Even more bike races – National Cyclocross Championships

Nationals weekend is over. Here are some of the most significant results, in varied levels of detail.

Belgium. Women’s Race: for an incredible 13th consecutive year, Sanne Cant is the winner of the women’s race, which she won, in Middelkerke, in dominant fashion. Men’s Race: he was the favourite and for good reason. Out of ten race days, this was his ninth victory (only a badly timed mechanical stopped it being ten out of ten) and Wout Van Aert defended his national champion’s jersey, making this his fifth year as national champion, ending his cyclocross campaign with another win.

Netherlands. Women’s Race: the unofficial world championships, some people call it, and perhaps they’d be right. But, if they were, Lucinda Brand would have to give up her rainbow bands to Marianne Vos, who won the Dutch nationals for the seventh time. Men’s Race: it was Lars van der Haar who won the Dutch men’s race, eight years after his last victory in this race.

Thomas Mein beat Cameron Mason to win the British Elite men’s race, while Harriet Harnden took victory in the women’s. Kevin Kuhn successfully defended his Swiss title and Alessandra Keller won the women’s race.

Other races: Denmark – Men’s race: Simon Andreassen, Women’s Race: Caroline Bohé. Spain – Men’s race: Felipe Orts (for the fourth year in a row), Women’s Race: Lucia Gonzalez. Germany – Men’s race: Marcel Meisen (for the seventh time), Women’s race: Elisabeth Brandau. France – Men’s race: Joshua Dubau (Clément Venturini, the defending champion, finished 10th) Women’s race: Line Burquier

That’s it from me, thanks for reading, Em xx

A bike race, another bike race and some speculation about bike races.

X2O Badkamers Trofee Herentals, with Van Aert winning his eight race out of nine starts and Lucinda Brand extending her winning streak. The home favourite (Van Aert) won with over a minute, by the end of the course, over Tom Pidcock (who won’t be defending his British National Champion’s jersey this weekend) and Toon Aerts. In the women’s race, Denise Betsema finished second with Annemarie Worst finishing third.

No Worlds for Wout (or MVDP), with Van der Poel still suffering from his back injury (from the Olympics) and Van Aert not wanting to delay/affect the beginnings of his road season and classics campaign, especially because this year’s Worlds are in Fayetteville, Arkansas, not in Europe. Van der Poel’s cyclocross season is now over, and Van Aert’s ends with the Belgian national championships in Middelkerke this weekend.

The Vuelta a San Juan cancellation is disappointing but not surprising. Remco Evenepoel is, for the second year, unable to defend his victory due to the cancellation of the race because of the pandemic. The beginning of the road is season is, of course, now fast approaching, with the end of January bringing the first races, and the World Tour beginning with the UAE Tour on 20th February, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on 26th February.

No other news to summarise, I don’t think, and I’ve not finished reading my book yet (check my Instagram if you’re interested).

Thanks for reading, Em xx

Even more cyclocross, and nothing else

Three days of cyclocross to round up, with (spoiler alert!) more wins by Lucinda Brand and Wout Van Aert.

30th December, X20 Trofee Loenhout. Women’s Race: With a gap of fifteen seconds over her compatriot, Denise Betsema, Lucinda Brand took her thirteenth win of the cyclocross season. Men’s Race: With the absence of Mathieu van der Poel (due to injury) and Tom Pidcock (not participating in this race), Wout Van Aert was the favourite to take his sixth consecutive win of the season, which he did, with Michael Vanthourenhout and Toon Aerts finishing second and third.

1st January, X20 Trofee Baal (GP Sven Nys). Women’s Race: Whilst the two had been neck and neck up to towards the end of the final lap, it was Lucinda Brand again who won, with Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Dutch national champion, in second and Betsema in third. Men’s Race: Despite a crash, which led to a dramatic shoe change where he lost around thirty seconds, it was Wout Van Aert who made it seven out of seven so far.

2nd January, UCI Cyclocross World Cup Hulst. Women’s Race: Annemarie Worst in third, Puck Pieterse in second and Lucinda Brand again first (having won six races in a row, now), the Dutch (as ever) dominated the race. Men’s Race: Would it be eight out of eight for Van Aert? With a mechanical at the beginning of the first lap, Van Aert lost more than forty seconds before the race had really got underway, and was in around fortieth place. The fight was on to return to the front of the race and, as the race continued, Van Aert moved up and finished fourth. Victory went to Tom Pidcock, with Eli Iserbyt (whose overall victory in the World Cup is now certain) in second and the European Champion Lars van der Haar in third.

What’s next? National championships weekend. Can Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado retain the Dutch national champion’s jersey? Will Wout Van Aert be beaten in the Belgian national championship?

Thank You 2021!!

2021. Wow, if you were to tell me that it was 2017, Chris Froome had won this year’s Tour de France and that next year I would still have to do art classes at school because I wasn’t allowed to drop it yet, I’d have believed you. Well, not quite, but you get the idea. But it’s not, and 2021 has been, for me, an amazing year. It’s not been without it’s ups and downs – but what year is perfect? – and, for me, it’s been a year of changes. I started translating (which has been so much fun and I’ve loved the books I’ve worked on and have worked with some lovely people, thank you!), I started a new job (which is also going really well, yay!) and have got back into blogging properly for the first time in six years, which is mad.

It’s also been a fantastic reading year (I’ve already posted a reading wrap-up – check that out: https://emnicbooks.wordpress.com/2021/12/17/what-i-read-in-2021/.

On a language related note, I have got into reading loads in French (!) – which is a habit I’m very glad to have developed this year – and watching TV in French without subtitles (Eurosport French (cycling) commentary – what other sport do I watch? Thank you! #lesRP). However, I’ve not practised Spanish as much has I’d have liked (never mind, there’s always 2022 for that, if I have time?) and have finally motivated myself to learn some Dutch (because I’ve started and then got distracted and then tried again so many times – this time will be the time, won’t it?).

For 2022, I’ve not got any New Year’s resolutions in particular: I never make any specific ones because I think if you don’t make any, you can’t fail at it. However, I do have a few goals: keep learning French and Dutch, try to pick Spanish back up, read, study…

Well, I think that’s it from me today, after this incredibly self-centred post. I haven’t counted the number of times I’ve said ‘I’ – the total is probably embarrassing! However, please comment any New Year’s resolutions or goals you might have made, I’d love to read them.

Thanks so much for reading and for all your support this year, it’s been amazing,

Lots of love, Em xx

2022 Road Season Thoughts, Cyclocross Again & Christmas

2022 Road Season Thoughts

UCI Rules – the beginnings of my thoughts, I’ll share some more at a later date. I watched a really interesting Lanterne Rouge YouTube video today where he discussed a UCI rule that I had heard about in l’Équipe a while ago but didn’t know much about. It goes like this (highly simplified, watch the video):

  • for the 2023 season, teams apply for WorldTour licences from the UCI (maximum of 18 licences)
  • if more than 18 teams apply for licences, the 18 teams with the most points get them
  • however, points are the combined UCI points for the top 10 best riders on the time – only while they are on the team (not including stagiaires)

What this means: teams that currently have World Tour licences might not get to remain in the World Tour (while the UCI does not publish the points table, one was made for Lanterne Rouge’s vidéo which shows two current World Tour teams in the relegation zone – Lotto Soudal and Cofidis), these teams may therefore lose their sponsors because the sponsorship may be conditional on their remaining in the World Tour. However, the points are also (surprise, surprise) not very fairly distributed with points heavily skewed towards one day races (including .Pro races) and against stages of the biggest stage races – including the Tour de France.

What effect could this have: teams, especially those most at risk, will have to plan their season around targeting races that they are likely to get points from, even if they aren’t the highest profile races – this goal can be seen from some signings teams have made, including by Cofidis (in the relegation zone) and Intermaché-Wanty-Gobert (who are at risk). Arkéa-Samsic, however, who are not a World Tour team, are planning to apply for a World Tour licence (and aren’t among the teams in the relegation zone) so will have to plan their season around having enough points to be considered. If they don’t, one out of Cofidis and Lotto Soudal will be safe.

The team, however, that makes all of this even more uncertain, is Alpecin-Fenix who are in the top ten in terms of points but they have not suggested that they are planning on applying for a World Tour licence – as the top Pro Continental team, they get the benefits of the World Tour without the downsides.

Another thing that will make 2022 and even more interesting year, maybe, or perhaps all this speculation will be for nothing?

Cyclocross Thoughts

Boxing Day Cyclocross, World Cup Dendermonde. Men’s race – winner: Wout Van Aert (again!!) Women’s race – winner: Lucinda Brand (again!!). Both races were exciting – when is cyclocross not? – and both wins well deserved by the current best! The much anticipated return of Mathieu van der Poel to cyclocross made the men’s race even more exciting, with him finishing second, with, for a number of laps, he and Van Aert ‘synchocrossing’ (thanks Sporza for the term, ha ha!). The following days’ cyclocross – Superprestige Heusden-Zolder – had the same winners (although van der Poel abandoned part way through due to knee injury). So, as the build up to the World Championships (last weekend in January, Fayetteville, Arkansas) continues, the remainder of the cyclocross season promises to continue to be as exciting as ever.

I hope you’ve had a lovely Christmas if you celebrate it, and a lovely few days if you don’t. I’ve got a few thoughts, today, on a few different things, especially because it’s getting nearly to the end of the year now – it’ll be 2022 before we know it. Where’s the time gone? Thanks for reading, Em xx

Rucphen & Namur (Cyclocross Recap)

Two rounds of the cyclocross World Cup – Rucphen and Namur – gave two different winners (both in the men’s and women’s races), in dramatic fashion – although, when is cyclocross not dramatic?

In the women’s races, it was clear that Rucphen would be a battle between Marianne Vos and Lucinda Brand and that Namur could bring some surprises. In the men’s races, with the absence of Wout Van Aert and the delayed return of Mathieu van der Poel – who will both return to cyclocross on 26th December for the next round of the World Cup), it could be Tom Pidcock’s opportunity for victory or a chance for a surprise winner, if Eli Iserbyt was not successful.

Rucphen

Women’s Race

Victory for Vos. Going into the final lap, Brand, Vos and Betsema were in a group, Brand leading, Betsema hanging on: it looked like the world champion was going to win again, and then Vos came passed her, sprinted, crossing the line first and raising her arms.

Men’s Race

For the first time in his career, Tom Pidcock won a round of the cyclocross World Cup, making him also the first ever British man to win a round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup. Pidcock caught Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout towards the end of the final lap, passing first Vanthourenhout and then Iserbyt, narrowly beating the current leader of the World Cup.

Namur

Women’s Race

With the absence of Vos, it was the Lucinda Brand who won another round of the World Cup, with Betsema in second. The race was not without drama, amplified by the course around the Citadel, with steep sections, off-camber sections and cobbles.

Men’s Race

At the beginning, it was Toon Aerts leading the race, but he was caught and later passed by Pidcock and Vanthourenhout. Around the final laps of the technical course, Pidcock was ahead of Vanthourenhout until Pidcock crashed again on a steep, slippy section and never caught the Belgian, who took the biggest win of his career.

What I read in 2021

2021 is nearly over and, by the end of the year, I might have read a couple of books more but, if I do, it’ll probably just be finishing The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (and translated by Jennifer Croft) and maybe starting something else – but maybe not, with The Books of Jacob being as long as it is.

So, overall, I read: 123 books (34639 pages), with an average rating of 3.57/5 and an average length of 281.6 pages. 39 of those books were in translation, 26 of them were in French, 25 were non-fiction books, 47 were written by women and 6 were re-reads. Because that’s the information about books that I track. From this, I’ve already got some clear reading goals for 2022: read more books written by women and read more translated books.

Favourite books this year: The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossmann, The Tin Drum by Günter Grass, L’élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) and, my newest all-time favourite book, Homeland by Fernando Aramburu.

So, goals for next year? Other than doing a better job of blogging/Instagramming about the things I’m reading?

  • Read more books by women! Yes, it’ll be 2022, yes, I’m a woman, and, yes, this year I didn’t read very many books by women and I’m disappointed in myself for that.
  • Read more books in French (that, I think, requires no explanation other than that I’m studying French)
  • Read more non-fiction (I love non-fiction, I just don’t read very much of it)

Those are my goals for next year, do you have any? Also, if you’re interested in my recommendations, check out my Instagram or bookshop.org shop (affiliate), linked on the blog.

Thanks for reading, lots of love, Em xx

La Vuelta 2022 Route

Starting in Utrecht, the Netherlands (a start planned for 2020, before being cancelled because of the pandemic), before heading to the Basque Country, to Cantabria and to Asturias, then transferring south to Alicante, through the south of the country and then north to Madrid – the race makes its return to Spain’s capital following an absence last year and a final stage time trial in Santiago de Compostela.

Running from 19th August to 11th September (with the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta – the associated women’s race – also being expanded to five stages, 7th – 11th September), next year’s Vuelta is being promoted, as ever, as ‘one for the climbers’. With seven stages directly labelled as ‘mountain stages’ (although nine days have summit finishes), there are also several hilly stages in the mix and two time trials – a TTT for the first stage in Utrecht and an ITT on Stage 10 in Alicante (both flat, the ITT one which should suit the specialists). No Stage 20 (or 21) time trial for this Grand Tour, however, perhaps returning to a more traditional route which was only disrupted by the pandemic, or because organisers cannot hope for a repeat of that La Planche des Belles Filles day forever.

Stage by Stage:

Stage 1 (19/08/2022): Utrecht – Utrecht, Team Time Trial, 23.2km

Stage 2 (20/08/2022) ‘s Hertogenbosch – Utrecht, Flat, 175.1km

Stage 3 (21/08/2022): Breda – Breda, Flat, 193.2km

  • TTTs, not being a common feature of a Grand Tour, always throw up a few surprises, but usually not too much drama. Stage 1 is therefore likely to set up the GC for the first few days, with stages 2 and 3 being flat, but it’ll probably all change after stage 4, when the road begins to climb.

22/08/2022: rest day

Stage 4 (23/08/2022): Vitoria-Gasteiz – Laguardia, Medium Mountains (Hilly), 153.5km

Stage 5 (24/08/2022): Irún – Bilbao, Hilly, 187km

Stage 6 (25/08/2022) Bilbao – Ascensión al Pico Jano. San Miguel de Aguayo, Mountains, 180km

  • Three stages in the Basque Country, with the quickly changeable weather and hardly a kilometre of flat road, ending with the first mountain summit finish at Pico Jano (in Cantabria), are likely to show who the favourites are going to be in this edition of the race.

Stage 7 (26/08/2022) Camargo – Cistierna, Hilly, 190.1km

Stage 8 (27/08/2022): La Pola Llaviana/Pola de Laviana > Colláu Fancuaya, Mountains, 154.5km

Stage 9 (28/08/2022): Villaviciosa > Les Praeres. Nava, Mountains, 175.5km

  • The Asturian hills (and mountains) are the next challenge to be faced by the Vuelta, including the first climb of Colláu Fancuaya making the finish of stage 8 perhaps even more dramatic. We’ll have to wait and see.

29/08/2022: Rest Day

Stage 10 (30/08/2022): Elche – Alicante, Individual Time Trial, 31.1km

  • The ITT in Alicante is the only time this discipline makes an appearance in this year’s Vuelta and, with a flat course designed to favour the specialists, some impact on the GC is guaranteed but its extent is unknowable, that all depends on who is going well at that point in the race.

Stage 11 (31/08/2022): ElPozo Alimentación – Cabo de Gata, Flat, 193km

Stage 12 (01/09/2022): Salobreña – Peñas Blancas. Estepona, Hilly, 195.5km

Stage 13 (02/09/2022): Ronda – Montilla, Flat, 171km

Stage 14 (03/09/2022): Montoro – Sierra de la Pandera, Mountains, 160.3km

Stage 15 (04/09/2022): Martos – Sierra Nevada, Mountains, 148.1km

  • These mountainous Andalusian stages with summit finishes and climbs heading high above 2000m along with a pair of flat stages make up the rest of the second week.

05/09/2022: Rest Day

Stage 16 (06/09/2022): Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Tomares, Flat, 188.9km

Stage 17 (07/09/2022): Aracena – Monasterio de Tentudía, Flat, 160km

Stage 18 (08/09/2022): Trujillo – Alto del Piornal, Mountains, 191.7km

Stage 19 (09/09/2022): Talavera de la Reina – Talavera de la Reina, Hilly, 132.7km

Stage 20 (10/09/2022): Moralzarzal – Puerto de Navacerrada, Mountains, 175.5km

  • These final mountain stages are where, even if it looks pretty final, the GC will be decided. These could be where the race is won (although that would probably take something dramatic, think Froome in the 2018 Giro), but the race could very easily be lost here (it happened to Dumoulin in 2015, when Aru finally took red).

Stage 21 (11/09/2022): Las Rozas – Madrid, Flat, 100.5km

  • The final stage is one for the remaining sprinters, and then the winner is crowned and the race is over until next year.

Note: I’ve never written a route announcement reaction before, but I always think it through. I’ll definitely write more stuff like this though, because I really enjoyed doing it. Up next, if I remember (fingers crossed), an end of year reading wrap-up, and there probably won’t be any mention of bikes, unless you count Guillaume Martin’s Socrate à vélo, which was one of the best books I read this year.

Back to blogging

Once upon a time, I was a regular on WordPress. A post a day, for nearly a year, if you can believe it, I certainly can’t. Except, that was nearly seven years ago now, when I was eleven didn’t know what I was doing (I still don’t). Ever since, I’ve gone through phases and said each time that this time would be THE time, and it never was. So, I’ll say that this is it, I’m back again, and I won’t be, because the internet is more saturated than ever, people are busier than ever, I’m busier than ever (or, I have other things that need doing and so the blog goes to the bottom of the pile and is forgotten about, yet again). Therefore, I’m making no promises, as much as I’d love to say this will be a daily, weekly, fortnightly, thing, I’m not going to. If I have to expectations, failure will be impossible, not that I mind failing sometimes.

However, enough rambling, I did actually have something that I wanted to say and that’s that I want to talk about a book I recently read, and adored, so, thanks Rare Mags (a very lovely independent bookshop in Stockport – highly recommend if you’re ever in the Manchester area) for having it on your shelves, and that’s Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game.

THE GLASS BEAD GAME

I haven’t yet managed to organise my thoughts about this book and I don’t know if I ever will (I definitely need to reread it at some point in the near future because I know that I will have missed something important). It’s one of those books where not a lot happens, yet everything does. Because it reads like (and, I guess, is) a biography (of a fictional person, yes), the novel focuses more on the relationship between Joseph Knecht (the subject) and the world around him – Castalia (the setting), the eponymous game – rather than any specific event. It means that the book has a slow pace, but is never boring – in fact, quite, in my opinion, the opposite. Even when not much is happening plot-wise, the descriptions are fascinating, and have to be read with Google on hand (or, I found they did anyway because I found words I’d never come across before, or concepts which, while not vital to the plot itself, were still things I wanted to understand).

I think this book isn’t one I’ll fully appreciate until I’ve lived a bit longer, lived a bit more, and read it a couple of times more. I think, although I’m not sure, I understand its themes on a superficial level and it can be seen as an allegory for the relationship between the intellectual life and real life, however lovely the ivory tower may be, however fulfilled your dreams may be, there will always be something else to want, to dream of, to escape to. And I don’t know if that’s something that terrifies me. In the novel, Knecht has his aspirations but is there fulfilment ever enough? Or is there always something else to want? And have I completely misinterpreted the whole book? It’s very possible, because this is a book that you can always learn something new from (intellectually, morally, fundamentally) and so there is a sense that it is a book you will never stop reading. It is certainly one that will forever remain on my bookshelf, and be re-read frequently (she says, before getting distracted, yet again).

Also

Now, this isn’t about books, because I’ve decided that this isn’t just a book blog, nor an aromanticism/asexuality blog, as its name might suggest. It’s a whatever I decide to write about kind of blog, and so I’m going to write about cyclocross, because Val di Sole in the snow was epic. I don’t think there is another word for it. I’m quite new to watching cyclocross (I started following it last season) so hadn’t ever watched such a snowy race. And, the fact that van Aert won there, after having won in the mud in Essen the previous day, means that he’s going to be hard to beat going forward, even when van der Poel returns to cyclocross (especially since he’s been injured). Which makes Dendermonde on Boxing Day even more exciting, right?

Also, I’m determined to write more on my blog about cycling so that my thoughts become (fingers-crossed) more articulate and less rambling, because otherwise no one will be able to understand what the hell I’m on about.

Right, I think that’s everything I wanted to say, maybe I’ve missed something, maybe there’ll be a follow up post, maybe there won’t be,

Thanks for reading my wittering,

Em x

This Wasn’t The Plan.

I’ve blogged on and off for years. I go through phases where I start a new one: a Tumblr, a website, etc. I write post after post. I forget I even did it.

The cycle repeats.

I always say that each time I start a new one, “This is it. This is the final time I start again.”

It never is but I’m saying it anyway. The longest I stuck with a single blog was the first time I started one, when I was eleven. I kept up with it, at least one post every week, for more than eighteen months. No one read it. That wasn’t the point. After that, I got a bit into writing fanfiction and the blog became unimportant to me. No one read my fanfiction either, not that I ever cared. I don’t (really) write for people to read it. I sometimes like to go back to things I wrote in the past but I don’t ever imagine that someone else would. I just have to keep putting things that I’ve written onto the internet. Out into the void. Where I no longer have control over them.

I love the internet.

It’s wonderful. Yes, I am completely aware that it is also deeply problematic. But so is anything that has such a wide affect on the everyday life of every single person (either directly or indirectly). That selfish part of me wants to have at least tried sharing my thoughts.

That’s what I’m going to (attempt to) do. Infrequently. Probably. Although, if you’ve come from my Instagram (which I’ve linked: it’s @emnicbooks), you’ll know how inconsistent I am.

I’ve not decided exactly what I’m going to be writing. I don’t know if it’ll be poetry (I’ve done that before on my original blog), stories (done that before too), book stuff (a bit like on my Instagram but more in depth), music stuff or aro ace stuff. Or a mix of things. It’ll probably be a mix of stuff. Or nothing at all. I don’t know. Let’s see. If there’s anyone even reading this other than me. And, Em, don’t cringe. Please!