Wild weather is sweeping through the north-west of France, with strong winds and downpours across the region as organisers try to get set for the UCI Cyclo-Cross European Championships in Pontchâteau from Friday Nov 3 to Sunday November 5.
Storm Ciaran is delivering wind gusts which Meteo France warns could reach up to up to 170km/h in some coastal areas and up to 120km/h inland in the Loire-Atlantique departement, which Pontchâteau is in. Other sporting events in the region have been cancelled and the storm is also threatening to cause transport chaos in the north-west of France and beyond as riders try to make their way to the event.
Many of the top names will be heading over straight from Wednesday’s muddy Koppenbergcross – nearly 700km away by road – which was won by world champion Fem van Empel (Jumbo-Visma) and Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek Lions).
“We are a bit worried,” Bernard Clouet, coordinator of the European Championship told Het Laatste Nieuws on Wednesday morning, before the worst of the storm hit. “What else can we do but wait? We have a meeting with the organising committee on Thursday. Then we have to decide whether the match can take place.”
Pontchâteau, which hosted the World Cyclocross Championships in 1989, is delivering a circuit that is three kilometres long with three stair sections. It has a technical start, allows for some recovery in the second part as it heads toward the low point of the course and then climbs toward the finish line.
The race in the Pays de la Loire region of France, is scheduled to start with a mixed relay on Friday afternoon, running through to the junior women, U23 men and elite women on Saturday and onto the junior men, U23 women and elite men’s race on Sunday.
The worst of the weather associated with Storm Ciaran was set to hit the region on Wednesday evening, with an orange warning – the second most severe – in place across the Loire-Atlantique. Conditions then are expected to have eased by Friday but then strengthening winds and showers are forecast by Meteo France again on Saturday, which is when the elite women’s race is scheduled.
With her run-in victory in Oudenaarde it looks like defending champion Van Empel will be hard to beat in the muddy and wet conditions. “The important thing now is to recover well and then Saturday is a new day,” Van Empel said after Koppenbergcross. “A championship is always a special competition. I am looking forward to that.”
Denise Betsema (Pauwels…