This weekend brings one World Cup and five UCI races. For the second year in a row, the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup series kicks off in the Czech Republic, but this year, the first race is in Tábor, followed by Plzen next weekend. The venue is well-known to fans and racers alike as it was used to host the 2011 and 2010 UCI World Championships and will host Worlds again in 2015. (Watch a summary of last year's race)
Though the two biggest hometown favorites, Zdeněk Štybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Katerina Nash (Luna), will be starting, the racing is certain to be heated; to get a foothold in the series and to garner those all important UCI points. Now focusing on road racing, the two-time cyclo-cross world champion Štybar will be starting his shortened cross season in December. After a full mountain bike season which included racing to 14th place at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Nash is recovering at home.
Belgium comes in with the biggest team in the elite men's race with nine registered riders including last year's overall winner Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor). Taking on the 28 year-old defending champion will be the 26 year-old World Champion from Belgium, Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and the 36 year-old Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony). Back in 2009,Nys took his last of seven overall wins in the World Cup. Others to watch include two-time under23 world champion Lars van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant) of the Netherlands, Francis Mourey (FDJ-Big Mat) of France and Radomir Simunek (BKCP -Powerplus) leading an eight-rider Czech team.
The first big test for the Americans. It is well known that the fight will be heated to get on the team for the 2013 World Championships which will be held in Louisville, KY. But some, such as USA Champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) are also looking at the starting position for that fateful day in February. After decisively all the five C1 races in the United States, Powers is going into the race with a stated goal of finishing fifth, all in the plan to finish on the front row. Tim Johnson (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) and Jonathan Page will also be starting for the USA.
After Dutch Daphny van den Brand recently ended her cycling career, it's clear there will be a new winner of the UCI World Cup in the Women's category. Riders to watch include Dutch Sanne van Paassen (Rabobank Women Cycling Team) French Champion Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (BH - SR Suntour- Peisey Vallandry), Great Britain Champion Helen Wyman (Kona) and Belgian champion Sanne Cant (Veldritacademie Enertherm-BKCP).
Eight-time and reigning USA Champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) has also named the World Cup overall as a goal for her this season, along with the rainbow jersey. Joining Compton on the American team are her young protegée Kaitie Antonneau (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com), Amy Dombroski (Young Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team), Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob's Red Mill) and Christine Vardaros (Baboco Cycling Team).
Tábor also hosts two World Cup races for the junior men and under-23 men. Mike Teunissen (The Netherlands), Wietse Bosmans (Belgium), Julian Alaphilippe (France) and Zach McDonald (USA) are expected to go well in the Men Under 23 category. Americans Cody Kaiser (CalGiant/Specialized) will be joining McDonald in the race. World Champion Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands) is the top favorite in the Junior Men race which also includes seven-time USA national champion Logan Owen and Curtis White.
Along with the World Cup in the Czech Republic, five UCI category 2 races will also take place in the United States and Luxembourg this weekend.
Downeast Cyclocross in New Gloucester, Maine offers up the third and fourth rounds of the Verge New England Cyclo-cross series where racers will face a demanding and newly redesigned course. Only twenty miles from Portland, this weekend of racing will allow New England's best talent and emerging stars to shine through for two UCI Category 2 races on a famously technical course surrounded by the spectator-friendly Pineland Farm, offering racers, their families, and fans plenty of food, beverages, and activities in scenic rural Maine.
Riders to watch include Dylan McNicholas (Cyclocrossworld.com) and Justin Lindine (Redline) in the elite men's race, Crystal Anthony (Cyclocrossworld.com) and Catherine Sterling in the elite women's race.
Across the country in Los Angeles, California, the SpookyCross weekend brings the energy of racing under the lights on Saturday. One of Southern California's most popular race over the past four years, the spectator-friendly 3.5-km course is comprised of 40% grass, 10% pavement, and 50% dirt. The course meanders through the race track and includes a cross over-under bridge, BMX style dirt whoops, steps and burm.
Riders to watch include Clif Bar teammates Mitch Hoke and Brady Kappius in the elite men's race and Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement), Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna), Andrea Smith and Elle Anderson in the elite women's race.
Also on Sunday, is the GP de la Commune de Contern in Luxembourg for the elite men only. The features for the 2.5-km course are two paved climbs, a very technical descent into the woods aling with rolling track on the grass. Riders to watch include Sven Vanthourenhout (KDL-Landbouwkrediet) and Jim Aernouts (Sunweb-Revor).