The cyclocross World Cup race in Rome last year was a fairly uninspiring affair. The course was one of the most boring of the season and the spectator turnout was very low. Only the wonderful sunshine did sweeten the deal. I remember, at that point, we had endured almost two months of constant rain and cold and mud and the sun, combined with 15 degrees was all too wonderful.
Not this year. The course remained fairly unexciting but with all the rain that had been falling before and during the race, it became a classic cross mud fest. The racing was also excellent. The battle between Marianne Vos and Katie Compton is not one-sided anymore, Compton has proved third time this year, that she can beat Vos fair and square. While it would be too early to dismiss Vos, I think Compton has the best chance in the last three or four years to win the Worlds. Whatever happens, it will be a magnificent battle.
The elite men’s race was equally spectacular. The early attacks from Martin Bina and Philipp Walsleben were reeled in quickly and Niels Albert pulled away fairly early in the race, so it seemed the race was over. Far from it. It was fascinating to see how Lars van der Haar and Sven Nys were moving up, after both having bad starts.
The weather has also contributed to the spectacle, sunshine was alternating with strong winds and pounding rain. As the mud covered the riders, layer after layer, they started to resemble oil rig workers, minutes after containing an oil spill.
At the end, Albert ended up winning the race with having only 20 seconds on van der Haar, who was graciously allowed to grab points for a second place finish by Nys, who sat up a few meters before the finish.
The women’s overall is now settled, Katie Compton is the overall winner, however, Nikki Harris has to make sure in Nommay that she holds on to her second place in the overall ranking. The men’s race is still open, though van der Haar has to finish way down in Nommay to lose the overall title.
This race concludes the busiest two weeks of the season, seven races over 16 days. On to the Nationals on Sunday, and then the build-up to the Worlds starts. It’s only four weeks away now.