UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships: Bieles course presented by Christine Majerus
When the the 2017 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships get under way in Bieles, Luxembourg, on January 28, Christine Majerus will be feeling quite at home.
The 29-year-old rider is Luxembourg’s National Champion in the discipline (eight times, no less) and ambassador for the 2017 Worlds. Racing the discipline’s leading event of the year at home is a chance of a lifetime for this accomplished rider, who has been combining cyclo-cross and road racing for many years.
Member of Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam, the top-ranked team in the 2016 UCI Ranking, Majerus is rarely spotted in her team’s kit: 25 national titles (8 cyclo-cross, 7 road race and 10 individual time trial) means she is more often than not sporting the National Champion’s jersey. Even so, the result she’s most proud of was a team effort: “With Boels Dolmans, 2016 was an outstanding year in my career. The win at the team time trial UCI World Championships was something we had been working for, for so long. Making it happen was great. I was the only one in the team who had never been World Champion before, so I think it was a little bit more special for me,” Majerus said.
An individual world title in Bieles is surely what the home fans will be cheering for, but Majerus refuses to succumb to pressure. “I want to improve my previous World Championships result [9th] so I aim for a top-10. I know that if everything comes together perfectly, I can do even better, as my fifth place at the World Cup round in Namur showed.”
The Worlds’ course was designed by the organisers who asked her opinion on several occasions. She tried to turn that into an advantage but it didn’t work out as she might have wished: “I offered them my preferences which included long climbs and running, but unfortunately the location doesn’t feature enough elevation; let’s say my input was useless,” Majerus says with a sense of humour. “Actually, they created their own course, with their own ideas, trying to make the best use of the area. Once the course was completed, I was asked to take a look and provide feedback from a rider’s point of view. My feedback was mainly about security rather than real course changes. There really wasn’t much to say about it. They did a good job.”
Video footage provides a bumpy sneak preview of the Bieles course for those who haven’t been there yet. Majerus, who has headed out for a couple of test rides in recent weeks, explains that the course features three different section: “The first third of the course is mostly flat grass, that won’t get muddy. The second third of the course is also grass but more technical. There are some small climbs and off-camber sections. The last third of the course can be muddy, including climbs, stairs, downhills and a massive off-camber section that heads to the finish area. That last third will probably decide the outcome of the race,” Majerus explains. She says it is hard to compare the course with that of other races, as conditions also have a large part to play. “The weather conditions are obviously important too. The last part of the course in Bieles ensures that it will not be an easy lap. Then again, the first part of the course means it won’t be a monstrous lap, like Namur for example. I would consider it a medium-hard course in dry conditions. It could become more physical though if there is rain and mud, and it’ll be technically challenging if there is snow or ice. But as so often in ‘cross, the best will win, no matter the course.”
Working closely with the organising team, Majerus witnessed how a sketch on paper turned into an actual racing course in the park of the Lycée Bel-Val. “It was quite a challenge for the whole organising team to get it all done as they really started from zero. In the end, they managed to create a course that has a bit of everything. It will be completely ready and raceable at the end of January. It was nice to experience the complete build-up process, back from the first time they showed me the area on a map, up to how it looks now. It’s really impressive to see all the work done.”
Majerus hopes the racing action in Bieles will provide a major boost to cyclo-cross in Luxembourg, not only for riders but also for the spectators. “We have a long ‘cross history but unfortunately most of the talented young riders turn towards the road by the end of the Junior category. Maybe this will be an extra motivation for them to keep going in cross. We have a local cross race nearly every weekend but unfortunately there are never huge crowds at those races. Hopefully by seeing how awesome the atmosphere can be if there are a lot of spectators it will motivate people to come to the smaller races again.”
Her desire to inspire riders and fans meant that she did not hesitate when asked to be ambassador for the 2017 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships: “It is a nice responsibility. My job was to promote the event as often as possible. I hope I have matched the expectations of the organiser.”
It doesn’t seem to be an effort for Majerus to promote the Bieles area, as she is clearly proud of how the government has dealt with its heritage. “Bieles is positioned in the more industrial part of Luxembourg. It’s the same industry that made the country what it is today, even though most people only think of banks when they think of Luxembourg. The start was different. The industrial parts are mostly out of use but to keep the history in mind, they were not destroyed but integrated into a restyled concept for the whole Bieles area. There’s a university, the Lycée Bel-Val, living and working areas and organised social activities. The park at the school will be our race playground,” Majerus added.