Words by Ted Burns Photos by Ethan Glading.
Wout van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice Cycling) arrived in Chicago without a lot of fanfare. Rather than hit the town Al Capone-style the, 22 year-old Cyclocross World Champion spent quality time with his sponsors at SRAM, before heading up to Waterloo, Wisconsin for the Trek CXC Cup. Van Aert skipped the first day of racing, a UCI C2 event, in order to focus on Sunday’s C1 and prepare for the pending World Cup races later in the week in Las Vegas and Iowa.
“We are here for twelve days in the US, and it will be a good warm up for the World Cups,” Van Aert said while watching the first day of racing at the race venue located at Trek Headquarters in Waterloo, WI. “It is a little bit like where I live in Belgium with all the farmers, but in Belgium everything is closer to each other.
“Here it is long roads and great fields. It is good to see another part of the US, last year I was in Las Vegas and that is not the real United States, so I’m happy I can explore another part of the world thanks to my sport.”
The two-day event kicked off the biggest week of cyclocross racing the United States has seen since the Cyclocross World Championships were held in Louisville, Kentucky in 2013. With its position right before the World Cup races at CrossVegas and Jingle Cross, the 2016 edition of the Trek CXC Cup drew a strong field of contenders led by Sven Nys’ Telnet-Fidea squad which is sponsored by Trek. Nys arrived earlier in the week and led several clinics in Chicago and at Trek Headquarters in Waterloo before getting his team ready for the weekend’s races.
“It is really fast racing here,” Nys said about his team’s preparation for the long week. “But it is good that they start over here, there is not so many pressures as the big races in Europe.”
Trek’s involvement in cyclocross has grown in recent years with its support of the Trek CXC Cup and Sven Nys’ efforts to grow the sport beyond its European base. Trek went even further this year by putting together a high quality live stream production for both days of men’s and women’s racing. Race organizers went as far as the move the races up earlier in the day in order to reach the largest possible audience on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sunday’s C1 race drew a large mix of Belgian and American superstars including Waut Van Aert, Tom Meeusen, Jeremy Powers, Ellen Van Loy, and Katie Compton. Wisconsin native Kaitlin Antonneau won Sunday’s C1 event, while Compton took Saturday’s C2 race. Spectators were treated to a thrilling three-up sprint on Saturday won by French rider Steve Chainel, while on Sunday Van Aert put in a dominant performance that saw the World Champion solo for the win.
With his first win of the week out of the way, Van Aert said he was feeling more confident heading into CrossVegas and Jingle Cross.
“This win is in the pocket and is also an important one because I like racing in the US and I can show off the rainbow jersey,” Van Aert said. “ It is hopefully the start of a great trip in the United States.”