The 2015-16 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup begins this week in the US when CrossVegas returns to America's gambling city Wednesday evening for the first round of the seven-race series.
As expected, the American race's jump into the World Cup the year has drawn most of Europe's top riders, with last year's World Cup winners Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napolean Games) and Sanne Cant (Belgium) heading the start list.
The course at the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex southwest of the famous Las Vegas strip offers a deep grass track for the race, which will take place in evening temperatures approaching 90 degrees (Fahrenheit).
Sven Nys won the men's race the past two years before Cross Vegas was part of the World Cup and before it drew deep European fields. Dutchman Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin), last year's World Cup runner-up, won the Las Vegas race in 2011.
Although Mathieu van der Poel and Rob Peeters have had to scratch from the race, the European contingent in Las Vegas will be strong. Eight of last year’s World Cup top 10 will be on the start line, with much of their supporting cast filling in the remaining spaces.
Corne van Kessell, Phillip Walsleben, Tom Meeusen, Jens Adams, Gianni Vermeersch and Klaas Vantornout are all on the provisional start list.
The US will be well represented, of course, with national champion Jeremy Powers joining Jonathan Page, Danny Summerhill, Jamey Driscoll, Zach McDonald, Adam Craig and Ryan Trebon, among others, on the 71-rider provisional start list.
The women's 49-rider provisional start list offers a depth of field equal to the men's.
Last year's CrossVegas winner Meredith Miller (Pepper Palace) will be back, but she'll face not just World Cup runner-up Katie Compton, who Miller beat last year in Vegas, but also European standouts Cant, Ellen van Loy, Sophie de Boer (ParkHotel), Lucie Chainel-Lefevre, Helen Wyman, Katerina Nash and Sanne van Paassen, who won Cross Vegas in 2012.
Aside from Miller and Compton, other top US 'cross racers scheduled to race in Vegas include Kaitlin Antonneau, Rachel Loyd, Crystal Anthony and Georgia Gould.
The 2015 Las Vegas World Cup marks the first time the UCI series moves outside Europe and the second time it ventures beyond mainland Europe after Milton Keynes, Great Britain, last year. It's been more than two years since the UCI World Championships took place outside of Europe in Louisville, Kentucky, for the first time.
The UCI had originally scheduled a Canadian World Cup in Montreal for September 19, but that event was subsequently cancelled.
2015-16 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup
September 19 – Las Vegas (USA)
October 18 – Valkenburg (Ned)
November 22 – Koksijde (Bel)
December 20 – Namur (Bel)
December 26 – Heusden-Zolder (Bel)
January 17 – Lignieres-en-Berry (Fra)
January 24 – Hoogerheide (Ned)
Listen to this week's Cyclingnews podcast or download it to your device from iTunes, and click here to subscribe to the podcast so you get it first.