Koksijde is an iconic cyclocross course known for its long sand sectors with sharp uphills. The riders start on a long tarmacked road before swinging onto the grass with a 90-degree right-hander. Then another 90-degree turn, this time to the left brings them around the back of the hanger. They then turn to the right as they approach the first very steep sand section, momentum will be key due to the severity of the gradient.
Next, they face a sandy descent with a road at the bottom allowing the riders to catch as much rest as is possible, before quickly returning to action as they cut left to the mud, swing through the wooded section, back to mud, a 180-degree turn, a left-hander then another into the first set of pits and finally find themselves at the longest sandpit of the course.
The sand starts as a slow uphill drag before taking a dogleg and becoming a savage off-camber. The riders will then cut back on themselves and hit the flyover, a short steep man-made bridge, for the first time. They fly down the other side taking a sharp lefthander, where they meet a long untechnical straight perfect for making up lost time in the sand or consolidating your lead by really keeping the pressure on.
The straight finishes with a kick up and a steep descent with technical turns at the bottom meaning control will be just as important as speed. They leave the mini-corkscrew with another short climb and descent, this time on the sand, back to the road.
They leave the road to a fairly uninteresting straight given life by two short sandpits that won’t win you the race but a mistake here could be costly. After making their way down this open section they turn right and are faced with a nasty climb split in two by a momentum-sapping plateau in the middle before it kicks up again all be it covered in sand for the second half. From the climb the dropdown to the flyover this time from the opposite direction. Back into the large sandpit, they have a small rise before a left brings them on a slow downhill off-camber.
They exit the sand into the other half of the pits giving them their last chance to change bikes for the lap. Out of the pits, a rise brings them parallel to the road before they take on a steep off-camber sandy climb as they enter the last sand of the lap. The sandpit rises and falls, and ends with a long mudded descent towards the start-finish straight only to be interrupted by a couple of switchbacks. From there it is a pretty straightforward end with a long righthander capped off with another 90-degree bend that sees you back to the end.
The big favourite has to be the woman who finished 2nd last time this race happened, the world and European champion and has finished on the podium at all but one World Cup event this season. Lucinda Brand. She won last weekend and has been on exceptional form all season. Plus given her success here in 2019 and how well she did in Oostende the sand is clearly a strength of hers.
We can’t forget about the winner last time at Koksijde, Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado. However, she is still looking for that elusive first win this year. She is showing some form with 3 top 6s in her last 3 races, but only one podium all season. She has just been missing that something to make it into the last group or follow that decisive attack. Let’s hope the place of her first world cup win will ignite that spark.
There are also the youngsters. Primarily, Puck Pieterse. She is due a win, with 3 consecutive second places and the worst result of 8th this season. Who can count her out? You also have the two other women on the u23 podium from the European Championships. Shirin Van Anrooij and Fem Van Emple, who finished 7th and 8th respectively at Tabor. They have both been just off the pace this year, with Van Anrooij having just one result outside the top 10 and Van Empel with the worst result of 13th. Can either of them step up? I say no but I think they can challenge for a podium.
Who have I missed? We have the woman who seemingly peaked too early for the European Championships, Denise Betsema. She has beat Brand on a few occasions this year, however, she is yet to beat Brand since the Koppenbergcross. There is also the winner of the Koppenburgcross, Clara Honsinger. She has been very consistent all season, including a podium Fayetteville, can she refind the early season form she has shown?
Predictions for WE
- Lucinda Brand
- Denise Betsema
- Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado
Brand has been so dominant since she returned to the mud, and given the history, she has here and on the sand, I think it will be almost impossible to beat her if she decides she wants to win. Betsema won at Zonhoven, a course also infamous for its sand, so she is clearly comfortable finding a rut. However, she’ll be hoping to bust the rut she is in when it comes to form and find herself back on the podium. Rounding off the podium we have the winner last time at Koksijde is Alvarado. She has been searching for form and I think that the place she took her first World Cup win could be that catalyst. As good as Pieterse has been I just don’t see her winning this one. I think it could be just one week too many for her form. I think she will be the best u23 with the absences of Blanka Vas. But I don’t see her on the elite podium.
The man on form, similar to Brand in winning both on the Col De VAM and in Tabor, Lars Van Der Haar. Lars finished 4th last time in Koksijde just 40 seconds behind a rampant Mathieu Van Der Poel in 2019. But given the form, Lars has been on I think he would have given MVdP a run for his money that day.
Eli Iserbyt is in a similar boat to Betsema as he also peaked a week too early for his big early-season goal, in an attempt to defend his European Championship. He already has 3 World Cup victories and is yet to finish off the podium so regardless of form he is showing is having arguably his best season. He was bettered by Van Der Haar last week. Can he better him this week?
Next, we have the man who won it in Fayetteville, Quinten Hermans. Hermans tactically has had some issues this season. If he has the legs on Sunday I think going early could work as this is a course prone to mistakes and taking an early lead will allow him to focus on fundamentals rather than making back time.
There is also the current u23 European champion, Ryan Kamp who is making the step up this week to the Men’s elite. Last week he finished second at Tabor in the u23 race, I don’t see him contesting the victory but it will be interesting to see how he fares. We have the man that lead through the first lap last time Joris Nieuwenhuis. Plus the usual suspects of Toon Aerts, Micheal Vanthourenhout and Corne Van Kessel.
Predictions for ME
- Quinten Hermans
- Lars Van Der Haar
- Toon Aerts
Hermans has contested every race he’s ridden this year and I think that he will top the podium in Koksijde. The form man will push him but I think Hermans will be able to fight off Van Der Haar to take his first world cup win since the second round. I think this is a race where he could crack the field if he goes off at the kind of pace he has been all year.
I think the first two across the line will be pretty close to one another with a larger gap to the group behind. I think that Aerts will win the reduced bunch sprint to round off the podium. He has been pushing for the top spot all year at the World Cup, I don’t think he’ll achieve it this week but he is getting closer. He’ll just hope he can do it before the return of the men who have shared the last 6 World Champions, Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Van Der Poel, as well as the wonder kid Tom Pidcock.