The Big Picture | Hoogerheide World Cup

Hoogerheide is a cycling-centric village that has a storied cyclocross history. Home to the Van der Poel family and Thalita de Jong, the region has hosted cyclocross events since the 1960s and Hoogerheide has hosted the final World Cup event 15 times and the World Championships, twice.

Directions to the race venue? Just head towards the church …
… You can’t miss it.

If you play word association with a veteran cyclocross racer and say “Hoogerheide,” there is a really good chance the response will be “mud.” Last year’s edition, and many before it, featured a hard slog through thick mud. 2020 , however, bucked the trend and served up moderate temperatures and a full day of sunshine.

Cyclocross weather.

If you’ve watched the Hoogerheide World Cup race in year’s past you will notice the gradual residential development of the venue. Each year, more and more apartment buildings pop up giving purpose to the famous “stairway to nowhere,” that may keep its moniker but definitely lost its meaning as it’s now a stairway to somewhere.

Toon Aerts and Michael Vanthourenhout top the staircase.
Women’s field on the rise. 36 steps gets you to the top.
Hoogerheide’s version of the sky box. More, on the way.

Despite the dry, fast conditions, three of the four races on the day were marked by significant crashes and mechanicals.

Thibau Nys crashed in the junior race, which meant that in the last World Cup race of the year, he lost his first World Cup race of the year. He was still processing what it all meant on the podium.

Dario Lillo takes the win. Thibau Nys recovered from a crash to place third.
Nys with a moment of introspection on the podium.

In the U23 men’s race, World Cup overall leader, Kevin Kuhn, snapped a chain and had a long run and kick-push session back to the pits. Keeping the evidence wrapped around his hand the entire trip.

That exact moment you look down and say “well, that’s not good.”
Carry in, carry out. Kuhn carried his broken chain with him to the pit.

In the women’s elite race Ceylin Carmen Alvarado made one mistake on the tricky off-camber, a miscalculation she most likely would’ve recovered from if it had come on any lap but the last. Going from first to the back of the pack with only the sprint remaining left no room for a comeback.

On the first lap, Alvarado, was the hammer. On the last, she was the nail.

That mistake assured Annemarie Worst would take the overall from Alvarado.

Worst, in second, won the World Cup overall. But Lucinda Brand may be the one to beat next week at Worlds. She raced only five World Cups and won the last three she entered.
Evie Richards jumped into the race and ended up fifth after going off the front a few times and animating the race.
Katerina Nash dug deep and finished the World Cup season with a third place overall in the series.
As president of the UCI Athlete’s Commision, Nash also has podium presenter duties. Here she is helping Alvarado into her silver lining. That being the U23 World Cup series leader jersey she maintained after losing the elite jersey.

The men’s elite race included no similar drama. Mathieu van der Poel rode around with the field for several laps before deciding it was time to move. When he went to the front, you could tell we weren’t in Belgium anymore. The cheer that erupted was even louder than the gasp that accompanied Alvarado’s slip and slide.

“Enough of this Sunday Stroll.” (Also, props to this social media savvy youth. He knew when to mug for the camera and still got his own shot of the hometown guy.)

For me, it was nice to see this iconic venue and to have dry, pleasant working conditions. It looks like World Champs will have the last laugh, however, as the rain and snow has already started around Dubendorf and it’s only supposed to pick up as the weekend approaches.

Goodnight and goodbye, Hoogerheide.

Here are more images from the day.

Team Red Bull putting is some hot laps, together.
Laurens Sweeck showed the colors early before drifting back to ninth.

The sandy descent before the stairs. Chances are good this will be an apartment building next year.

First lap shakeout heading to the off-camber.
The chase.

Auf Wiedersehen.
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