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In France, cyclo-cross is gradually emerging from the undergrowth

The announcement of the Alpecin-Deceuninck team on Monday sent a “phew” of relief to all the volunteers working on the event: Mathieu van der Poel will be there on Sunday in Besançon for the last round of the cyclo-cross World Cup season, a one-hour race on a circuit combining cycling and sometimes running. “I had many disturbed nights before knowing if he was coming or notsays Pascal Orlandi, president of the Bisontine Cycling Association, which organizes the event. It was really important for us to welcome a star. »

When the road cycling season has not yet started, Raymond Poulidor’s grandson is a cyclo-cross star, quadruple world champion in the discipline. In recent weeks, he has sublimated the World Cup alongside two other successful backpacker cyclo-crossmen, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock. The “fantastic three” stir up crowds in winter. “We hope to welcome 8,000 people”, assures Orlandi. That is double the round organized in Besançon in November 2021. Only thanks to the presence of Van der Poel.

Nothing to do with Belgium however, where the spectators are much more numerous to take advantage of this golden age of cyclo-cross. “In France, when we say cycling, we mean road cycling. In Belgium and the Netherlands, we hear classics and cyclo-cross »explains Steve Chainel, former professional rider, World Cup commentator for Eurosport and promoter of cyclo-cross in France.

“I’ve been scouring the Coupe de France circuits for twenty years and I see among young people a popular attraction for this sport”, he says. Listening to the various actors who roam the undergrowth, cyclo-cross has a future in France. “We have young people who are largely capable of being among the very best”, confirms Pascal Orlandi. So why doesn’t France have at least one champion in the discipline in its ranks?

“An annex of road cycling”

The cultural argument removed, one of the main reasons is that cyclo-cross is not an Olympic discipline. The French Cycling Federation (FFC) distributes the majority of state allocations over those present at the Olympics (road, track, mountain bike, BMX). The other brake “it’s that the discipline is seen as secondary, an annex of road cycling during the winter period”explains Sylvain Duployer, vice-president of the FFC in charge of cyclo-cross.

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