We’re getting closer and closer to the 2016 Cyclocross World Championships at Zolder, and I’ve been asking riders what they’re thinking about the race. Part 1 was Q&As from Marianne Vos, Helen Wyman and British u23 Hannah Peyton; Part 3 has Ellen van Loy and Åsa Erlandsson, along with a selection of other pre-race media; and in this post, I get answers from winner of the last CX World Cup, Sophie de Boer, Dutch champion Thalita de Jong and Australian Champion Lisa Jacobs, with a preview video from Canadians Ruby West and Maggie Coles-Lyster.
Don’t forget, if you want to watch the races as they happen this weekend, or learn more about them, even the men’s races (do men race bikes too?) I’ve got a guide here.
After a difficult start, Sophie de Boer is already having a fantastic 2016, having won the Soudal Classics Leuven race, and then last week, her first ever CX World Cup in Hoogerheide. One of the super-strong Dutch ‘Cross contingent, she races for Kalas-NNOF in the mud.
ProWomensCycling: How are you feeling?
Sophie de Boer: I’m feeling good and looking forwards to Saturday.
PWC: You had a bit of a difficult season, but it seems 2016 has been wonderful so far, with your win in Leuven, and better yet, your first ever World Cup win! Can you tell us a little bit more about the season, and how it turned round for you?
SdB: The start of the season was a major disappointment. I trained really hard this summer and I got ill immediately when I went to CrossVegas. I got a respiratory infection, and due to the jetlag and traveling, my recovery took more than 3 weeks. So I missed all the races in October and when I started racing again, all the other girls were in really good shape, so I couldn’t really expect to race for the win immediately.
However my races weren’t that bad at all – in my second race, Niel, I finished 4th and after that, at the Koksijde World Cup, I finished in the top 5, so I knew that it was just a matter of patience / time. So in November I focused on training, and I thought I just want to be in a really good shape in the end of December and January. And I think that worked out well with my win in Leuven and last week. I’m feeling really good at the moment so I hope I can finish my season really strongly (also after the worlds).
I think I can say I also grew a lot this season, especially regarding to self confidence and enjoying racing. Midway through October I felt so miserable and I thought I could not even race this season and just a few months later I won a World Cup, so I’m happy I continued training and kept positive … 🙂
PWC: What did it feel like, winning at Hoogerheide – a World Cup, and on home soil! What does it mean to you, winning a World Cup?
SdB: It was really special! Lots of friends came to support me, and it was very special to win in front of them. I liked the course and I felt really strong, so I’m really happy that for once everything fell into place. Every year I want to improve, and last year I won three races and had a lot of podiums, over 15 I think. So missing the first 1.5 month of races made it really hard to improve that but with this win last Sunday, I feel I still improved compared to last year, because I’d never won a World Cup before. It gives me confidence that I’m still growing, and it keeps me really motivated. I trained hard in November / December and therefore not all the results in other races were great, but I’m happy that now I have the shape I wanted to have at the right moment.
PWC: Is Zolder a course you like? Can you tell us what riding it is like?
SdB: I think Zolder is a difficult race to win. I think a lot of girls are able to win. You need to be strong and smart as well. So it’s hard to speculate.
I like the course but I prefer a slower, more muddy course. Zolder is fast with a lot of technical sections. At the technical sections it’s better to ride in the front, but there are also a few long road/ hard sections where it’s better to ride between the wheels.
PWC: Apart from you, who do you think will do well this year?
SdB: Women: Cant, van Looy, De Jong, Harris, Mani , Compton, Lechner.
Elite men: Van der Poel, van Aert, Van der Haar, Meeussen.
U23 men: Eli Iserbyt, Hermans and Nieuwenhuis.
PWC: What’s it like racing Worlds? And what have your best and worst Worlds memories been?
SdB: To me its always special, because on this day you feel your part of the Dutch squad, and for a few days you’re surrounded with all these people who worked towards one goal etc. But it’s also the race with the most expectations, most nerves etc, so it’s sometimes hard to enjoy. My best memories were Koksijde 2011 (7th) and my worst was Hoogerheide 2014 (DNF).
PWC: What’s next for you, after the CX season?
SdB: Holiday 😀 and I will do some road races this summer…
Follow Sophie with her website, twitter, instagram and facebook, and watch the full Leuven and Hoogerheide races. And if you want to know more about her, listen to my podcast interview with her from November 2014.
Thalita de Jong
De Boer’s Dutch team-mate is 22 year old Thalita de Jong, who was second behind her at Hoogerheide, her first World Cup podium. After a fantastic Road season with her team Rabo-Liv, De Jong has had her best CX season yet, becoming Dutch national champion. With Zolder being such a fast course, and De Jong having come 4th at the Zolder World Cup last month, she definitely starts as a rider to watch.
ProWomensCycling: It feels like you’ve had a fantastic season – but what has it been like for you?
Thalita de Jong: I started the season in October after the Team Time Trial Worlds in Richmond. I had made a programme with the races I thought were the ‘best’ for me. Not too technical races, and no races with too many difficulties. My technique on the bike is still not that perfect compared to the others.
For me it was an incredible season. During the recon of the Worldcup in Valkenburg I crashed. I had to go to the hospital and they had to stitch my knee. I couldn’t start the race the day after. So I had one week with no races, and maybe this was a ‘good’ situation as it meant I had more rest (after the road season).
Every race I rode, I learned more and more. I felt I was going better and better. I also did some Category 2 races, and I won 4 of those races (Ardooie, Contern, Bredene and Pétagne). Then I rode 4 races in 1 week during the Christmas period, so had a good race ‘weekend’. After that some rest and then the Nationals.
That was a great race. I rode the whole race on the front and I also raced ‘tactical’. I won and was really happy. After the Nationals I went to Guardamar for a training camp with RaboLiv. Did some good training and after the camp I raced in (almost my hometown), World Cup Hoogerheide. It was not the best course for me, but I came 2nd. So the shape is good!!
I have learned a lot this season and I am happy to see that it is going better and better.
PWC: The Dutch National CX Championships is one of the hardest National Champs to win – what does it feel like to wear that jersey?
TdJ: Amazing, really cool! I can race the whole season in Red-White-Blue. It is a feeling I can’t describe 🙂 It’s COOL!
PWC: And then you got your first CX World Cup podium at Hoogerheide – your local race! How was that?
After a training camp with RaboLiv on the road in Guardamar (Spain) I was looking forward to the race in Hoogerheide. It is a nice and heavy course. Because of the rain it became heavier and more technical. So it wasn’t the best race circumstances for me, but really cool that my physical condition was really good and I could do a good race.
PWC: How are you feeling about Worlds at Zolder? Do you like the course?
TdJ: I am looking forward to the race in Heusden-Zolder. Today I did the recon of the course. Also in December 2015 we had already the World Cup over there. I was 4th there after a ‘shit’ start.
I like the course, a lot of straight roads and not to many technical parts in it. Ideal for me. But I need a good feeling that day and everything has to be perfect.
PWC: Does being 4th at the Zolder World Cup must give you confidence going into the race?
TdJ: Of course, it gives me confidence. But it is a new race day again. New feelings, new circumstances. So a new race.
PWC: You ride both CX and the Road, and had a great season too last year. What do you like best about CX and Road – and is there one you prefer most?
TdJ: That is a difficult question. On the road you are together with your teammates for the whole year. You race together and train sometimes together. In CX it is individual. So also nice to do after a road season. You can do your ‘own’ thing.
Road: I like being together with teammates racing and doing things. You see a lot of the world.
CX: Individually: nice to do your own thing. Nice to go in the forest and have a lot of fun. Focus and the severe preparations each day.
TdJ: Not that much. In the winter we don’t see each other. Only at the training camp in Guardamar last week. But we did road training.
It’s not that strange. They weren’t in the CX for the whole season. So every race has already been without them. But there are absolutely more podium chances without them.
PWC: Marianne has a great photo of you and Demi volunteering at Hoogerheide in 2010, and now you are her team-mate, and one of the riders to watch at Worlds. When that photo was taken, would you have believed that 5 years later you would be one of the main riders to watch at the World Championships?
TdJ: 2 years ago, when I did the Worlds CX in Hoogerheide I showed her the picture. She found it really nice to see. It was nice to see that she was posting the Photo on social media. She is not only busy with herself, but also with other people, that is so nice about her.
When it was taken I did not believe that I, 5 years later, would be standing in this ‘situation ‘. Among the cyclocross racers 🙂
Find out more about Thalita, and her cyclist sister Demi, on their supporters’ site – and follow Thalita on her twitter – and there’s an interview with her about Worlds in Dutch on the Rabo-Liv website.
I was a super-fan of Lisa Jacobs, back when she was a road rider with the best blog in cycling, and now she’s converted to ‘cross, she’s just gone up in my estimation! When she’s not working as a lawyer, she’s riding for Rapha-Focus Australia, and as an Aussie, she literally has to come halfway round the world to race, as the sport is very new Down Under – but that means she was able to be the first ever Australian CX Champion.
ProWomensCycling: What do you think of the Zolder World Championships course?
Lisa Jacobs: I really like the course. It’s fast and interesting, and will suit a lot more of the international riders than a pure mud, Belgian/Dutch-style course. The flyovers and elevation make it great for spectators and there’s something for everyone – some fast open sections, some technical descents, and some really rutted corners where it will pay to take the right line.
PWC: Is it strange, racing it so soon after the Zolder World Cup? Or is that good for you?
LJ: I’m glad there was a World Cup on the Zolder course, because for someone like me it’s a good opportunity to get the right training in. Coming from Australia, we have a long way to come and because of my work I can only make one trip, so I was happy they were close together.
PWC: How’s your season been? What have been the highlights or lows?
LJ: I’ve had a 6 week race block here and it’s been mixed. I’ve enjoyed the racing but things haven’t quite had things go to plan which has been frustrating, but that’s racing. I love Belgium, and a highlight has been hanging out with my awesome Belgian pit crew who are just fantastic. They always keep me laughing and make sure racing is fun. A lowlight has been getting sick right before worlds – I’ve held out for the whole trip and now I’ve gotten sick two days out!
PWC: What was it like, coming to Worlds for the first time?
LJ: Coming to Worlds for the first time was a huge adventure. Looking back, I am pretty proud of what we achieved on limited experience and race support. I have really fond memories of Hoogerheide and it marked the start of a really fun CX journey. Going into Worlds last time I spent a lot of time preparing for things I’d never experienced before – the mud, the standard of racing, the hype. This time I’m a lot more prepared for those things but the same level of excitement is there.
PWC: For people who’ve never watched CX, or CX Worlds, why should they watch this year?
LJ: CX is a unique discipline of cycling that’s very spectator-friendly. Unlike road cycling you don’t need to be an expert to appreciate the whole race – and the feats of athleticism you see in a cross race are quite extraordinary. Plus it’s so crazy, it just seems ridiculous to see professional riders all slogging it out in the mud and sand. You’ve got to see it to believe it!
PWC: Do you get support as an Aussie from the crowds? And will you have friends & family staying up late to watch on YouTube?
LJ: The crowds are always encouraging, which has been great. I’ve got a few Aussie friends who are now living on this side of the world and who are making the trip to Zolder to cheer, which will be pretty special. And there will be a few sleep-deprived people back home as well – a 3pm race start in Zolder means a 1am race in Australia! The support from back home is great – I couldn’t ask for a more encouraging group than the Aussie CX community. And I have a few friends in USA who will be watching too – it’s very special.
You can find out lots more about Lisa on her great website, where her blog lives now, twitter and instagram. And if you want to know more Lisa, I’m going to be interviewing her on Monday, so if there are any question you’d like me to ask her, let me know in the comments, or on twitter!
Ruby West and Maggie Coles-Lyster
There might be another Q&A before the race, so check back for more! And as always, chat with me about the racing on twitter – big thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters, who fund me to do this kind of thing – click through if you’d like to join them, from as little as £1.50/$2 a month!