American Amy Dombroski will set off for Begijnendijk, Belgium next week to launch into her first full European cyclo-cross calendar. Racing for CrankBrothers, the 24-year-old is taking advantage of changes to the UCI cyclo-cross regulations that require organisers of men's C1 events to also hold a women's race.
The rule change resulted in a European calendar packed with C1 women's races - 21 in total between Belgium, the Netherlands and one in France, up from 9 last year. For the first time in several years, Europe now has more C1 women's races than North America. The C1 races offer double the points of the more common C2 events, although the competition overseas is fierce, and points are crucial toward starting positions at World Cups and the world championships.
Dombroski has shown herself capable of riding well against the Europeans, scoring a 9th in the Hoogerheide World Cup in her first trip overseas in 2010, and has an aggressive schedule planned out for the season.
"I have 35 races in my cyclo-cross season, so I have a lot of races coming up," Dombroski told Cyclingnews after CrossVegas last week. "It will be drastically different than any other season I've ever done, I've only ever done quick trips to Europe. I'm really excited to be there full time."
Although there are 10 C1 races in the USA this season, Dombroski will not return for any of those events, but may return for the US championships in January.
After a difficult summer, plagued with crashes and knee problems that kept her from competition for part of the mountain bike season, Dombroski is happy to be back to top form. She fought her way to the first chasing group behind CrossVegas winner Katarina Nash and then out-paced an elite group to claim second.
"CrossVegas was a big focus for me because I had an off summer - I kept crashing and having health problems, so it was a big test of my fitness and one that I really wanted to do well."
She also had pressure to perform because the women's race in Las Vegas was supported by her sponsor CrankBrothers, who ensured the prize list was equal to the men's for the top female finishers. Similar grass roots efforts in the USA have inspired race promoters to voluntarily offer prize equity, and the increased attention on the issue has had a favorable on women's cycling. The UCI has slowly been enacting rules that have had positive changes in Europe.
"Europe is definintely moving toward equal prize money, and the UCI has to facilitate that but it takes time," she said. "For sure in the US there's way more respect. Pretty much every UCI race [in the USA] is equal prize money, at least for the top three. Europe has some room to grow in terms of that but I think they're recognizing that."
After CrossVegas, Dombroski returned to Vermont where she scored her first win of the season at the Green Mountain UCI cyclo-cross race. Now she is ready to focus her efforts solely on her favorite discipline: cyclo-cross. "This is defintiely where my heart is," she said.
Top UCI women's cyclo-cross races in Europe:
October 2, 2011: Vlaamse Industrieprijs Bosduin, Kalmthout (Bel) C1
October 9, 2011: Superprestige Ruddervoorde, Oostkamp / Ruddervoorde (Bel) C1
October 16, 2011: UCI World Cup, Plzen (Cze) CDM
October 23, 2011: UCI World Cup, Tabor (Cze) CDM
October 30, 2011: Superprestige Zonhoven, Zonhoven (Bel) C1
November 1, 2011: GVA Trofee - Koppenbergcross, Melden - Oudenaarde (Bel) C1
November 11, 2011: Cyclo-cross Nommay, Nommay Pays de Montbeliard (Fra) C1
November 13, 2011: Superprestige Hamme-Zogge, Hamme-Zogge (Bel) C1
November 20, 2011: Superprestige Gavere, Gavere (Bel) C1
November 26, 2011: UCI World Cup, Koksijde (Bel) CDM
November 27, 2011: Superprestige Gieten, Gieten (Ned) C1
December 10, 2011: Scheldecross, Antwerpen (Bel) C1
December 11, 2011: Vlaamse Druivenveldrit, Overijse (Bel) C1
December 17, 2011: GVA Trofee - GP Rouwmoer, Essen (Bel) C1
December 18, 2011: UCI World Cup, Namur (Bel) CDM
December 23, 2011: Superprestige Diegem, Diegem (Bel) C1
December 26, 2011: UCI World Cup, Heusden-Zolder (Bel) CDM
December 28, 2011: GVA Trofee - Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (Bel) C1
December 30, 2011: Fidea Cyclo-cross Tervuren, Tervuren (Bel) C1
January 1, 2012: GVA Trofee - G.P. Sven Nys, Baal (Tremelo) (Bel) C1
January 15, 2012: UCI World Cup, Liévin (Fra) CDM
January 22, 2012: UCI World Cup, Hoogerheide (Ned) CDM
February 4, 2012: GVA Trofee - Krawatencross, Lille (Bel) C1
February 5, 2012: Superprestige Hoogstraten, Hoogstraten (Bel) C1
February 11, 2012: Superprestige Middelkerke, Middelkerke (Bel) C1
February 12, 2012: Internationale Cyclo-cross Heerlen GP Heuts, Heerlen (Ned) C1
February 18, 2012: Cauberg Cyclo-cross, Valkenburg aan de Geul (Ned) C1
February 19, 2012: GVA Trofee - Internationale Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle, Oostmalle (Bel) C1
January 28-29, 2012: World Championships, Koksijde (Bel) CM