As usual we're excited! This weekend the Grand Prix of Cyclocross lands in Melbourne... The Field of Joy track in Essendon will host some of the best CX riders in the region, it's as close as you can get to Belgium without getting on a aeroplane!
This is the second running of the Melbourne Grand Prix of Cyclocross, two days of epic CX racing, shouting, beer and generally good times. Last year’s event attracted some of Australia’s finest cyclocross racers, but this year will have an even higher calibre field.
Current Australian national champions Peta Mullens and Chris Jongewaard will be there. So will New Zealand's women's national champion Kim Hurst, who won her title just last weekend. Naturally, La Velocita's all-around excellent human Stacey Riedel will be there, so make sure you the pocket rocket an extra shout! There's a international flavour to with a couple of American riders, Anthony Clark and Emily Kachorek of Squid Bikes making the trip Down Under.
It's exciting to see the UCI jumping on the Melbourne Grand Prix of Cyclocross making the race internationally recognised and raising the profile of all the great racing we've got going on here.
just in case you're interested in the technicalities, in internationally sanctioned cyclocross racing, there are three tiers of races: World Cups, C1 races, and C2 races. World Cups are the highest-level events in the sport and offer the highest numbers of UCI ranking points for riders who compete in them.
While organising a UCI sanctioned race does mean that certain criteria have to be met for setup and safety, the benefit is that the elite riders who take part in your race can vie for UCI ranking points.
A rider’s UCI ranking is absolutely critical in CX. For starters, because the field sizes are much smaller than in road racing (40-60 as opposed to 200), for the biggest events in the sport like the World Cup Series and World Championships you need a fair haul of UCI points just to toe the start line.
Once you’re at the race and ready to start, it’s still really important to have UCI points next to your name. In international racing riders are seeded on the starting grid according to their UCI ranking, with the highest ranked riders getting a start on the front row and those with fewer points having to line up behind them.
Think of it as the start of a Formula 1 race – those with the most UCI points are automatically put in pole position, while anyone with a low tally of UCI points has to start from the pit lane.
The Formula 1 analogy continues once the gun goes – because just like in motorsport, there’s almost certainly going to be a logjam around the first corner. The further forward you are in the field, the more likely you are to avoid that logjam.
While UCI points are important, they're even more critical for Australian racers because of their scarcity. Before this year the only Australian race to offer UCI points was our national championships, which is only one race every year and only open to Australians, which naturally limits the incentives for foreign riders to race Down Under.
Having another two races offering UCI points means that there's an unprecedented chance for Aussie cross to gain an international reputation and standing, and gives riders from the Southern Hemisphere a chance to gain points without having to travel north of the equator - the next closest UCI races are in China!
That's why we'll be at the Melbourne Grand Prix of Cyclocross this weekend. If you're in Melbourne and up for a great weekend of racing, come out to Essendon Fields and enjoy the party!