soloed to victory while Nieuwenhuis, another rider who did the Merksplas-Troyes double, got third.
Timon Rüegg and Michael Boros throw their bikes to the line for a sprint for 10th. Both are at full extension as they battle to the line.
For all the talk of riders not valuing World Cups enough, we present Timon Rüegg and Michael Boros sprinting it out for 10th at Troyes (Rüegg got it).
Lucinda Brand receives flowers on the podium from a person in a mascot costume that looks to be a large red fox with white face and belly.
Last week, I made an unconscionable error in failing to properly recognize/ID a man dressed as Obelix (I am now brushing up on my French comic books). Can anyone enlighten me what’s going on here, other than Lucinda Brand looking happy that this cartoon fox mascot was considerate enough to bring her some flowers?

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