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2012 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships – Preview

The sixty-second edition of the UCI World Cyclocross World Championships start this Friday; British Cycling Online will bring you live coverage from the races and behind the scenes of the GB camp.

Over 30,000 tickets sold and only matched by the litres of beer on tap; the 2012 Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Koksijde is set to present a fitting crescendo to a dramatic season.

When the UCI World Cup visited the dunes of Koksijde in November 2011, it only underlined the nature of the course which first gained World Championship status in 1994.

UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships 1994 Koksijde

Little has changed since then – the sand dunes remain a unique challenge on the ‘cross calendar and the beer-fuelled crowd remains as passionate, vocal and large as ever.

Weather is expected to remain overcast with a chance of rain until the weekend, with sunny spells and mild temperatures throughout – none of which will overly affect conditions.

UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup 2011-12 Koksijde

Race Schedule

UCI course inspection 0900-1100
Official training 1400-1600

Official training 1000-1200

Official training 1400-1600
Team managers meeting 1700-1730

Juniors Men 1100
Under 23 Men 1500

Women 1100
Elite Men 1500

For the Brits, a core of continent-based riders have produced a run of season-best performances, backed by a group of the best of emerging domestic talent.

Helen Wyman - seven time British Champion - back on form for Worlds?

British Champion Helen Wyman, Nikki Harris and Gabriella Day have underlined this quality season-long, with a huge tally of top-five results at the highest level, while British mountain bike Champion Annie Last underlined her potential in a first international ‘cross appearance since the 2010 World Championships.

However, as strong as the results have been on paper in this season the British women have an inbuilt fragility – first underlined by the withdrawal of Day from the Championships due to ongoing illness. Wyman is still returning to full fitness after a similar period of time out to Day, while Harris also suffered from a new year sickness bug. Both produced top ten performances at the latest World Cup but are on the comeback trail rather than in peak condition.

Annie Last previously raced the 2010 World Championships

While Last has had no reported health problems, her race will present its own challenges. The mountain bike specialist produced a great result at the final round of the UCI World Cup, finishing eighth despite being last on the grid and involved in a start line pile-up. Last will have to produce a similar ride at Koksijde from the back of the pack, moving through the inevitable mishaps to make it into the top ten again.

If the women’s lineup offers a chance to dream big, the men’s selection is exposed to the uncompromising standards of the professional continental scene.

Commanding a following comparable only to football in the UK, ‘cross is a part of Belgian sporting culture, commanding prime-time television coverage, analysis and a professional scene to match.

Ian Field is the only Brit to deliver a full-time commitment to the sport, now in his third year of competition at the highest level. The British Champion lines up with a decent gridding thanks to an early season points grabbing mission in America, but could have had a more confidence boosting outing on the continent – robbed of a career-best ride on the Koppenberg due to a rolled tyre and several World Cup placings due to an ongoing back injury. The only consolation is that his best result of the season came at Koksijde – 22nd at the World Cup.

Paul Oldham - back on international duty, but felt the heat domestically in the Trophy

Paul Oldham and Jody Crawforth – while the best domestic riders – have met their match at the National Trophy this season, as visitors from the continent dominated nearly every round and will face stiffer challenges in Koksijde – aside from the course and competition, both will start toward the back of the grid and will do well to complete the race distance.

Jack Clarkson takes on his first under-23 World Championships, one of a four man team

In the under-23 competition Steve James has been the best domestic rider, but that wasn’t borne out at last weekends World Cup where Kenta Gallagher finished top Brit in 32nd, with Jack Clarkson 38th. James finished 49th in Hoogerheide, three spots over Luke Gray, but has consolation of being the highest placed when the team last rode in Koksijde.

Hugo Robinson - two years of European experience rests on one result

The junior men’s squad of Hugo Robinson, Joe Moses and Alex Welburn put into practice a season of racing and ‘cross development camps at the biggest event of the year. For Robinson and Moses it will be a second World Championships experience, both hoping to build upon 22nd and 47th respectively.

British Cycling will be reporting from within the camp week-long with interviews, behind the scenes insight and race reports.