In 2015, Belgians Wout Van Aert and Sanne Cant kicked off their World Cup campaigns at CrossVegas, the first American event to become part of the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup series. Both riders stood on the podium in Las Vegas en route to World Cup series titles, and both riders will return to the series opener in 2016, held September 21 at the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex in conjunction with the Interbike trade show.
CrossVegas returns as the World Cup opener in 2016, and its status has lifted two other events with it, to create a three-race U.S. swing that many of the sport’s biggest stars — and anyone who hopes to place well in the nine-event World Cup series standings — will cross the Atlantic to contest in September.
Van Aert, the world champion, is the marquee name to race the September 17-18 Trek CXC Cup, in Waterloo, Wisconsin (with a C1 race on Sunday), as a rehearsal for Cross Vegas, three days later.
Those races are followed by a new World Cup event in Iowa City, Iowa, on September 24, run by the organizers of Volkswagen Jingle Cross, with a C2 race on Friday evening, and a C1 UCI race on Sunday, allowing amateurs to race on the same World Cup course used one day earlier.
“I’m excited to race in Waterloo. It is an honor for me to show my rainbow jersey to the ‘cross fans of Wisconsin and beyond,” said Van Aert. “I see it as a perfect rehearsal for the first World Cup races in the States.”
In attendance in Wisconsin will be retired former world champion Sven Nys, manager of the Telenet-Fidea team, which has switched from Ridley bikes to Trek. Nys, who raced for Trek in the final years of his career, provided important feedback to Trek’s course designers during site preparation. The event, held adjacent to Trek’s headquarters, will be broadcast globally on Trekbikes.com.
Also competing at all three events will be Van Aert’s Crelan-Vastgoedservice teammate Rob Peeters, U.S. national champion Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing), and Telenet-Fidea teammates Tom Meeusen, Toon Aerts, and Corné van Kessel.
On the women’s side, Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea) will be racing at all three events, as well as two-time World Cup series winner Katie Compton (KFC Racing-Trek-Panache).
Some European pros may skip the trip to Wisconsin, however, instead opting to focus solely on the World Cup events. Among those not listed on the Trek CXC Cup’s preliminary start list, but coming for the World Cups, are Cant, Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games), Helen Wyman (Kona), and Laurens Sweeck (Era Murprotec).
Missing the trip entirely, however, will be 2015 world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon), who is recovering from double knee surgery in August; van der Poel told Het Laatste Nieuws that he is back on the bike and expects to start his season October 2 at the opening round of the Hansgrohe Superprestige series.
[Update: World championship silver medalist Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) will also miss the trip to the U.S, he announced on Thursday, due to a hamstring injury.]
After 4wks of struggles, I needed to make the hard decision that I won't make it to Vegas & Iowa, due to an inflammation in hamstring tendon
— Lars van der Haar (@larsvanderhaar) September 1, 2016
Also absent may be women’s world champion Thalita de Jong (Rabobank-Liv), who has not registered for any of the U.S. events, possibly due to road commitments.
In an interview with CyclingTips, three-time world champion Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) said he was interested in racing the U.S. World Cup events, but would instead have to honor his road obligations at the Eneco Tour, a race he won in 2013. Instead, Stybar said he’ll return to cyclocross in December for the Christmas period (Kerstperiode).
Van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) started the 2015-2016 season with a victory at CrossVegas and continued with a winning streak that included the World Cup series title and the rainbow jersey of world champion, his first at the elite level.
“It may sound a bit weird to some people, but I always love coming back to CrossVegas,” Van Aert said. “My first CrossVegas was in 2013, when I traveled with Bart Wellens and Quinten Hermans. It was just so much fun. First, there was the race itself. But also, we explored the city and were pretty impressed. I will never forget that trip. Last year was different, because it was the first World Cup in the States, so I was more focused. And it turned out very well with the victory. It was the start of a brilliant season, so I only have good memories.”
Cant (Enertherm-BeoBank) finished on the 2015 CrossVegas podium in third place behind winner Katerina Nash (Luna), gaining momentum through the season to take the overall title. “It was a very nice experience last year. The course was spectacular, as was the crowd atmosphere. It was a hard, but fun, race. If we need to go to the U.S. for racing, it’s good that CrossVegas is again one of the main races for us.”
Van Aert and Cant, along with competitors from more than 20 other nations, will face a significantly redesigned course which is intended, in the words of CrossVegas director Brook Watts, “to make a bigger show for the spectators and a tougher course for the racers.”
The final start list for CrossVegas will be confirmed on September 20.
Van Aert shared his goals for the season: “I have two big goals. First, I want to let shine my rainbow jersey as much as possible, perhaps with some nice victories in some great races. Another goal is even more important: I want to spoil the fans with nice duels between Mathieu van der Poel and myself. Now that Sven Nys quit racing, I am convinced that Mathieu and I have a big role in keeping our sport attractive.”
The new course makes use of virtually every square inch of the difficult terrain at the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex, located a few miles west of the famous Las Vegas Strip. As in years past, the gala race atmosphere will offer spectator experiences that rival its European counterparts, with 2016 bringing enhanced VIP areas and expanded food and beverage options.
CrossVegas will be shown on NBC Sports, both broadcast and digital. For the 10th anniversary of their World Cup event, CrossVegas is treating fans to an insider’s experience before, during and after the race with the Arcivr app. Fans, racers, media, and sponsors can follow everything happening at CrossVegas by installing Arcivr on their iPhone or Android device, for real-time event details, schedules and maps, ticket and merchandise links, exclusive interviews, content and promotions, and an interactive photo and video feed from fans, pros and the media. Every day, exclusive content — including interviews with past CrossVegas winners, course previews and up-to-the-minute race info — is added to CrossVegas’ feed for fans to enjoy and share.
Coinciding with CrossVegas and Interbike, CyclingTips is hosting a screening of the documentary “Sven: The Final Year” on Tuesday, September 20, at the Pub at Monte Carlo. The event will be held immediately following the Meet the Pros reception that serves as CrossVegas race number pick-up, which runs 6-7:30 p.m. Beer and food will be served at 7:30 p.m, with the film starting at 8:30 p.m. Tickets, which cost $20, can be purchased here.