olympic cyclocross
Philipp Walsleben rides in the men's Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, February 2, 2013; (photo/dc_slim)

Cyclocross Poised to Bring Cycling to the Winter Olympics

Have you ever tried to run up a slush-encrusted staircase, as fast as you can, carrying a bicycle? Then tried to ride back down it? Soon, you might be able to do it to train for Olympic cyclocross.

In the Italian Alps, Cyclocross World Cup organizers will make an Olympic bid with the series’ next race. The hosts will leave the compacted snow untouched for the race, which kicks off on December 12 in Val di Sole, Trentino.

olympic cyclocross
Val di Sole’s snowy cyclocross track; (photo/Vitesse)

As a rule, all Olympic Winter Games sports must take place on snow or ice. At the moment, conditions in Val di Sole make it an opportune venue. Situated just below the Vermiglio Cross Country Ski Center at 4,173 feet above sea level, deep early-season snow currently covers the track. Weather reports indicate that over a foot more might fall before race day.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctions the Cyclocross World Cup. The governing body first discussed it as an Olympic sport with the International Olympic Committee in 2014. If its current bid ends in success, the 2030 Olympics would be the earliest Games to feature cyclocross.

Cyclocross Primer: What It Is and How to Watch the World Cup

In cyclocross, competitors run numerous laps around a short track (1.5 to 2 miles) with multiple terrain features and obstacles. Pavement, tree slaloms, grass, stair sets, and steep hills are common. The sport is most popular in countries with strong road biking traditions like France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Thanks to the northern temperate locations that host the most races, sloppy weather is a typical race-day reality. Cyclocross bikes are similar in design to lightweight road bikes, but they have knobby tires and more clearance for mud and snow buildup, among other off-road-specific design elements.

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Christian Mannaert, the owner of Belgian bike race organizers Flanders Classics, described the Val di Sole course in Cycling Weekly.

“Sometimes the track is more icy, sometimes more snow,” he said. “We expect more snow, but it won’t be a problem because the locals are experts at preparing the snow. The track has two parts: there’s a more technical track at the beginning and then on the other side of the river, there’s a really steep hill. That will be very challenging because it’s a straight line to the hill.”

Will Olympic cyclocross become a reality? The December 12 race figures to be a rowdy trial run. If you’re psyched to tune in, you can catch all the 2021-22 UCI Cyclocross World Cup action at flobikes.com.

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Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.