The first round of the 4X ProTour will kick off in Houffalize, Belgium, this weekend. After the UCI made a decision to eliminate four cross from its World Cup, the race in Houffalize will not be a World Cup event although it will be run in conjunction with the cross country and eliminator World Cups.
Chris Roberts and Scott Beaumont have worked together over the winter to create a five-round, four cross series that comprises the 4X ProTour as they aim to keep four cross racing on the world stage. Over 100 racers are pre-registered thus far, and unlike at a World Cup, racers can pre-register late on-site.
In the men's race, Tomas Slavik and Joost Wichman will be the favourites. Slavik has already got his season off to a winning start last weekend at the first round of the Schwalbe British 4X Series. His reasons for racing in the UK early in the year? He wanted to be ready for round 1 of the 4X ProTour. Wichman has a new focus this year. As the team captain for the newly-formed Rose Vaujany team, he will be looking to get his season started with a great result in Houffalize.
In the women's race, world champion Anneke Beerten will be racing in her rainbow jersey for the very first time since winning the Worlds in last September. Her competition will surely come from Katy Curd, teammate to Wichman. Curd has always shown promise with her racing, but 2012 looks like it could be her year.
The four cross track at Houffalize is a classic. Huge, loose berm corners, a corkscrew bridge/tunnel, pro line and road drop at the finish make this a unique track. Racing is always close with lots of passing and favourites for the event never have an advantage here.
Practice and qualification are scheduled for Friday, April 13. Finals will happen on Saturday, April 15.