In the European winters of 2011/2012 and 2012/2013, Lewis Rattray was the sole representative for Australia at cyclo cross races all over the world. Together with his support crew (a mix of Belgian and Australian manager, mechanics and soigneurs), he endured the freezing cold to race World Cups, World Championships and several pro and amateur races in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the USA and Japan. While Lewis took a step back from international racing this year, with the exception of the UCI events in China and Tokyo, there’s six other brave Australians that stood up to represent their country at the 2014 Cyclo Cross World Championship in the Netherlands.
The youngest one of them is Nicholas Smith, aged 16. Nicholas impressed at the National Championships in Melbourne this year and qualified to participate in the U19 event at the worlds. Nicholas trained hard in his hometown Bundanoon, NSW and with some training tips from Lewis Rattray, he managed to master some cyclo cross specific skills such as dismounting and jumping back on the bike, running with the bike and jumping the barriers. In the two weeks he’s been in Belgium preparing for the World Champs, he had a chance to practice the skills needed for racing in cold and muddy conditions and learn all about choice of tyres and tyre pressure. At his first race in Belgium on the weekend before the worlds, Nicholas rode an impressive race and finished in second position. Nicholas will start in the U19 race in Hoogerheide on Saturday morning 11 am Central European Time, the race will be live on the UCI Youtube channel at 9pm EST.
In the women’s field, there will be two Australians at the startline, Melissa Anset and Lisa Jacobs. These two are an example of how cyclo cross is the perfect mix of mountain biking and road cycling, with Melissa being a familiar face on many mountain bike events all over Australia, and Lisa, a rider that made a name for herself on the road racing scene. Melissa has the technical skills that will keep her upright in the slippery conditions and Lisa has the fitness to keep on pulling back competitors all through the race. Melissa and Lisa are racing on Saturday afternoon 3pm CET or 1am on the Sunday EST.
On the Sunday morning, it’s up to U23 riders Tom Chapman and Alex Meyland to ride in the Gold and Green. They will be up against local favourite and 2013 cyclo cross and road world champion Mathieu van der Poel. Tom impressed in his races in Belgium and rode to a fourth place in one of the club races. He definitely has the skills needed to perform well in the European cyclo cross races. Alex gained a lot of confidence from a top ten result during his first races in Rucphen, the Netherlands. Less then a day after stepping of the airplane, he managed a great result on a very fast race that will probably be very similar to what riders can expect from the World Championship. Tom and Alex are racing on Sunday morning 11am CET or 9pm EST. Just like the U19 and Women’s race, this will be live on the UCI Youtube channel.
The main event, the Men Elite race, is predicted to be an epic battle between last years World Champion Sven Nys and the two youngsters, his Belgian team mate Tom Meeusen and Dutchman Lars van der Haar. These three favourites will be closely followed by outsiders Francis Mourey from France, Phillip Walsleben from Germany and Zdenek Stybar, the 2010 and 2011 World Champion from Czech Republic. In the midst of these cyclo cross super stars will be Australian Nick Both from Sydney. Nick ended up finishing on the podium at the inaugural Australian National Championships in Melbourne and qualified for a ticket to Hoogerheide. A crowd of 50.00 spectators is expected on the Sunday, many of them cheered on Lewis Rattray during the 2012 World Champs in Koksijde and are sure to do the same for Nick. Having started in four races over the last two weeks, Nick has raced everything from ultra muddy to fast courses. The Hoogerheide course should be a good match for him and hopefully he can finish the biggest cyclo cross race of the year with a great result. The race will be held on Sunday February 1st at 3pm and can be watched from Australia from 1am EST.