New 'cross World Cup calendar puts accent on France and Italy

By Brecht Decaluwé in Treviso

The UCI World Cup released the calendar for the 2008-2009 cyclo-cross season this weekend, detailing some changes which favour this year's 'cross World Championships host country of Italy. The Milan round will now become the finale of the series, while France was granted an additional event. The Netherlands lost an event, but is hosting the world championships, while the expected absence of an American World Cup was confirmed.

The first five World Cup events are to remain the same, with Kalmthout (Belgium) opening the season on October 19. Together with Tabor (Czech Republic), Pijnacker (Netherlands), Koksijde (Belgium) and Igorre (Spain) the races comprise the first half of the calendar.

Two weeks after Igorre there will be the first French World Cup in Nommay (France), which sat out hosting an event this year, while Liévin, which organized a World Cup this season, will now be hosting the European Championships. Liévin is also one of the four candidates to host the 2012 world championships, together with Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

After Nommay – the traditional holiday round in Hofstade precedes a new World Cup event in Roubaix (France) which will take place on and around the legendary track which hosts the finish of Paris-Roubaix. The World Cup will wrap up in Milan despite the elite men's race there having been cancelled in the 2007-2008 season. One week later Hoogerheide (Netherlands) will host the world championships.

UCI cyclo-cross coordinator Peter Van Den Abeele expounded on the decisions of the cycling federation to favour the Italian and French organizations. "We granted the finale to Italy because it is better for the sport. They couldn't organize the elite men's event last year, but there is more in 'cross than elite races. It is better to have something than nothing at all," Van Den Abeele said.

"What Roubaix concerns; if you can organize a ProTour event, then it shouldn't be a problem to host a World Cup race. The organizers listened to our advice and changed what we wanted to change. Veterans like Erwin Vervecken and Richard Groenendaal reported on what they saw, and we'll bring over our comments to the organizers," the former Belgian champion said to Cyclingnews.

When asked about a possible American World Cup event, the UCI-coordinator played down the expectations. "Now it's up to them to come with guarantees, and if we didn't hear from them before March, then there will be no World Cup. Actually, as it is now they are still a C2 race since every race remained on their same level in the USA. Next year the US organizers will have to live up to the same demands as we have for the European organizers, so I expect there will be a lot of changes there."

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