The leaves have begun to fall and the road season is wrapping up, so now is the time when cycling fans turn their attention to the travelling circus that is cyclo-cross. The acrobats of the off-road world will start their season of flat-out, max heart rate, barrier bunny hopping, skittering down off-camber muddy descents, powering through sand and clambering across steep run-ups with the first major race taking place in Wisconsin this weekend, the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Waterloo.
There are several major international series in cyclo-cross – the Superprestige and X2O Trophy in Belgium, USA Cycling’s Pro CX calendar along with the USCX, the Toi Toi Cup in the Czech Republic, the National Trophy Series in Great Britain, and Coupe de France. Still, the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup carries the most prestige and, importantly, points for Worlds.
There are 14 World Cups this season, the first two in the USA, and branching out from the heart of ‘cross in Belgium and the Netherlands into the Czech Republic, Italy, Ireland, France and Spain.
The UCI expanded the Cyclo-cross World Cup in 2020, but because the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled most of the events that season, the true impact of nearly doubling the number of rounds was only felt in 2021-2022 when there were 16 World Cups, compared with nine in 2019. Riders complained bitterly about the huge amount of travel and the cost of dragging their entourage and equipment to a new venue every weekend of the season.
It was a test of patience and endurance, won last season by Eli Iserbyt and Lucinda Brand. Iserbyt won seven of the 15 races (Antwerp was cancelled) starting with a victory in a rain-slicked course in Waterloo and bookending the series with an equally treacherous Hoogerheide round. Brand claimed six of the 15 in an equally dominant season.
Riders to watch
Because of the travel costs, the fields are not as strong for Waterloo in 2022 as they were last season, when the European riders arrived in numbers to preview the World Championship course in Arkansas, racing in Waterloo and Iowa to maximize their travel. This year is different and Iowa is gone, but the top names are still expected to be on the start line, with Iserbyt and Brand kicking off their title defences.
Iserbyt is joined by Pauwels Sauces-Bingoal teammate Michael Vanthourenhout in the Belgian team for Waterloo. The pair have already established their dominance in Belgium, trading the top two spots at UCI C2 races in Kruibeke, Beringen and Meulebeke and are undoubtedly the top riders to watch in the men’s field.
Thibaut Nys will lead the Baloise Trek team’s charge along with Lars van der Haar. Last year, Nys crashed on the rain-slick pavement and broke his collarbone but will be looking for a better result this time. Niels Vandeputte, winner of an early race in Bensheim, and Vincent Baestaens, winner of five USCX races this year, will test themselves against their compatriots, while Curtis White leads the US contingent along with national champion Eric Brunner.
The women’s race will undoubtedly be the domain of the Dutch team, with Brand the main contender along with Fem Van Empel, Denise Betsema and Annemarie Worst, who has won four US races this season. The field will be missing last year’s winner Marianne Vos but Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado returns to the US after her fourth place at Worlds last season. For the North American riders, US champion Clara Honsinger leads a strong contingent.
How to watch
The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Waterloo will be streamed live on GCN+ to subscribers in Europe (excluding Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy and Belgium). Access in the UK will set you back £39.99 for a year.
FloBikes (opens in new tab) are showing the race in the USA and Canada. Subscribing to FloBikes costs $30 per month or $150 for the year, and gives you access to watch most of the season’s biggest races.
The Cyclo-cross World Cup will be broadcast live around Europe and the rest of the world – you can find out how to watch the race wherever you are with our handy guide and with ExpressVPN (opens in new tab).
The opening World Cup takes place on property adjacent to Trek Bikes’ headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin, and as one of the pioneer brands of cyclo-cross bikes, the company have influenced a course that is demanding and tests all of the riders’ skills.
There are short, steep run-ups, twisting tracks through the woods, off-camber sections and the ground gets very slippery when wet. The weather forecast looks mild and dry for 2022, however, making for a hard, fast race.
2022-2023 UCI World Cup calendar
- Waterloo – 9 October
- Fayetteville – 16 October
- Tabor – 23 October
- Maasmechelen – 30 October
- (break for Euros)
- Beekse Bergen – 13 November
- Overijse – 20 November
- Hulst – 27 November
- Antwerp – 4 December
- Dublin – 11 December
- Val di Sole – 17 December
- Gavere – 26 December
- Zonhoven – 8 January 2023
- Benidorm – 22 January 2023
- Besançon – 29 January 2023