The Val di Sole cyclo-cross World Cup races will be held on the snow of the Italian Alps as the sport expands beyond its Belgian heartland and tries to convince the International Olympic Committee that it deserves a place in the winter Olympics.
The men’s and women’s elite races will be held on Sunday, December 12 around the Vermiglio cross-country skiing centre. Vermiglio sits at an altitude of 1,261 metres at the foot of the Passo del Tonale that divides the Trentino and Lombardia regions.
Races in northern Europe are occasionally hit by snow and ice but the Val di Sole circuit will be designed to include sections of snow. If winter arrives early in the Alpine valley, the whole race could be contested on snow and ice rather than mud, grass and gravel.
One of the guiding principles of the winter Olympics is that all sports are held on snow or ice.
“We are aiming for a course – artificially or otherwise – that will be on snow and we hope that IOC president Thomas Bach will watch,” Tomas Van den Spiegel, the CEO of cyclo-cross World Cup organisers Flanders Classics, told Wielerflits.
“There is currently some snow but more is expected. We will of course continue to monitor that closely,” Chris Mannaerts, the cyclo-cross manager at Flanders Classics said.
“If there is not enough snow, it can perhaps be supplemented with the available snow cannons, as is also the case with cross-country skiing or biathlon events.”
Mathieu van der Poel will only make his cyclo-cross debut on December 18 in the Rucphen World Cup in the Netherlands and a number of other riders have opted to snub the Val di Sole race, which is part of a new 16-race World Cup series that includes more events outside of Belgium and Netherlands than in the past.
Revelations about secret start money and the extra travelling costs to compete in the different rounds of the World Cup have sparked debate about the shake-up of the cyclo-cross season.
Marianne Vos and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado will not ride in Italy, while Sven Nys has confirmed that his Baloise Trek Lions will attend a training camp rather than travel to Italy. That means new European champion Lars Van der Haar, world champion Lucinda Brand and Thibau Nys will not race on the Val di Sole snow.
“That’s very unfortunate. This is the most innovative thing cyclo-cross sport has known in recent years,” a disappointed Van den Spiegel told Wielerflits.
“We hoped everyone would do their part. It is a pity that Baloise-Trek, an important stakeholder in the sport, opts for a training camp so collectively decides to skip the Val di Sole race.
“It doesn't have to be a drama, in any case, we have a strong field of participants, both for men and women. But the race in Val di Sole is a unique opportunity to take a certain position with cyclo-cross. I can only hope that some people will still keep this cross race in their agenda.”
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