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Corey Coogan-Cisek is racing her 15th cyclocross season as an elite rider. A native of Minnesota, she spends a sixth winter based in Europe. In her blog at Cyclingnews, she shares the discoveries she has made, in words and photos, of being a Belgium-based North American cyclocrosser.
Kerstperiode is a big party for the fans and an exercise in fatigue-resistance for the riders.
Belgians do holidays in a way we cannot fathom in North America. The country is nearly shut down, as the average Belgian is on holiday from before Christmas through the first of the year. Kerstperiode for cyclocross is an excuse to make the best of the dour weather and party.
For athletes, mechanics and staff, it is the “stage racing of cyclocross.” It has all the physical demands of a stage race, plus horrible weather and massive wear and tear on bikes and clothing. I recall Kerstperiodes of past in a haze of fatigue, mud, and broken bike parts. Pro tip: good luck sourcing broken bike parts in a closed-down country. Bring spares!
In some ways, Kerstperiode has been on hiatus for two years. Per COVID pandemic, 2021 Kerstperiode was extremely limited. Diegem and Loenhout races were cancelled and all remaining races occurred without fans. Last year was nearly as blighted. Diegem was cancelled, Loenhout took place without fans, and GP Sven Nys had fans limited to designated course-side zones. It’s been a long time since we had a true Kerstperiode!
The following is your “viewer’s guide” to the biggest races of Kerstperiode from a rider perspective. I hope you sit back, relax, and enjoy your holiday with cyclocross on television or in person. From the rider side of things, we will race, (try to) recover, and race again in an endless cycle. Come January, we will emerge (mud-covered) and try to catch some holiday celebrations ourselves.
Gavere is new to the World Cup circuit and new to Kerstperiode. Historically, it’s been held in mid-to-late fall, although it made a brief foray into February last year. The course is on a…