It’s the Cyclocross World Championships! And 2017 has probably the biggest field of possible winners ever – it’s going to be a fantastic race, and such luxury that we can watch it live. I asked Marianne Vos, Sophie de Boer and Christine Majerus some questions about the race, and you can read what they said.
Vos is going for her eighth World title! Listen to her talk, or read the transcript below:
ProWomensCycling: We’re coming up to the 2017 Cyclocross World Championships – how are you feeling?
Marianne Vos: Good! Getting ready, of course. The last weeks have been good, racing wise, so that’s nice for getting some confidence before Worlds. It’s a new race, and I’m very, very happy to be one of the contenders for Worlds.
PWC: Obviously you had a terrible year last year, and you couldn’t race Worlds – how does it feel to be back?
MV: Well, it’s only six weeks since my first race back, and back then it all felt new again, but after a couple of races, it felt like I’d never been away from cyclocross. So I missed the season, but I felt welcome and at ease after a couple of races. And now it’s just another season, and I’m preparing for Worlds like I’ve never missed one.
PWC: Did you expect to win two World Cups, when you came back this season?
MV: I had no idea what to expect. I felt good in preparation for the season, so I knew if it would carry on that well, I knew I would be able to go for some top finishes, and maybe for some podium places, but it’s always hard to say where you are in a field that’s growing, and getting stronger and stronger. But of course, I’m really excited about how it went in the last couple of weeks.
PWC: You were only in your new WM3 Procycling team jersey before you won your fifth Dutch national champion’s jersey – but you said on twitter after Nationals that it had felt like the first time you’d won it.
MV: For me, a National Championships is something that’s always special, and I always look forward to these races. I felt good, and I wanted to do well. Last year, when I was out, I still had hope, and some confidence that I could come back, but you can never be sure.
When I won that title, it was a really special feeling, and I was very excited to take the red, white and blue.
PWC: Crossing the line, you looked so emotional – and I think a lot of fans felt very emotional for you too. Is that one of those moments you’ll always remember?
MV: I think so, yes. That was a special moment. I could enjoy the moment during the race – it was a course that suited me really well, and the race was near my home, so it was a home crowd as well, and that made it very special. I really enjoyed the race, and then crossing the line – that’s a memory I’ll never forget.
PWC: It’s been a very special season for fans, because we’ve been able to watch all the big women’s races – all the SuperPrestige, all the IJsboerke Trophy, all the World Cups. Did you ever think we’d be in this situation, where people could watch every women’s cyclocross race?
MV: Well, of course I had the feeling that it was getting better and better, but this step has been taken very, very fast, maybe faster than I could have expected, but it’s great. I think Belgian media made a huge push forward, also lead by the UCI – and Helen Wyman. Let’s give her credit for this, because she worked really hard for this.
And also credit to the girls who are racing, because the races are very, very exciting, and that’s what the fans want. And now sponsors get some value for money, and this will only get better.
PWC: So, Worlds. You haven’t seen the Luxembourg course yet, but what do you know about it?
MV: I’ve only seen it on video so far, and what we see is that it’s going to be technical, a pretty difficult course. Not so many high metres, but a lot of up and down, and with the off-camber, it will be really, really tricky. And the temperatures will rise to the weekend, so I think it will be muddy and slippery. So it’s going to be exciting to watch, and you never know what will happen. World Championships are always something special, but I guess the best riders will end up in the front, as it’s hard and technical.
PWC: You like technical courses, don’t you?
MV: Actually, for me it doesn’t really matter what kind of course it is, I just love that it’s difficult, and you have to deal with the circumstances. But I don’t really mind technical, and I think I’m ready for a course like that.
PWC: I feel like the fields in cyclocross are getting better and better every year, and there are so many riders who could do well – but who are you mostly going to be looking at?
MV: Of course, you have to beat them all to win, so I’m not really looking at someone in particular! But I’ve seen Lucinda Brand doing really, really well, and of course she’s also a Dutchie, so it’s nice to have some orange in the front, and I hope we can help each other there.
But I expect Katerina Nash to do really well. She had some troubles in Hoogerheide, in a crash, like Eva Lechner as well. And of course Sanne Cant is hunting for the World title year after year, and she’ll be ready. And as I think it’s going to be more muddy, because of the higher temperatures, Sophie de Boer will be ready too.
And then again, we have some more names: Katie Compton was not quite up there yet, in Hoogerheide, but she also had a flat tyre and a crash. With her different preparation to other years, she’s fresh and focused for Worlds.
PWC: You also have riders like Nikki Harris and Helen Wyman, who aren’t at their best because of injuries this season – and poor Thalita de Jong, not being able to ride after her Hoogerheide crash – that must be heart-breaking for her.
MV: Yeah it is. I saw her riding in the first lap at Hoogerheide. She’d had some troubles at the start of the year, changing teams, and she lost some confidence, but I’m sure she was ready for Worlds, and for Hoogerheide, her home race, so it’s definitely heart-breaking not to be able to defend the title.
It’s always hard to miss a Championship, but even more when you have to watch a Championship where you were to defend your title. It’s difficult, and she’ll have to deal with it – and she’ll be back for the road season, and next year in ‘cross, but it will be hard for her to watch on Saturday.
PWC: Do you feel a lot of pressure to come back and win the rainbows stripes? Or has having the year out of cyclocross, and coming back late in the season, mean you’ll just be happy to do as well as you can?
MV: Well, of course I’ll try my best, but I don’t really feel a lot of pressure. I want to do well, and I’ll really go for it, but it’s not that I feel I have to. I feel really grateful to be back, and in this shape, and to be able to go for the title, so that’s more the state I’m in than any pressure from outside. The pressure will be internal motivation to take the rainbow jersey.
PWC: It’s going to be an amazing race! So, for people who haven’t watched cyclocross before, and are thinking of watching – why should they watch Worlds? What will they like about cyclocross, if they’ve never seen it before?
MV: It’s a great sport to watch – it’s short, it’s intense, something’s happening all the time. We have many riders who can win, or go for the podium, so it will be really exciting to watch. And the more you watch, the more interesting it gets! So I’d say try to watch as much as possible, so you’ll know the riders’ skills, technique and tactics, and it’ll get more interesting. But for sure, Worlds will be great.
Follow Marianne Vos on her website, twitter, facebook and instagram – and read this great recent interview with her about her new team, and 2017 ambitions, on Ella Cycling Tips. And watch her win the final round of the 2016/7 World Cup, in Hoogerheide:
Sophie de Boer has had her strongest season yet, winning the first round of the 2016/7 Cyclocross World Cup, CrossVegas, and going on to win the overall title.
ProWomensCycling: Congratulations on winning the 2016/7 World Cup! Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Sophie de Boer: After winning CrossVegas and getting second place in Valkenburg, I had a quite comfortable lead on points at the start of the season, so that made me very motivated to focus on the World Cups to ensure the overall win. I think it shows the progression I have made this year – I’m more consistent compared to previous years.
PWC: You’ve struggled with sickness over the winter – are you back to 100%?
SdB: After the Namur World Cup, I got ill. So that was a bit unfortunate, because I was in great shape. After the Nationals in January, I started training again, and did some hard training sessions with the efforts of racing – I hope it is enough to be back in great shape tomorrow. I’m feeling good at the moment so looking forward to race.
PWC: Apart from you, of course, who do you think are the favourites?
SdB: I think Vos is the main favourite, but a World Championship is always a different race. Some riders will do better than expected and some will do less well. I think Vos, Nash, Lechner, Compton and Cant are the favourites for the podium because – from what I’ve heard- it’s quite technical, so therefore cross specific technique is required.
PWC: You’ve got yourself a brand new team set-up that seems really exciting – can you tell us a bit about it?
SdB: Breepark is the name of the new team. It’s an indoor and outdoor event location in Breda that will officially open in September this year. The owner, Henry Martens, of Breepark wanted to be part in woman’s cycling as the sport keeps on growing and of course to promote his new gigantic project! He set up a team that helped me find perfect sponsors in Colnago and Rapha. I’ve always worked with SRAM and Zipp and was happy to continue this.
The team gives me a lot of motivation, inspiration and support. The team wants to set women cycling to a higher standard and make it more professional, so they also help me with marketing communication as with financial matters. It’s really professional.
PWC: If people aren’t already cyclocross fans, why should they tune into Saturday’s race?
SdB: I think it’s very exciting to watch because its very unpredictable, within a few minutes the results can change if riders crash, for instance. Even the course is changing during the race. I really think that about 8 riders could make the podium tomorrow so it will be very interesting to watch.
Christine Majerus is the local star, racing CX and road for Boels Dolmans.
PWC: How are you feeling, coming into Cyclocross Worlds at the weekend?
Christine Mejerus: I’m feeling good. The last races went pretty ok, so I think I can be confident.
PWC: What are your hopes for World Championships this year?
CM: I want to do better then the years before where I twice finished ninth twice. If I can do as well as my best World Cup result in Namur, I would take it.
PWC: What do you think of the course? Are there any bits that especially suit you – and any that you’re worried about?
CM: It is a technical lap especially with the snow on it, but also physically hard, with lots of small efforts. I hope to be completely fresh on Saturday and 100% physically. If so, I think it’s a lap I can handle well.
PWC: Who do you think are the race favourites?
CM: Marianne is the favorite. As for the rest, it is an open race. Lots of riders won this winter, which made an exciting season, and it will be as exciting at Worlds.
PWC: If there are cycling fans who’ve never watched CX before, why should they watch Saturday’s race? What’s the best thing about the sport?
CM: It’s fun, action packed, unpredictable and an honest discipline. There is no hiding, the best will win.
PWC: What does it mean to you, having Worlds on home soil?
CM: It’s great to finally have a big event at home, and I am grateful it is happening in my discipline. I did everything I could to have a great winter and to promote cyclocross in Luxemburg to make sure people are interested in our sport, and come and watch this weekend. I really hope it will be a success and stay in the books of Luxemburh sport history.
Christine is raising funds for the Kim Kirchen Foundation by selling a limited edition T-shirt over the World Championships – find out more here. Follow Christine on her website and twitter, read her interview promoting Worlds on the UCI website, and you can also read the Boels previews with Christine and with Nikki Harris – and watch them both talk about cyclocross on this excellent Specialized video:
The U23 and the Elite women’s 2017 Cyclocross World Championships will both be streamed live on the UCI YouTube on Saturday 28th January – and there’s more information about how to watch and follow them live here.