Britain’s best cyclo-cross riders will line-up for the world championships in Koksijde, Belgium this weekend.
National champions, Ian Field and Helen Wyman, will lead men’s and women’s teams boasting the cream of UK talent, including Jody Crawforth, Paul Oldham, Gaby Day, Nikki Harris, and Annie Last.
Speaking to RoadCyclingUK today (27), just two days before the race, Field confirmed his condition as “all good” and said he was looking forward to racing on a course he had learned to love.
“I’m feeling ok. I rode the course this afternoon. It’s pretty similar to the World Cup round I rode last November. I was 22nd then in a race that’s pretty much a dress rehearsal for this [the world championships].
“It’s a course I like now. When I first came here, I hated it. It’s just so hard, both physically and technically. When I first rode here, it was my first ride in the elite category after the under 23s.
“Riding here is a fine art. It’s predominantly a sand course. If you come out of the line, you need so much power to keep riding, and getting off and running is equally hard on the legs,” he said.
Field told RoadCyclingUK he was targeting a top 30 finish, and hoped to crack the top 25. He said his ride at last weekend’s closing round of the season-long UCI World Cup had confirmed his ambitions.
“I was twenty-seventh in the World Cup last week, which is not far off the top 25, which is where I want to be. Hopefully, I’ll get to the start and find I have the legs!” he said.
Field’s team mates on the Great Britain men’s squad, Paul Oldham and Jody Crawforth, both told RoadCyclingUK they were targeting top 30 finishes in interviews earlier this month.
Helen Wyman finished sixth in last Sunday’s closing round of the UCI World Cup and said she felt confident in her earlier stated goal of a podium finish.
“The top five is something I would be happy with and the podium is something I’m aiming for,” she said. Constantly changing conditions on Koksijde’s challenging sandy surface made riding a constant challenge, said Wyman, who, like Field, has ridden the course in preparation for the race.
“One week we came here and it was pure power, another week it was technique. It depends on the weather between now and then,” she said.
Wyman predicted that the race would be won by the rider who made the fewest mistakes.
“If you make mistake in the sand, you lose quite a lot of time. The riders who get on the podium will be those who make the least mistakes. If you drop your head, you will make more mistakes. Sand is a very special thing,” she said.
Defending champion, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, has been in imperious form recently, and her victory in the final round of the UCI World Cup last week will have sent an ominous message to her rivals.
Zdenek Stybar, the defending men’s champion, told a press conference earlier today he was fully prepared for what will be an attempt to win a record third consecutive world title.
“Winning the World Championship three times in a row is a dream. Not many riders have done it. I’m highly motivated. I don’t want to dwell on this; first and foremost I want to think about running a flawless race and I hope to be in the right place at the right time,” he said.
The Czech described the seven-man Belgium team, which includes Sven Nys and the newly-crowned champion of the season-long UCI World Cup, Kevin Pauwels, as “fearsome” and said they would be the team to beat. The riders are expected to race before a crowd of up to 40,000, a prospect Stybar said would be “thrilling” and “inspiring”
Check back on Monday (30) for results.