Just a very long-range heads-up at this stage, we can start with firm arrangements a lot closer to the time! We should definitely try to arrange some RB activities around these two highlights of the calendar.
In 2012, both the cyclocross and road race World Championships will be held in the low countries. The CX champs are in Koksijde, on the Belgian coast, over the weekend on January 28/29 (the traditional slot on the last weekend of Jan) while the full Road champs programme will be in Valkenburg, in Dutch Limburg, from September 15-23.
Koksijde is a regular fixture on the CX circuit and hosts a round of the World Cup every November. Normally in the event that a course is awarded the World Champs it does not get a World Cup race in the same year, but Koksijde bucks the trend this year and hosts both (Kalmthout drop out for Belgium this year). If you're keen to try both dates at Koksijde then the World Cup round is on the same weekend as the Ghent 6-Day so you can make it a big weekend trip for the best of winter bike racing. Koksijde is a sandy course and typically favours technical riders like Nys and Albert, though very powerful riders like Boom and Stybar can always mount a challenge on a good day. Early details at:
and an official UCI page will follow eventually.
The Dutch Limburg area is equally an annual mecca for road racers with the Amstel Gold Rage being run each April through the narrow, winding country roads dotted with short, steep climbs. The finale of the Elite Mens' race parcours is essentially the final portion of Amstel, so is tailor-made for the Phillip Gilbert we saw this past spring. Being just across the border from Belgium the roads will be lined in equal measure by Flemings and Walloons yelling in unison for Phil Gil. Meanwhile, the Dutch will probably be yelling for just about anyone other than a Belgian, in the absence of a genuine challenger on this type of course (unless someone emerges over the coming year)! This race has genuine pan-Benelux interest since the Schleck brothers will both fancy their chances, with Andy a very strong candidate. However, a lot can happen in the intervening 15 months and there's the small matter of The Rest of the World competing, so expect a fierce and tactical race. The event website is already up and running:
http://www.limburg2012.nl/section.php?s ... ms_id=home