Overnight snow and rain is expected to worsen the conditions for Sunday’s World Cup cyclocross in Dublin, Ireland, with deep mud and alternating with compact frozen sectors to make for demanding but spectacular racing as Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse clash in the women’s race and then Tom Pidcock and Wout van Aert take on the cyclocross specialists in the men’s race.
More than 5,000 spectators are expected to watch the racing as the cyclocross World Cup continues to expand outside of its traditional heartlands of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Snow fell on the three-kilometre course on the Sport Ireland campus in Abbotstown on Thursday night, and freezing fog has meant temperatures have remained below or close to zero.
Conditions are expected to be similar for the Sunday afternoon races but racing and training on the course means the racing lines in some sectors have become waterlogged and very muddy.
Cycling Ireland published a video on social media of one especially wet and muddy sector after domestic races were held on the course. The freezing temperatures could harden parts of the course but are unlikely to stop the race being a battle of survival, with the best runners likely to emerge and fight for victory.
The bad weather also made travelling to Dublin difficult for some riders. 143 flights in and out of the Irish capital were cancelled on Friday and a further 50 flights were cancelled on Saturday as a consequence. That delayed Laurens Sweeck’s flight from Brussels, according to Het Laatste Nieuws, while Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammates Eli Iserbyt and Michael Vanthourenhout were delayed even longer as they tried to fly from Alicante in Spain.
Belgium’s Jens Adams is the only rider to race at Essen on Saturday with plans to dash to Dublin on a late flight to also compete on Sunday. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Belgian national coach Sven Vanthourenhout were due to fly to Dublin on Saturday and so Van Aert may only get to study the course on Sunday morning.
Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) leads the World Cup standings for elite men and Vanthourenhout also races well in the mud but the race is still expected to be a battle between World Champion Pidcock and Van Aert. Mathieu van der Poel is absent as he attends an Alpecin-Deceuninck training camp in Spain.
Van Aert kicked off his cyclocross season with second place in Antwerp last weekend and will surely be favoured on the muddy course, when running will be a far bigger factor.
However, Pidcock has an Irish agent and his coach Kurt Bogaerts was previously Irish national road coach, giving him extra motivation. He arrived in time to train on the muddy course on Saturday but seemed shocked by the cold.
“I’m taking it as my home race this year. It’d be nice to win but Wout is going to be there so… let’s see,” Pidcock told the Irish Independent recently.
World Cup leader Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and rival Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) are the favourites for the women’s race after their recent duels thus far. Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) are absent but Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers) is back racing.
The elite women’s race is scheduled to start at 13:40 CET, with the elite men’s race scheduled for 15:10 CET. Cyclingnews will have full race reports, news and interviews from both races.
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It’s getting muddy out there 😮The men and women’s race is in full swing 🤩@SportIreCampus pic.twitter.com/1Ukq15WfVbDecember 10, 2022