Cyclo-Cross Takes Over the World!

Just a quick note to ask if anyone has an idea why cyclo-cross riders have entered the pro Pro Tour with such panache. I'm not a historian, but I can't remember a time when riders like MVDP, Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock won classics, stage races, and lead stage races at their first crack. I mean, we're talking about competing against the best in the world who have years of experience trying to perfect their craft. Is it mere coincidence? Should up-and-coming riders spend a few years plying their trade in the mud? As a complete outsider, I'm genuinely curious to know what people think.
 
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Over 700 riders at WT & PCT level aren't there? I would think if CX meant anything, more names from CX would be coming through at the top of Road than those you mentioned.
I think although CX has a more technical aspect to it than road, fundamentally it's like endurance track cycling in that the very biggest engines aerobically should float to the top and be discovered early, but the pool that crosses to road is relatively small compared to that of road.
 
Reactions: Axel Hangleck
Greetings.
Just a quick note to point out the evolution of the Clinic. Back in the day it was guns a blazin'. We're talking Wild West stuff when obvious insiders were throwing around names and accusations as the popcorn popped. It truly was an interesting thing to see. Needless to say, the vast majority of insiders were correct. Lance was doping as was everyone else. No need to go into details; I'm sure you get the point.
Fast forward to 2020 where it seems only the resident genius's (you know who you are) are allowed to chime in to confirm or -- as is more often than not -- claim someone has no idea what they're talking about.
I'm a guy who has no an idea what I'm talking about, but does have a clue.. Today I watched another other-worldly performance by MVDP. It would have been breathtaking if not for the fact he pretty much rides everyone off his wheel every time he enters a race.
The best of the rest are so desperate to stay on his wheel that crashes occur while MVDP just minds his own beez wax and casually goes on to another win.
Like I said, I have no clue about the amount of doping that goes on in cycling., nor do I really care. I'm just curious by nature. I am not saying MVDP is on the gear, but when he crosses the line way ahead of his rivals after soft-pedalling a part of the final lap with mouth closed, it looks really weird.
 
haven't we done this? you can't really sit on a wheel....it's a technical TT if you choose to blast-off at the start. MVdP has the sort of power available to do that. he could do that on the road if he could get you off his wheel. The three you mention will end up on the road as that is where the money is and where they have ambitions.......it just so happens they have come up through cross and they are all world class....yesterday's mud and running fest was a joy to behold...or at least within a larger portfolio of all the other types of course.....that's not to say they are not doping...it's cycling and its begium/holland....some things are a given.....
 
Pardon me. My message was improperly worded.
By "sitting on a wheel" I meant trying to stay with the rider in front,not drafting. I get it.
I tried, but obviously failed to speak in more general terms about doping in cycling.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but saying "it's cycling and its belgium/holland...some things are a given..." means that doping is a given. That's cool.
I'm just curious why it's not talked about.
 
If anything, it very much should be the case a very dominant CX rider should be successful on the road. In general, that’s what is happening.

Success can mean being an excellent domestique. So, don’t over generalize.
 
Just a quick note to ask if anyone has an idea why cyclo-cross riders have entered the pro Pro Tour with such panache. I'm not a historian, but I can't remember a time when riders like MVDP, Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock won classics, stage races, and lead stage races at their first crack. I mean, we're talking about competing against the best in the world who have years of experience trying to perfect their craft. Is it mere coincidence? Should up-and-coming riders spend a few years plying their trade in the mud? As a complete outsider, I'm genuinely curious to know what people think.
Well there may be several things going simultaneously.

Firstly the level among CX riders is up significantly. Take for example a technical genius like Tom Meeusen that back in 2015/16 definitely was competitive against the then best CX riders. I haven’t seen any FTP data but my guess is that Tom and some of his generation are massively behind in terms of FTP albeit not in maximum power nor anaerobic capacity. MVDP, WVA, Pidcock, Aerts and a few more top level CX riders are surely above 5.5 watts per kilo in FTP which makes them highly competitive at classical time trials (Pidcock, WVA etc) but also in road races. Sagan may have a massive punch but probably nudges slightly behind MVDP in aerobic endurance and I guess few if any top level road racers matches BOTH the skills and the endurance of WVA/MVDP - something that will count in races like Strade Bianche, Ronde Van Vlaanderen...

The other thing that possibly is going on is cleaner road racers, hence somewhat less stratosferic performances and consequently better possibilities for CX riders to transfer over and have results.

Finally it has to be clear that in fact there are just two riders currently that have made a significant impact. Tom P has yet to tested in world pro competitions (good results in baby Giro and U23 counts but not as the results of eg WVA). Hermans, Merlier et al are solid CX as well as road riders but I doubt they will win any one day classics.

ps. Stybar and Lars Boom should not be forgotten as both of them has had exceptional results as road racers.
 
Well there may be several things going simultaneously.

Firstly the level among CX riders is up significantly. Take for example a technical genius like Tom Meeusen that back in 2015/16 definitely was competitive against the then best CX riders. I haven’t seen any FTP data but my guess is that Tom and some of his generation are massively behind in terms of FTP albeit not in maximum power nor anaerobic capacity. MVDP, WVA, Pidcock, Aerts and a few more top level CX riders are surely above 5.5 watts per kilo in FTP which makes them highly competitive at classical time trials (Pidcock, WVA etc) but also in road races. Sagan may have a massive punch but probably nudges slightly behind MVDP in aerobic endurance and I guess few if any top level road racers matches BOTH the skills and the endurance of WVA/MVDP - something that will count in races like Strade Bianche, Ronde Van Vlaanderen...

The other thing that possibly is going on is cleaner road racers, hence somewhat less stratosferic performances and consequently better possibilities for CX riders to transfer over and have results.

Finally it has to be clear that in fact there are just two riders currently that have made a significant impact. Tom P has yet to tested in world pro competitions (good results in baby Giro and U23 counts but not as the results of eg WVA). Hermans, Merlier et al are solid CX as well as road riders but I doubt they will win any one day classics.

ps. Stybar and Lars Boom should not be forgotten as both of them has had exceptional results as road racers.
Thanks for your reply.
I have to admit that I've never before heard the term FTP and had to look it up. And after looking it up, I'm still confused. Correct me if I'm wrong, but FTP reflects a maximum steady effort, not short bursts. The definition I read included "not the up and down you might see looking at your power from a hilly ride or cyclocross. "
I could be way off here, but if I'm interpreting the definition correctly, I'm not sure how it applies to cyclocross. My understanding is that a cyclocross race requires maximum effort with very short periods of respite for one hour. I come from the CatEye generation where all you could see on your onboard were things like speed and distance ridden. Terms like WPK and FTP weren't even invented, never mind talked about. So I guess my question is: How can you determine maximum steady effort when the ride lasts only an hour? Wouldn't the term or calculation or whatever be best applied to to those who make a living riding five hours a day?
Dumb questions aside, the fact there are only two riders who have made a significant impact makes the spectacle even more curious. Two guys who made the seamless transition to the road after plying their trade in the mud. If the pros are lacking in endurance and bike handling skills, shouldn't that make more up and comers spend a couple years riding cyclocross? I'm assuming both are making boatloads of money, which could potentially open doors to greater resources that the pack fodder don't have. So there's that as well.
Also, just one last thing before putting everyone to sleep. This has been mentioned by someone else before, but it's curious that WVA peaks during the WC after consistent beat-downs by MVDP .
 
Thanks for your reply.
I have to admit that I've never before heard the term FTP and had to look it up. And after looking it up, I'm still confused. Correct me if I'm wrong, but FTP reflects a maximum steady effort, not short bursts. The definition I read included "not the up and down you might see looking at your power from a hilly ride or cyclocross. "
I could be way off here, but if I'm interpreting the definition correctly, I'm not sure how it applies to cyclocross. My understanding is that a cyclocross race requires maximum effort with very short periods of respite for one hour. I come from the CatEye generation where all you could see on your onboard were things like speed and distance ridden. Terms like WPK and FTP weren't even invented, never mind talked about. So I guess my question is: How can you determine maximum steady effort when the ride lasts only an hour? Wouldn't the term or calculation or whatever be best applied to to those who make a living riding five hours a day?
Dumb questions aside, the fact there are only two riders who have made a significant impact makes the spectacle even more curious. Two guys who made the seamless transition to the road after plying their trade in the mud. If the pros are lacking in endurance and bike handling skills, shouldn't that make more up and comers spend a couple years riding cyclocross? I'm assuming both are making boatloads of money, which could potentially open doors to greater resources that the pack fodder don't have. So there's that as well.
Also, just one last thing before putting everyone to sleep. This has been mentioned by someone else before, but it's curious that WVA peaks during the WC after consistent beat-downs by MVDP .
Thanks, lots of questions and I will do my best to keep it simple and to the point.

FTP
Functional Threshold Power is a (good) proxy for a riders aerobic conditioning and should correspond to the average power (W) a rider could produce in a maximum effort over one hour of riding. Just as you say the highest FTP is most likely produced as an evenly paced steady state effort and not - like in cyclocross - bursts of efforts paired with rest periods with low or no power. Yet, FTP seem to be a good marker for strong cycling performance as cycling is a predominantly aerobic sport (bar track cycling).

FTP and CX
Anaerobic and sprint/max power capacity clearly plays an important role in CX but typically races are one hour long with high demands on the riders aerobic capacity. Very likely the top 10 best CX riders in the world will have higher average FTP than the top 11-20 CX riders. Surely technique is a massive divider and to some extent max power and anaerobic capacity but take Tom Pidcock. Small rider with a very high FTP (British TT champion), that often starts "slow" in comparison to most of the other top riders but equally often ends up among top 3-5. Without knowing exactly my guess is that most of the elite CX riders have very high anaerobic capacity as well as exceptional power and power/weight and still the main dividers are 1) technique and 2) aerobic / FTP.

Roadies vs CXers
How can CXers make such a strong footprint in road racing, implying that they are coming from nowhere? Well, WVA and MVDP has raced bicycles all their lives - BMX, MTB, CX and road/TT. Secondly they are their generation's most talented riders. One can name several CXers that have gone from CX to road and become successful and some that did not. The main major differences between the two sports are probably 1) bike prowess (honed to the extreme in CX) and 2) anaerobic/short effort capacity and recovery. Surely a roadie can also attain these qualities without racing CX (Sagan, Gilbert, Greg v Avermat; Fuglsang, Valverde etc) but more and more pro road teams realize the benefits of CX and therefore looks into the ranks of CX riders and also makes room for that kind of training, racing.

Doping
All elite sport is under the shadow of doping and CX has had its share of confirmed cases - even e-doping with electric motor aided bikes. We can only hope that procedures work as intended and that CX is not particularly plagued compared to other cycling. With technique as significantly larger factor than compared to road doping will be somewhat less effective but still it must make massive difference to have a couple of % higher power / better recovery.

WVA and World Championship
Since 2015 MVDP and WVA have dominated the World Championships in CX. Wout took his second in Bieles Luxembourg 2017 through a very smart choice of tyre setup. Many of the other top riders punctured on the muddy and gravelly course and MVDP saw his chances evaporate with three puntures. In 2018 MVDP won almost everything leading up to the WC but probably overstretched and came into the race not completely at his best. Further, the course was perfect for Wout with lots of ups/down and extreme mud - something that does not seem to fit Mathieu. In 2019 MVDP beat Wout thoroughly on a fast, slick very technical course in Bogense, Denmark. Wout almost lost the silver medal against Toon Aerts but at a last critical moment Toon made a mistake and came third. Last year in Dubendorf Wout came in having suffered severe wounds in road racing and was not at his best - still ended up fourth. Thus the score between MVDP and WVA is 3-3 but it could easily have been 4-2. We shall see next weekend who comes out on top but it should be a major surprise if it's neither of those two.
 
Reactions: the delgados
Just a quick note to ask if anyone has an idea why cyclo-cross riders have entered the pro Pro Tour with such panache. I'm not a historian, but I can't remember a time when riders like MVDP, Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock won classics, stage races, and lead stage races at their first crack. I mean, we're talking about competing against the best in the world who have years of experience trying to perfect their craft. Is it mere coincidence? Should up-and-coming riders spend a few years plying their trade in the mud? As a complete outsider, I'm genuinely curious to know what people think.
hard to tell
 
Reactions: the delgados
In other news, the cycling community was shocked today to learn that Mathieu van der Poel won the Elite Men World Cyclo-cross Championships in Belgium.
"Mathieu won?" asked a perplexed observer. "Are you serious?"
After a hard fought battle with his only opponent -- i.e. the sand -- MVDP managed to pull off what many thought was impossible.
 
Well there may be several things going simultaneously.

Firstly the level among CX riders is up significantly. Take for example a technical genius like Tom Meeusen that back in 2015/16 definitely was competitive against the then best CX riders. I haven’t seen any FTP data but my guess is that Tom and some of his generation are massively behind in terms of FTP albeit not in maximum power nor anaerobic capacity. MVDP, WVA, Pidcock, Aerts and a few more top level CX riders are surely above 5.5 watts per kilo in FTP which makes them highly competitive at classical time trials (Pidcock, WVA etc) but also in road races. Sagan may have a massive punch but probably nudges slightly behind MVDP in aerobic endurance and I guess few if any top level road racers matches BOTH the skills and the endurance of WVA/MVDP - something that will count in races like Strade Bianche, Ronde Van Vlaanderen...

The other thing that possibly is going on is cleaner road racers, hence somewhat less stratosferic performances and consequently better possibilities for CX riders to transfer over and have results.

Finally it has to be clear that in fact there are just two riders currently that have made a significant impact. Tom P has yet to tested in world pro competitions (good results in baby Giro and U23 counts but not as the results of eg WVA). Hermans, Merlier et al are solid CX as well as road riders but I doubt they will win any one day classics.

ps. Stybar and Lars Boom should not be forgotten as both of them has had exceptional results as road racers.
I think both a bigger influx in talent in CX together with more money meaning better programs for CXers are a better explanation that road cycling getting cleaner. 2020 was supernatural and Van Aert himself was one of the biggest outliers in there.
 
I think both a bigger influx in talent in CX together with more money meaning better programs for CXers are a better explanation that road cycling getting cleaner. 2020 was supernatural and Van Aert himself was one of the biggest outliers in there.
Agree. Probably a much more likely explanation.
 
I also wonder if CX didn't just have a big bias towards riders who weren't elite on the road as juniors either?
Quite possibly. Stybar hadn't raced a CX race in 2-3 years, enters Worlds to gauge form and still comes 18th. Haussler finished in the main group and was only there for sh!ts and giggles. He'd only raced a bunch of smaller races in the last 2 years.
 
I find it slightly annoying on almost every CX race commentary we hear that "Cross is so good for the road..." Okay, that's fine - so why aren't many of the classics guys having a crack at CX in the winter?
We'll hear the same thing during road race commentary, and it's not quite accurate as it's a small sample size. And to be honest, both Vans are 'once in a generation' riders - not because they do Cross. Cross has benefited them develop their skills, etc
 
I find it slightly annoying on almost every CX race commentary we hear that "Cross is so good for the road..." Okay, that's fine - so why aren't many of the classics guys having a crack at CX in the winter?
We'll hear the same thing during road race commentary, and it's not quite accurate as it's a small sample size. And to be honest, both Vans are 'once in a generation' riders - not because they do Cross. Cross has benefited them develop their skills, etc
I know, right?!
Whenever I hear commentators say things like that I'm reminded of basketball and football commentators who say so-and-so "Put on 20 pounds of muscle over the summer."
Uh huh. Sure.
They're just making schit up.
 
Jan 31, 2021
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I think there's a difference between saying being a good cross rider makes one a good road rider (not necessarily), and saying that riding cross can be excellent training for the road. Heinrich Haussler is pack fodder in CX but has raved about the benefits of riding cross for his road preparation (check out his episode on Mitch Docker's podcast).
 
Well I don't see much upside for riders like Ganna, Evenepoel, etc to ride cross. They might only be marginally better while having to adapt all of the rest of their road season's preparations. Further, I believe they wouldn't like to have their *sses handed to them in every CX race - even by junior and U23 riders. If you haven't seriously been doing cross the transition won't be easy. Then for the likes of MVDP, WVA but also lesser riders like van Kessel, Merlier etc it probably is a good thing, keeping the motivation, intensity and bike handling at a high level during the winter. Still, if you're passionate about it - like Haussler - it surely is a good thing since motivation is a big factor.
 
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