September is here, and while the road season is still in full swing with the Vuelta a España followed by the World Championships, Tour of Lombardy and Zurich ProTour races, there is a smaller, tight-knit band of brothers and sisters who have been changing over to knobbies and hitting the trails in preparation for cyclo-cross season. The UCI 'cross season officially opens on September 16 with the traditional first race of the season, the Steenbergcross in Erpe-Mere, hometown of 1976 Tour de France winner Lucien Van Impe. The race has kicked off 'cross since 2002, and was won last year by Sven Nys ahead of Zdenek Stybar and world champion Erwin Vervecken.
Reigning World Champion Erwin Vervecken will hit that first race again in the rainbow stripes. His Belgian Fidea team just wound up a two-week training camp in Sankt-Moritz, Switzerland. Vervecken and his team-mates Bart Wellens and Klaas Vantornout are led by Dutchman Hans Van Kasteren and besides their top quality Belgian riders they also have two strong Czech riders Petr Dlask and Zdenek Stybar.
A new face in the team is Belgian espoir Quentin Bertholet who also joined the team in Sankt-Moritz. During the training camp Bart Wellens suffered a minor problem on his ankle while world champion Vervecken only joined the team after a week.
In the USA, the 'cross season kicks off early with a string of UCI races in the Northern locales. The Tailwind 'cross races in Michigan will see Worlds silver medalist Jonathan Page warm up his legs for the upcoming season, while Washington state will host two classic 'cross events in Redmond and Lakewood.