By Sue George
Without the Olympic Games serving as the focal point of next season, elite cross country racers will be looking to mix up the usual World Cup racing schedule with other kinds of events. Great Britain's Oli Beckingsale is one racer already planning a diverse racing calendar for 2009.
"The last few years have been all about the Olympics. It's been a lot of time spent focusing for one race," said the 32-year-old Beckingsale to Cyclingnews. "It needs to be like that, but it takes some of the fun out of it, and you can't do some of the races you want to do."
Beckingsale, who finished 12th at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, in August, recently renewed his contact with the Giant Team. He is looking forward to kicking his season off with the Cape Epic stage race in South Africa. "Adam Craig and I are planning to race together. Both of us having been trying to do it for years."
He added that 2009 will be a good year to do the race. "I spoke to the organizers who said the race will have shorter, but more technical stages." Other editions of the race have often featured lengthy fire road type sections where packs formed to quickly cover great, wide-open distances.
"After that, the plan is to ride the World Cup series, including the Canadian rounds [in Mont-Sainte-Anne and Bromont, Quebec] which I will go over for this time," he said. "The rest of the time I will spend in the UK. We've got a decent national series that includes UCI-registered races."
Throw in a few road races, marathons including the World Championships and six weeks of cyclo-cross racing starting in early December, and Beckingsale's calendar is filling fast.
"I haven't done 'cross the past few years, but I enjoy it," he said. "I'll have a little pop at the British 'cross nats in mid-January."
Beckingsale finished 10th at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy and 27th in the World Cup standings for 2008.