Today’s race got me thinking: are we seeing real, profound change in cyclocross or were last two races just some kind of a weird discrepancy, a blip on the Belgian-dominated radar? Of course, the season has just started, it’s too early to make any kind of predictions, but the fact that the last three World Cup races have been won by non-Belgians might indicate that the tide could be turning.
Lars van der Haar could easily be the next Sven Nys, he seems to be the first young rider, who has managed to survive the transition into the ranks of the elite men. Philip Walsleben used to be a similarly dominant rider in the U23 ranks, only to become almost invisible for years – but this season he seems to be on fire. Then there is Martin Bina and I could carry on, but if you take a quick look at the top 20, you’ll only find five Belgians. And no one knows how the top Americans would have fared on a fast and dry course like this.
An interesting question is what this might mean for the sport. In the short term – nothing. In the longer run? Who knows? Will van der Haar’s successes ignite the Dutch cross scene, will more money appear in the form of sponsors? How about other countries? Sven Nys’ retirement is only a year or two away – will the races in Belgium attract enough people to make the organisers and sponsors investment worth its while? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, I’m just enjoying the fact that the races are exciting and open again, that the question is not whether Albert or Nys will stand on the top of the podium, though the season has just started, so Nys and Albert might just find their legs and get back into the habit winning nearly everything. But this is going to be one fun season.
And while the 2013/2014 season is gaining momentum, you can still buy my photo book about the 2012/2013 cyclocross season.