Your fast-track guide to the Cyclo-cross World Championships

Evie Richards training in Valkenberg.jpg

Condor’s uber cyclo-cross fan, Claire Beaumont, shares her indispensable guide to this weekend’s muddiest battle - the Cyclo-cross World Championships

The course
The city of Valkenberg in Holland hosts this year's Cyclo-cross World championships and the conditions look ripe for one serious mud-fest. Used for several UCI cyclocross events in the past, this won’t just be a test of who is the most fit, but who is prepared to take the most risk thanks to its long, treacherous descent, which turns from right to left and changes camber. There's a really long flight of stairs that the riders will have to repeatedly climb and a wickedly leg-burning climb called the Cauberg.  

Reports from the continent say it’s been raining non-stop, which suggests we’ll be treated to some serious slip-n-slide. The Dutch team coach Gerben De Knegt says, “It's still messy out there. Right now, some sections are blocked off because there would be no grass left otherwise.”

Importantly, being on the border between Belgium and Germany, this race is in prime cyclo-cross territory, so the crowds will be out n force.

Riders to watch

There is no clear favourite this year so expect an EPIC battle. However, here are a few favourites to keep your eyes peeled for.

Sanne Cant.jpg

Sanne Cant (BEL)
Belgian Sanne Cant is the current World Champion. She’s a quiet and subdued rider with all-round ability, but she's feisty on the bike, going from the gun and preferring to be at the front of the field. She’s been racing all season with several good results and can handle herself in technical conditions. If the course is unrideable, she may struggle with all the running, though.

Ellen Van Loy.jpg

Ellen Van Loy (BEL)
My dark-horse pick is 38-year-old Ellen Van Loy. The Belgian has pulled off several Top 10 finishes in the world cup races this season and age isn’t slowing her down.  She was 8th last year when the championships visited Bieles. 


Eva Lechner (ITALY)
It is a risk to pick an Italian for cyclo-cross. It’s not traditionally their sport and she’s a rider who hasn’t actually won a world cup race this season. That said, she’s been consistently up there in the top spots. She’s also a risk taker, which will be important on this course, tending to shine on technical courses.


Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRANCE)
Current French Champion and former World Champion, PFF (as she’s known), is clearly motivated to be back at the top. She’s an outside pick because she hasn’t done many cyclo-cross races this season, but she has taken three Top 5 results in recent races. She crashed last month when battling for the podium and left the race, so hopefully her injuries won’t have any impact on her race this weekend.

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Marianne Vos (NED)
When it comes to racing, no one should discount ‘Vos the Boss’. The multiple cross champion (she’s got seven titles!) has experience and talent on her side and is on home soil, which should give her an extra boost. Expect her to be mid pack at the start of the race, then start motoring her way up to podium spots later in the race. 

Some other names I'd add to the mix in rapid fire...

USA’s Katie Compton has come close several times to a rainbow jersey but she’s picked up mixed results of late. Britain’s Evie Richards is racing in the U23 category. She won the senior event before Christmas, crushing the opposition. Belgian Thalita de Jong  is back from a knee injury, has a seriously exotic name and world championship medal from 2016. Then there are a few favourite Brits in the senior race, who are always great to watch: the imperious rivals, Helen Wyman and Nikki Brammeier.

How long does it last?

Women’s racing is just over 40 minutes. The first rider over the line after 40 minutes is the winner and riders have to complete 4 to 5 laps in that time.

Follow it / Watch it

U23 Race – February 3rd – 12.00

Warm up with the U23 women’s race to get a feel for the course and action and look out for British talent, Evie Richards. She’s a former world champion, so get online and get backing her. Hit this link when the time comes.

Elite Women – February 3rd 14.00

Sadly, you won't be able to watch the elite women's race on the UCI YouTube channel as it’s only available on British Eurosport for UK viewers. Outside the UK, hit this link to watch for free.

Or, make an afternoon of it and head to one of these cycling Cafes to enjoy the action:

- Rapha Clubhouses - Soho & Manchester

- Look Mum No Hands - Old Street, London

- The Dynamo Cafe - Putney, London

- Rockets and Rascals - Poole

- Siempre Cafe - Glasgow

You can also follow the UCI’s dedicated feed, here. The hashtags you need to know about are #Limberg2018 and #cxworlds

Cross Lingo

Off Camber: A part of the course that slopes away from the rider. Camber can be found on corners, ascents and descents. Off-Camber can often make it hard to stay on the racing line.

Dismount: Getting off the bike to tackle an obstacle such as stairs, hurdles or unrideable mud

Hurdles: Also known as barriers. They are 40cm tall, the same for men and women.

The Pits: A place where riders can exchange their bike for a clean and declogged one

Double pits: A pit area set in the middle of the course that allows riders to visit twice each lap at two points in the race.

Shouldering: Carrying one's bike on the right shoulder with arm placed through the frame to stop the tyres getting clogged with mud or to clear an obstacle

Run ups: A steep back that cannot be ridden

Line: Often in cyclo-cross there are a few different options for where to cycle on the same bit of trail. Choosing the right 'line' is important, as hitting a root or rut at the wrong angle can bring you to a standstill or cause you to have a bit of a spill

Rut: This is a hole or a groove that’s worn into the surface by other riders’ tyres. Ruts usually develop on the racing line through a corner. If a rider guides their tyre correctly into and along the rut, it can be the fastest way round a bend. But go into it at the wrong angle and a rider can high-side or squeeze the brakes mid rut and you'll end up having a spill.

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