Monday, January 21, 2013

The shy assassin

photo by Hans095
We've had a lengthened long weekend due to the snow closure of school on Friday. This has been especially beneficial for me as it has given me a free day of recovery after my shoulder surgery on Wednesday. If anything has worked out for me in all of this it has been this bit of timing. And the fact that I have now met my out of pocket maximum for my health insurance which basically means that all injury repairs are free from now until October 15th! I kinda hope not to take advantage of that, though.

Sunday was the last World Cup event, the Gran Prix Adri van der Poel, in Hoogerheide. You can always tell when it is really cold at a European 'cross race when the riders are warming up with their custom team head buffs up over their chins and down over their foreheads so that just an oval of face peers out of the fabric and into the camera in the obligatory pre-race interviews. The course was covered in snow and a slushy mixture of mud and ice slurry that looked to be less than ideal in the traction department.

Kevin Pauwels, the shy assassin, went into this race with a strong chance to win the World Cup overall, but that was not meant to be. Pauwels is an enigmatic racer. His interviews feature him standing stock still, his mouth a tense line of barely discernible lips that moves little as he tersely and painfully answers the interviewers questions. His racing style is deceptively aggressive; always near the front and ready to take charge. His attacks are without any noticeable moment of fury. His accelerations perceptible only by the fact that other riders are clawing to hang on to his wheel. He does not look back. Ever. An untimely dropped chain took him out of the front of the race with two laps to go, just as he was making his move to take the lead. He is not an unsuccessful racer, but he is largely overlooked in the sea of Belgian cyclocross talent and he is definitely a man to watch in Louisville.
As for the women (or vrouwen if you want to brush up on your Flemish as we head to Louisville), the battle looks to be shaping up nicely with our own Katie Compton coming off of her best European season ever, winning the World Cup overall for the first time. Between Compton, Marianne Vos, Sanne Cant, and Sanne van Passen, it should be a duel. There are some other women in the mix that can definitely upset the apple cart. Women like Helen Wyman, Katerina Nash and our own Olympic bronze medalist, Georgia Gould.

Unfortunately, two French women with extensive racing experience in the US, Julie Krasniac and Caroline Mani, will not be racing as the French federation opted not to bring them despite their eligibility and their ability to pay their own expenses. This brings me to my soapbox, a soapbox built on the words of Helen Wyman. Now that the US is taking the spotlight in the world of cyclocross by hosting the 2013 World Championships, it is time for us to impact the sport on the start line and not just focus our efforts on the podium. Let us pressure the UCI to amend rule 9.2.045, which now reads:

Each federation shall be required to include the following riders in their Men Elite’s team, as long as they are in the top 50 of the UCI Cyclo-cross Classification as published after the national championships in Europe:
federation with a selection of six riders: its first three ranked riders;
federation with a selection of five riders: its first two ranked riders.
This rule shall not apply to riders who have failed to fulfill their obligations under the regulations. In the event of a dispute on this issue, it shall be the responsibility of the National Federation to decide whether the rider will be selected.
The rule should be changed by simply adding "and Women" so that it reads "Men and Women Elite's team". This wold ensure that every country brought every rider they were eligible to bring in both the Men's and Women's fields and would give equal opportunity to all Elite riders. Let's see if we can pressure the UCI to amend this rule and provide equal opportunity to Women Elite riders in cyclocross.
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