Cyclocross racers face a tough task
Arkansas is about to become, for a few days at least, the center of the cyclocross world.
The Walmart UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships begin Friday in Fayetteville and end January 30. This is only the second time the World Championships have been held in the United States, following the 2013 edition in Louisville, Ky.
Cyclocross – or as we prefer, cyclocross – is a form of bicycle racing that takes place on short off-road courses with natural and man-made obstacles. The story goes that the sport originated in Europe in the early 1900s as a way for road runners to stay in shape during the winter.
Watching a skilled cyclocross racer navigate a muddy and dangerous course is a thing of beauty. Riders are not only extremely fast on their bikes, they are also able to quickly dismount to push or carry their bikes over portions of the circuit before getting back on and pedaling.
Cyclocross is also one of the most spectator-friendly forms of cycling disciplines. Races last from around 40 minutes to around an hour, and fans can line up the course to get a view as the riders perform laps.
More than 300 cyclists and national teams from around the world will compete on Fayetteville’s 2-mile Centennial Park course, which features a steep uphill segment and a long staircase (yes, a staircase because it’s cyclocross). The US national team will have 38 runners, including Clara Honsinger of Portland, Oregon. Honsinger is sixth in the elite Women’s International Cycling Union standings and is the first American. She finished third in the World Cup held at the Fayetteville course in October.
Not racing Dutchman and four-time world champion Mathieu van der Poel, who is recovering from a back injury. Three-time world champion Wout Van Aert, who is staying at home in Belgium to prepare for the road racing season, isn’t lining up either.
The race has also felt the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, as Belgium and the Netherlands send smaller teams to Fayetteville, according to cyclingnews.com.
Still, reigning women’s world champion Lucinda Brand makes the trip with a team of eight Dutch teammates. Among them will be seven-time cyclo-cross world champion and current Dutch national champion Marianne Vos, one of the most successful female cyclists of all time.
On the men’s side, the absence of Van Aert and defending champion van der Poel will allow riders like Tom Pidcock of Great Britain, Belgian Toon Aerts and Lars van der Haar of the Netherlands to try for the title and the chance to wear the world champion’s jersey for next year.
Ticket information and a schedule of events are available at cyclocrossfayettevillear2022.com.
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