Cyclo-cross heads to the Park

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World class cycle sport comes to Campbell Park this weekend when, for the first time ever, the UK plays host to the Cyclo-cross World Cup and Milton Keynes will be proudly supporting the stars of cycling’s main winter discipline.

And it will be a double-header for cyclo-cross fans as, after Saturday’s World Cup bonanza, on Sunday the same course will see the British stars competing in round four of the sport’s National Trophy series.

Not only will this be the first time the World Cup has come to this country, it will be the first time the series has left mainland Europe. And that says so much about how the sport’s organisers see the development of cycle sport – and cyclo-cross in particular – in the UK.

With Saturday’s race being a round of the World Cup, the cream of the world’s cyclo-cross talent will be competing with Belgium’s Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink), the double World Champion, topping the men’s entry list. In the women’s race it will be another Belgian Sanne Cant leading the way.

British stars will be out to show they have what it takes to fight off the best of Europe and the world, none more so than the Women’s 2013 Cyclo-cross World Championship bronze medallist and current Women’s National Champion Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team).

After riding the 2.6km course, Helen said: “It’s a tough course and I like wearing courses. There are lots of challenges and that suits me. If it rains from now on that would be really good for me.”

In the Men’s race Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles – Ridley RT), like Helen Wyman, will be wearing the colours of the current National Cyclo-cross champion and, although he’s won two rounds of this year’s National Trophy series, Ian is Britain’s most regular competitor at the World Cup and Superprestige level.

And Ian will be hoping that it’s a happy return to Milton Keynes as he won the round of the National Trophy series when it came to the city just 12 months ago but this time, facing the World’s best riders and not just those from his home shores, he knows he’ll be facing the toughest possible opposition.

In designing the course for the race, organiser Simon Burney has put in many of the features that make a classic cyclo-cross circuit.

“It’s a British style of venue” he said. “But it’ll probably be a little harder physically than a regular British National Trophy event”.

But it’s also very spectator friendly with over 80% of the course visible from the top of the Jubilee Beacon.

“Our course will be hard, physical and not too super technical although a bit of that will depend on the weather. We’re putting in a set of hurdles” – watching riders ‘bunny-hop such obstacles is typical of any top cyclo-cross race – “to get the riders to dismount before they climb up the hill.

“We’re trying to make it a show piece for the spectators. We want them to leave the race knowing that they don’t have to go to Northern Europe to enjoy that Big Cyclo-cross Race Experience.”

The racing starts at 12.30 on Saturday for the 40 minute women’s race with the men starting at 2pm.