Belgian’s love their cycling – but normally it’s skinny tyres that dominate the headlines. Not this weekend, however, with the return of Houffalize to the World Cup calendar.
Houffalize is back after a year’s absence and the venue, in the heart of the Ardennes Forest, is one of the favourite tracks on the circuit for the riders, with Jose Antonio Hermida comparing it to Paris-Roubaix, one of road cycling’s five Monuments and won by Belgian hero Tom Boonen on April 8. The 2010 world champion tweeted: “Houffalize it’s for me the same like Roubaix for Boonen!! A cathedral of cycling!!”
Hermida finished seventh in the opening World Cup round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, last month, with Nino Schurter emerging victorious in the men’s cross-country race ahead of Burry Stander and Manuel Fumic. Maja Wloszczowska goes into the women’s race as the form rider having won round one ahead of Emily Batty and Catharine Pendrel, while British champion Annie Last is in superb shape having finished ninth in the opening race. Catch up on all the action from Pietermaritzburg in the video below.
As well as a full compliment of cross-country racing, Houffalize will also host the first ever World Cup eliminator race. Racing in heats of four, head-to-head heats whittle the field down to a four-rider final, racing over a 530m course which features one short, sharp climb to split the field.
Friday April 13
World Cup Cross-Country Eliminator Qualifying and Finals
World Cup 4X Qualifying
Saturday April 14
World Cup Olympic Cross-Country – Women Under-23
World Cup Olympic Cross-Country – Women Juniors
World Cup Olympic Cross-Country – Men Under-23
World Cup 4X Finals
Sunday April 15
World Cup Olympic Cross-Country – Men Juniors
World Cup Olympic Cross-Country – Women Elite
World Cup Olympic Cross-Country – Men Elite
The cross-country track has been updated for 2012, with a revised loop which looks to satisfy the demands of the UCI, as well as television and online viewers. The 5.1km circuit has 235m of climbing per lap, with the highest point on the course at an altitude of 396m. Check out the video below for a sneak peak of the new course.
What happened last time?
The Houffalize round of the World Cup in 2010 produced a dramatic men’s race, with Jose Antonio Hermida coming from behind to secure a 57-second victory over Manuel Fumic, while Wolfram Kurschat completed the podium, a further 28 seconds back. Jaroslav Kulhavy recovered to finish fourth after a crash on the start line which blocked many of the favourites.
“After the start problem, I knew that I just had to be patient,” said Hermida after his victory. “I did not know who was in front, but once I caught him, I knew, that on this course I could not be beaten. I’m extremely happy to have won here in Houffalize for a second time. Houffalize is considered as mountain biking’s cathedral, which gave me a lot of motivation, and to take the World Cup lead going into to Offenburg, in front our sponsors, is incredible.”
Meanwhile, in the women’s race Eva Lechner triumphed to become the first Italian woman to win a World Cup round since 2002, finishing just five seconds ahead of Willow Koerber, with Elisabeth Osl claiming third.
Where can I watch it?
Red Bull’s live online coverage of round one went down a storm and once again you can watch all the action as it happens. Tune in at http://live.redbull.tv/