Women in Cyclocross

A bit about Cyclocross and resources for more info about the women's field

By Noa Deutsch 4 min read
Women in Cyclocross

Coming up with topics to write about each week can be a bit tough. Not because I lack ideas - It’s the opposite! I have far too many ideas and things I want to write about, which often means I simply get a bit too overwhelmed and doubt starts to creep in… Thoughts like does this topic make sense? Does anyone other than myself actually want to learn more about this? Do I have enough knowledge to share my thoughts on this in a reliable and comprehensive way?

This lead me to ask for topic ideas for todays women in cycling post in the Substack chat, and someone suggested women in Cyclocross. The reason this individual suggested that was because his daughter showed interest in that part of the sport and he has been learning more about the top riders to maintain her interest. I absolutely love that!

I have been searching for recourses specific to women in cyclocross and I have to admit that I am pretty disappointment by how little I could find… Keep reading to see what I did manage to come by and if you have additional resources, comment below and share them!

What is Cyclocross, anyways?!

Essentially a type of event where you ride laps on a twisty obstacle course with hills, downhills and corners, often on mud/sand/dirt/grass and in incremental weather condition due to the fact that events take place in the fall and winter. And did I mention obstacles?! Some you might be able to ride over, others you will need to dismount your bike, hop over them, run up some stairs with your bike, etc and then mount your bike again and keep riding.

Anything goes with the courses, which makes it fun, exciting, challenging and varied, for both the riders and spectators. The courses are usually short in distance at 2.5-3.5km long and races are set by time, 60 mins max - Quick, hard and dirty!

Traditionally, it started as a way for racers to stay fit in the winter months and while some racers specialize in cross, many of them are multidiscipline racers, racing either the road or MTB circuits in the spring and summer.

Its a pretty big deal in Europe, especially in Belgium, which is considered the ‘Motherland’ (very closely followed by the Netherlands). It’s getting big in North America too, for good reason… It is a great spectator sport (in person and on TV) because it is short in length, exciting and just weird enough to make it interesting and super fun. In many events, it definitely has a more laid back and lively vibe, where handups and/or heckling are both expected and encouraged.

At the grassroots level, there are less restrictions on the bike you can use and there are often kids events too, which is a great way to get the younger generations going. I mean, what kid doesn’t want to play in the dirt, on a bike?! I suppose many adults will say that is the appeal for them too… The only downside? The post event clean up. You better have a portable power washer for both the bike and for yourself!

For the purpose of this post, I will refrain from getting into the specifications of a cross bike, some of the rules and specific bike fit considerations but I might revisit all those things in time for the cross season next fall - Perhaps one of you could send me a ‘cross is coming’ reminder message next August and I’ll get on it!

Since this is about women in cyclocross, I will be leaving out the men, although I will admit I am a massive Wout Van Aert fan, whose roots are firmly rooted in cross racing.

The first women’s edition of worlds was in 2000. Eight (!) of those years were won by the Dutch GOAT Marianne Vos. To no one’s surprise, one of the current top cross riders is another Dunch rider - Fem van Empel, who is only 20 years old! The Dutch women are dominating the cross scene at the moment, big time.

Resources, articles, etc

Cyclocross24 - I linked the current women’s UCI world rankings, but you can explore the site for all results, events and rankings if you want to go down that rabbit hole. You can see rankings / race results by year and if you click on each athlete name, it will take you to all their cross rankings.

CX Magazine - I linked a recap of the 2022 world championship, as that gives you a glimpse of the current names in the sport. The 2023 world championships will be held in early February in the Netherlands and you can find general info on the UCI website.

I found another Substack publication dedicated to (mostly) cross racing, called . Scrolling through, they seem to balance both men’s and women’s content (Yay!). In particular, I enjoyed this interview with Ava Holmgren, somewhat because I am Canadian and live in BC (where nationals was held this year).

Keep in mind that some content is free and some is behind a paywall.

Ava Holmgren Makes the Most of Leveling Up to the Elite Race at Canadian Nationals
Ava Holmgren has had a monster year in her second campaign as a cyclocross Junior. She finished 3rd in the Junior Women’s race at the Maasmechelen World Cup, 9th in the Elite race at the Koppenbergcross, won Junior Pan-Ams, and finished 2nd in the Elite race at Noho.

Rouler magazine is a print publication I subscribe too - I love having the physical copies in my office and I think they are doing really great work consistently showcasing women in cycling. Here is a recent article about Canadian Maghalie Rochette.

A recent interview with Clara Honsinger on women’s cyclocross in Cyclingnews.

Lastly, I highly recommend you check out (also here on Substack), as they keep a close and watchful eye on women's cycling events and news, posting updates, news and race results regularly (A mix of free and paid content).

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