2013 is shaping up to be quite a year in cycling and endurance sports. There are no shortages of great story lines, product releases, and epic races poised to play out while we all watch. Believe it or not, early season racing is already getting started down under, and the pedal-to-the-metal mud-fests that are cyclocross are about to culminate at a fever pitch in the next few weeks. A 2013 Buyer’s Guide from Velonews arrived this weekend at the shop, a harbinger of all the great tech innovations this year will offer. So divide and conquer we must. There is simply too much to cover in one epic post. We’ll start with the race calendar.
The perennial season opener, the Santos Tour Down Under will get underway in less than a week’s time! It’s hard to believe. I feel like just two days ago we were wrapping up a thrilling 2012 campaign. Australia’s biggest annual cycling event, the Tour Down Under is a great bench test to see who is really going well for the beginning of the season.
|GreedEdge is looking for a strong start at the Tour Down Under.|
The six-day stage race has become the must-see for early season racing, becoming a prize in its own right, rather than simply a warm-up for the coming season. There will be riders gunning to take early wins before everyone gets up to speed for the real meat and potatoes of the season that comes later. Look for the Aussies to do well on home soil.
|Luke Durbridge at the recent Australian National Championships|
Green-Edge will be expected to have a strong showing—and they should. They are bringing a strong line up that features last year’s winner Simon Gerrans, newly crowned double Australian national champ Luke Durbridge, and 2011 Milan-San Remo champ Matt Goss, as well as veteran Stuart O’Grady—who is somehow still racing (this year he will turn 40).
The race will also be a mark to see who has good early season sprinting legs. Not all teams have announced their rosters for the race, but expect some big name riders like Tyler Farrar, Andre Greipel, and the aforementioned Matt Goss to battle for early season stage wins.
Switching from sunny Australia to Louisville in February, the UCI Cyclocross World Championships will be the next big event on the map. Making its first appearance ever on American soil, this race is a must see for anyone who is curious to see what all this cyclocross hype is about. Die-hard fans, like our own mechanic Mark D’Avino, will be making the trip to Louisville to see the race, as it is pretty rare to see a race of this stature in America—especially in a sport that is utterly dominated by Europeans (specifically Belgians).
|A grassy stair section of the Louisville course.|
There are no two ways about it; Cyclocross is fun to watch. The sport seems made for TV. One-hour long hammer fests through some of the craziest conditions winter can throw at you. Who wouldn’t love to see the sport’s best suffer through that? You know I’ll be watching.
The ‘cross season so far has been riveting. Sven Nys has been dominant, even at the age of 36—winning 3 world cup races, 4 races in the Superprestige, 2 in the BPost Bank Trophy series, and 5 other victories. Not bad for a guy racing against guys as many as 14 years his junior. Regardless of the track and weather conditions, I think Nys has to be the favorite. Don’t expect a blowout though. Nys has battled throughout the season with current world champion Niels Albert, and teammates Kevin Pauwels and newly crowned Belgian national champion Klaas Vantornout. Vantornout recently bested Nys for the Belgian national championship—a jersey that Nys had donned in 2012.
Americans like Jonathan Page, Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, and Ryan Trebon will no doubt be gunning for a strong showing on their home turf. These guys are superstars when they race domestically, but the racing overseas is simply on another level. Jonathan Page is the only one of the group who lives and races most of the season in Belgium, and he recently won the American national championship in Wisconsin. He has also previously podiumed in Cyclocross Worlds in 2002. To me, he is the American with the best shot at a good showing. Johnson, Trebon, and Powers all have huge fan followings, and will no doubt be the belles of the ball for those in attendance, but I fear they are long-shots to actually make some noise in the race. I hope, though, that they prove me wrong.
Then comes the real protein in the racing season, as everyone’s spring classics campaign will be in full swing. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be ridden on Feb. 23rd and will kick off what is hopefully a spring classics season that rivals the excitement of 2012.
|The Belgian cobbles of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad|
But that’s a long way off, or at least it seems that way for now. We’ll have plenty to say of the spring classics as they approach. It is, after all, my favorite time of the racing season. But I think I’ve given you enough to watch out for until then. Check back next week as we look at the tech innovations that will change the way you ride in 2013…