After a successful first edition of the CX As Pontes, the organizers are looking to make the next step. In an exclusive interview on the Cyclocross Social Podcast, Marcos Fernandez, president of the organizing club CC As Pontes-Vilalba, lays out his long-term plan for the race to become part of the world cup.
This year the Spanish cyclocross calendar saw the addition of a new race, CX Lago de As Pontes. The race in Galicia certainly didn’t disappoint, with an absolute stunning venue. The course is located on and around the shore of the Lago de As Pontes, a man-made lake after filling up an old lignite mine.
Image: Luz Mil//Club Ciclista As Pontes-Vilalba, Lago de As Pontes
The new event received a lot of attention, as the TV broadcast showed the beautiful location, and course of the event. Most attention went out to their variant on the pinwheel, their CX section of the course.
Marcos Fernandez, president of the organizing club CC As Pontes-Vilalba, said that he was slightly surprised by how much attention the race got: ‘We knew that we have a good and unique course. With the sand, twenty-meter-high hill and location next to the lake we were confident we could put together a very good race. However, we didn’t expect this many positive reactions on the event. It was our first time organizing such a big event, so we didn’t know what to expect at all.’
Image: Televisión de Galicia, The CX variant of the pinwheel
After the organizers had gotten off cloud nine, they started looking at the future of the event: ‘We know we have a good venue. Where is the limit? We believe there is no limit for us. We have the people and knowhow to organize an event within the club. Cyclocross riders like myself (Fernandez red.) have helped set out the course, which is our biggest asset. Financially we are looking good. We have the support from the townhall, local sponsors and the Galician Cycling Federation.’
Fernandez hopes to ride the positive wave which Spanish cyclocross is experiencing at the moment. With Benidorm hosting the world cup on the 22nd of January, the world cup is coming to Spain again for the first time in over a decade, whilst Pontevedra is going to organize the European championships in 2024. At the same time, Felipe Orts scored an all-time best result for a Spanish rider at the European championships, sixth, with Lucia Gonzalez Blanco and Kevin Suarez Fernandez also scoring decent results.
Image: YefriFotos, Felipe Orts after his historic 6th place at the European championships in Namur
On the future of the race Fernandez said the following: ‘Now, it is important to consolidate what we have. We have a great venue, with a race that is carried by the community. We need to take small steps at the time. For next year we are in talks with the Spanish federation to move to the weekend and join the Copa de España de Ciclocross. Maybe we can also move to the C1 category, but that will require more talks with the federation. Financially it should be possible.’
Despite wanting to move to the weekend and joining the Copa de España, Fernandez wants to keep working closely with races in the region. This year there were five UCI races in Galicia, within the span of nine days. He believes that this agglomeration of races will benefit them all, as it is easier and more affordable for racers to stay in the region for a longer period of time, like was the case with the Italian national team this year.
Image: Luz Mil//Club Ciclista As Pontes-Vilalba, Asia Zontone from the Italian national team in action
After consolidating the next step, the sky is the limit for Fernandez: ‘Where we are in five to ten years? Good question. I think we have no limits. Through the new European cup, we could work ourselves up to the world cup. That would be the ultimate goal. If I look at Beekse Bergen, which is a small town, I think we can do the same. Our courses are pretty similar, with a lake and sand. I think we can do it, but we need to consolidate first. We need time. We are just a small club and don’t have the experience of organizing massive events. Financially, we might need an extra sponsor as well. But we are already looking good, and with the important TV broadcast we have a good package to offer.’
Fernandez choses for a more traditional bottom-up approach of growing from C2 to C1 to World cup, rather than races like Maasmechelen and Val di Sole, which jump into the world cup directly. This doesn’t only have to do with the finances and organizational capabilities, but also with the fact that As Pontes wants to become a sustainable race on the calendar. They don’t want to take big risks and be left with nothing the year after.
Image: YefriFotos, Maasmechelen was a new race on the calendar this year and was in the world cup straight away
Despite all the good reviews on the course, Fernandez acknowledges that some changes will need to be made if the course would be to host a world cup: ‘After talking with the riders we first of all need to move the start. This year the start was on grass, but we want to move it to a concrete section a bit further away. We want to keep the big hill and signature CX section in the course, but to add some decisive features we want to add more sand. This year we only used a couple hundred of meters, but we can use way more! We do want to keep the course compact, as it’s easier to broadcast, but the venue is very big. We can move around whilst keeping the key elements of the course. We will try to keep improving every year, consolidate what we establish, and keep making the next steps necessary to grow.’
Image: Luz Mil//Club Ciclista As Pontes-Vilalba, Felipe Orts in action during this years CX Lago
To what extent this long-term bottom-up approach will succeed, will become clear over the upcoming years. The step towards the Copa de España would be a good first step, and with the vision and ambition of the organizers, we might hear much more from this event in the future.
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