Besides the tools of the trade and the inherent patterns of racing, there aren’t a great number of parallels between cyclocross and events like the Tour de France. However, like so much of cycling, the CX calendar takes the riders and their diehard fans all over the place, offering not just varying terrains and challenges, but new cultural sights to explore.
Sure, there’s a lot less time available for David Millar or [insert commentator of your choice] to trot out French château information, not to mention the significant lack of variation after the first 5-10 minutes as the riders enter lap two, but there’s nearly always something to tickle the curiosity, even if that just means typing the name of a wintery industrial Belgian town into Google.
Quite often there’s not much to be learned besides a lengthy relationship with cyclocross, but this weekend’s visits to Boom and Flamanville have offered more-than-usually picturesque racing against a backdrop of at-least quite interesting culture and/or history.
First was Saturday’s Superprestige round and a now traditional annual visit to the De Schorre park in Boom, Belgium, home to Tomorrowland, one of the world’s most famous music festivals, and seven striking giant trolls designed by Danish artist Thomas Dambo. It was bitterly cold, but unlike some parts of northern Europe was untouched by snow, and the sun’s ageing rays made for stunning scenes as the afternoon wore on.
Not everyone chose to make the trip over to Flamanville on the French Cotentin Peninsula – the unstoppable Fem van Empel joined a sick Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado on the non-starters list for the World Cup’s sixth round – but you might argue that’s a good thing, setting up some attritional racing in the loose French mud.
While Van Empel remains seemingly peerless among the elite women, the men’s field has laid on some pretty thrilling racing most weekends so far this season. But that’s all about to change (probably), with Wout van Aert set to make his first appearance at Exact Cross in Emmen next weekend, and Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel rejoining the field on 16 and 22 December respectively. Brace yourselves …