A unique setting for a very special event.
Never in the 70-year history of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships – held for the first time in Paris in 1950 – have they taken place at such a venue. This year, the world’s best cyclo-cross riders will battle for the rainbow jersey on the airfield of Switzerland’s Dübendorf airport. On 1-2 February the airfield will be clear of planes to make way for cyclo-cross racing across six categories: Men and Women Elite, Men and Women Under 23, Men Junior and, for the first time, Women Junior.
It will be the eighth time the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships have been held in Switzerland, the first since 1995, and this return called for something exceptional. “We’re not far from Eschenbach, where the 1995 Worlds were held, but the Organising Committee chose this venue to bring cyclo-cross as close as possible to the Swiss public,” explains Christelle Reille, Cyclo-cross Coordinator for the UCI. “It’s close to the Zurich city centre, easy to access, and with an important capacity for the public.”
A fast-paced circuit
The 2019 Worlds held in Bogense (Denmark) were already a popular success, attracting around 15,000 spectators across two days of racing. This time, the expectations are to bring crowds twice as big, capitalising on the engagement generated by the Telenet UCI World Cup event held in Bern (Switzerland) the past couple of years. The venue is able to handle such a number of cyclo-cross enthusiasts and its specific settings offer the fans a global view on the entire course from almost any point.
“The course is mainly flat, with two kinds of obstacles: artificial ones such as wooden barriers and footbridges, and natural ones, as we make the most of two small hills,” explains Reille. “Last year, we had quite a flat circuit with one main challenge, and it’s kind of similar this year.” The organisers add that “the fast-paced course promises exhilarating races with plenty of lead changes.”
The course will be made of dirt paths and grass sections, which will also make for a serious challenge for the riders if the conditions are wet. Dark clouds are looming in the Swiss sky ahead of the first weekend of February, getting ready to spice up the races while the fans stay warm thanks to a heated atmosphere bolstered by intense action.
A time-trial for the organisation
Excitement is also mounting among the riders, who are tackling the last events of the 2019-2020 Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup and getting ready to challenge for the rainbow glory at the Worlds. There is also a part of uncertainty for them as the course is virtually non-existent so far. The airfield where it will be set is still in daily use, in full swing serving the world economic leaders meeting in Davos (21-24 January).
“Everyone is expectant as we’ve never held any event on this course,” Reille says. “Plans have been published and when you know an airport is flat and there is one main hill, you can already have an idea of what it will be like.” Some even had a preview, including the young Swiss talent Loris Rouiller (Alpecin-Fenix):
The main works to build the course will begin on the Monday immediately prior to the UCI World Championships, with the assistance of the Swiss civil protection forces. About 65 people will tackle this task, rather than the dozen or so who usually work on preparing a Worlds course. The official field inspection is scheduled for Thursday and will be followed by the first official training sessions on the same day. But “things need to be ready on the Wednesday so we can already have a first look and make sure it’s all good security-wise,” specifies Christelle Reille.
The riders and their entourage will have a couple of days to get familiar with the traps of the unprecedented circuit. And then it will be time for the fans to enjoy this unique setting. “Last year, they saw something funny with Wout van Aert warming up between boats on the port of Bogense,” Reille recalls. “This time it will be between planes!”