After visiting Cyclocross Worlds in Fayetteville in 2022 and Hoogerheide in the Netherlands in 2023, we now traveled to Tábor in the Czech Republic. This year, Paula joined me, and we first spent two nights in Prague before driving just over an hour to Tábor on Friday morning.

Short video from the cyclocross worlds in Tabor

Unfortunately, we arrived too late to see the team relay due to my mistake; I had misread the time as 4:30 pm, which I should have known was incorrect. After a Kafkaesque situation where we were not allowed into the event without a ticket, and with the ticket booth closed, we fumbled on the phone to buy online tickets until they finally let us enter.

Course in Tábor

We arrived just in time to see the award ceremony. France finished first, Britain second, and Belgium third. The American team finished seventh, and the Canadian team fourth. The terrain had turned into a wet, muddy field, affecting not just the course but also large parts of the spectator areas.

And there was mud

Normally, Tábor has snow and ice, but the recent thaw created tough, yet great, cyclocross conditions. We watched some of the pros train, including Dutch elite riders Lucinda Brand, Lars van der Haar, and Joris Nieuwenhuis. Lucinda was kind enough to pose for a quick photo after her training session. Barely keeping our shoes and clothes clean, we decided to buy some wellies and ponchos at a local hardware store, as the forecast promised more wetness for the upcoming days.

Lars van der Haar and Lucinda Brand training

After purchasing an all-weekend pass online Friday night, entry the next morning was much smoother. Paula almost got run over by Mathieu van der Poel at the entrance, and Sven Nys walked just past us. We were now in the heart of the action, unlike watching on a live stream from the US. We first watched the junior women's race, noting the challenging course and conditions. Celia Gery from France won, with Cat Ferguson (UK) in second place and Viktória Chladonová (Czech Republic) in third. The best American racer, Vidia Lopez de San Roman, finished in sixth place.

Along the finish straight

We used this race to scout out the best viewing spots. The next race was the U23 men's race, dominated by the Dutch rider Tibor del Grosso, who initially battled with Belgian rider Emile Verstrynge. Emile eventually secured second place, with his compatriot Jente Michels in third. Emile's biggest fan, who appeared to be his brother, was inconsolable, shedding big tears. The best American racer, Andrew Strohmeyer, finished in sixteenth place.

Puck Pieterse

The elite women's race saw a front row dominated by Dutch riders, with Femme van Empel taking the lead and increasing her gap lap over lap. The battle for second place shifted in the last lap, allowing Lucinda Brand to finish second and a disappointed Puck Pieterse in third. We cheered and tried to high-five the racers from the sidelines. Paula even saw herself on the jumbotron, which our friends watching the live stream in the US noticed. The best American rider, Clara Honsinger, finished in eighth place.

Lucinda Brand happy with her 2nd place

The next morning, we arrived in time for the junior men's race, featuring Massachusetts residents Henry Coote and Alexander Scopinich-Burgell among seven other US juniors. We chose to start watching from the start line, where Alexander stood right in front of us. Despite starting near the back of the 70+ racers, Alexander finished 54th.

MA resident Alexander Scopinich-Burgell in the junior men race

The race was won by Italian Stefano Viezzi, with Dutch national Kije Solen second, and Krystof Bastant from the Czech Republic third. The best American, Miles Mattern, finished seventeenth. Unfortunately, Henry Coote did not finish after a promising first lap.

U23 Women's race Czech rider Kristyna Zemanová and Dutch talent Leonie Bentveld

The Women's U23 race was won by British rider Zoe Backstedt, dominating from start to finish, followed by Czech rider Kristyna Zemanová and Dutch talent Leonie Bentveld. The best American rider, Massachusetts-born Lizzy Gunsalus, finished in eighteenth place.

Lizza Gunsalus doing a pull

During the Men's Elite race, we aimed for a spot on the stands along the start/finish straight to oversee most of the course. Mathieu van der Poel dominated, with Joris Nieuwenhuis securing second place and Michael Vanthourenhout finishing third. The best American finisher was Eric Brunner. After the race, there was a special ceremony for retiring Czech rider Zdeněk Štybar, who received the loudest cheers.

Zdeněk Štybar

The event was a great experience, and it was thrilling to see the riders, we normally watch during our weekend breakfasts, live. Being part of the live stream and appearing on the jumbotron was a highlight, eliciting many messages from friends in the US.

Paula making it to the jumbotron

On our KLM flight the next day from Prague to Amsterdam, we were joined by the Dutch youth CX team with their medals, receiving special applause from the passengers. Next year, France

Colorful start line