At the end of 2022 I began actually watching cyclocross races. My kid still had “naps” on days when he wasn’t at school and I discovered that YouTube could show me what had been going on in Belgium that morning. It was ‘kerstperiode’1 so there were a pile of races to get thoroughly immersed in. I’d watch most of a race and then get the final lap queued up for when C could come out of his room and we would watch 15 minutes of muddy bike racing.

Part of what made this fun was that the 2022-23 elite season had three big stars battling it out in these races. The “big three” were Tom Pidcock (defending 2022 World Champion from the UK), Wout Van Aert (Belgian superstar) and Mathieu Van Der Poel (Dutch superduperstar). These three were evenly-ish matched and they would have these amazing battles at the front of the races. It was great.

The World Championships came down to a final sprint between Van Aert and Van Der Poel that the Dutchman won, making C very happy3. Then the season was mostly over until fall. In August I started rewatching the 2022-23 races on GCN4 while I prepared for my season, which primed me for watching the next season live(ish). I really appreciated the USCX cup and getting to know the American and Canadian riders, especially the women’s field (which included Albertan World Cup racer Sidney McGill).

I was into watching the 2023-24 season on GCN+, but then they shut down before kerstperiode, so I’m back to finding YouTube links afterwards. It’s not so bad, but I miss the reliability. It softened the blow that this season wasn’t as exciting as last year. Van der Poel won almost every race he entered, including defending his World Champion jersey. Fem Van Empel was also great on the women’s side but that made the races a bit less compelling. Puck Pieterse’s lap videos are available on her YouTube channel, so there’s some excellent content for free.

I’m putting off the decision to get a new subscription5 until the summer. Getting back into watching when I’m ramping up for riding feels like it’ll make more sense for me. I don’t think I want to let it go completely.

  1. The time between Christmas and New Year’s where Belgium just does cyclocross racing for a week. The rest of the season there are usually just weekend races. ↩︎

  2. Apparently now FloBikes has the Discovery+ good stuff now (as of 2024-03-14)? I have still not purchased a subscription. ↩︎

  3. We divided up our fandom that winter with C taking Van Der Poel and I cheered for Van Aert. I’m still happy with that even if I have to acknowledge in 2024 that MVdP is the GOAT. ↩︎

  4. I figured it was better paying for a dedicated service than searching out random YouTube feeds for each race if I wanted to consider myself a “fan” of the sport. ↩︎

  5. GCN was the Global Cycling Network and it was cheap as far as sports subscriptions go. They got bought by Warner Brothers and made part of the much more expensive Discovery+ Sports Add-On in the US, Discovery+ in the UK and nowhere in Canada. To watch here, I’d be using FloBikes, which apparently has much worse commentary than I’m used to.2 ↩︎