Here’s the latest installment of Erik’s Wednesday Cross Column—complete with his own North American and International Power Rankings. If you like what you read, head over to Erik’s blog for more insight and analysis. And please feel free to share your comments below—he reads them!
After six weeks of cross racing, two things are certain. First, Niels Albert will dominate any race he enters and is on the verge of becoming the next Sven Nys. Secondly, if you ride for Cyclocrossworld.com, individually you will win a race this year and your team will win at least one every weekend.
Since my last post, Albert continued his winning ways with a mid-week win at Kermiscross and went 2-for-2 at the World Cup race in Plzen. Stateside, Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers went head-to-head one week after they won a combined five races. Jamey Driscoll continued his stellar season with a pair of podium places behind his two teammates. The Kona boys continued to show their good form picking, up the top two spots in a pair of muddy and cold races in the Mid-Atlantic. Meanwhile, several riders used this weekend to rest their legs, including recently crowned Canadian Champion Geoff Kabush who opted for a mountain bike trip rather than race in Toronto. Katie Compton also took the weekend off as she prepares for another European excursion.
Obviously, the story in Europe continues to be the growing rivalry between Sven Nys and Niels Albert. Albert continues to ride very well, while Nys still seems one step behind. Zdenk Stybar continues to remain the most untalked about podium finisher. It’s amazing how little is said about the man who finished on the podium in his “hometown” World Cup race and has yet to finish worse than third. Jonathan Page continued his “lucky” streak with a pair of 13th places. His good starting position is a big bonus, but Page is still not on par with the leaders, something that I expect to change soon. Erwin Vervecken seems to be maintaining his good form, but as with Page, is still a bit behind the lead group. The Vanthourenhout cousins had very poor showings at the last World Cup race and seem incapable of producing under pressure right now. Francis Mourey had another strong showing, holding-on for 5th in Plzen. Perhaps only showing up for World Cups will continue to pay off for him? On the flipside, Martin Bina grabbed the hole shot in Plzen but failed to finish; hopefully his luck will turn around.
The North American side of things saw even fewer surprises than in Europe. The Cyclocrossworld.com trio dominated the field north of the border. The only hitch in their plan was Powers’ bad crash on Saturday that left him fighting for 8th place. Tim Johnson still appears the strongest of the trio, but it was hard to tell with all the crashing. Speaking of crashes, Andy Jacques-Maynes’ season is in jeopardy as he went down hard on Sunday and failed to finish. I tipped him as one of the bigger surprises this year, so hopefully he can recover quickly. Rounds 3 and 4 of the MAC series were dominated by the two tall boys in orange. I had Barry Wicks as the favorite, but Ryan Trebon clearly found his form this weekend as he decimated both fields. Behind Trebon and Wicks, several riders showed that they belong at the front of the field. Dan Timmerman continued his stand-out season and looks poised to take the NECCS overall and perhaps a podium spot at Nationals. The Swiss Sensation (still working on that one), Valentin Scherz, continued his American campaign with a pair of top-5 finishes. Davide Frattini also showed signs of the form that saw him win the first 2 rounds of the MAC series, albeit in contrasting conditions, in September.
In the biggest shakeup of both rankings to date, a total of 9 riders were dropped this week. The top-5 in both North America and Europe remain pretty much the same, just in a different order. Obviously, Trebon’s wins rocketed him up the list, but I’m still leary of his ability to stay near the top. Most of the North American riders dropped were riders who didn’t race this weekend, but they’ll have their chance for redemption soon. In Europe, the top-10 at the World Cup featured a lot of one-hit-wonders, so consistency in both the Kermiscross and World Cup races were given precedent. Without further delay, here’s this weeks rankings:
1. Tim Johnson (2) – It was a clear head-to-head battle between Johnson and Jeremey Powers this week. By virtue of a 1st and 2nd in Toronto, Johnson gets the edge. It appears his shoulder has healed nicely, but with his long-term goal of heading back to Worlds in February it will be interesting to see if he backs-off a bit before December.
2. Ryan Trebon (na) – Trebon appears to have found the form that lead him to a National Championship last year, but I’m nervous about placing him this high. He hasn’t been able to beat the Cyclocrossworld.com guys this year, but will have another crack this weekend, with the #1 spot on the line.
3. Jeremey Powers (1) – Clearly, Powers was set back by crashes both days in Toronto, but he managed to rebound and pick-up the win on Sunday. I hate to say it, but I’m not sure if he truly won on Sunday as it sounds like Johnson may have backed off too soon. Then again, a win is a win.
4. Barry Wicks (3) – It has to be tough to continue to finish 2nd. Wicks wasn’t able to hold the wheel of his teammate this weekend, but continues to ride very consistently. A breakthrough win is in his future, hopefully sooner rather then later.
5. Jamey Driscoll (4) – While Driscoll continues to prove he’s no fluke, he also continues to finish right behind the leaders. He’s still young, so it’s tough to say if he’ll have a breakthrough win this year. If not, next year may be his chance to bust through to the top.
6. Dan Timmerman (9) – The Bearded Wonder continues to impress with his consistent rides. He’s proven he can finish in the top-5 or 10 no matter what the conditions, but still appears unable to beat the heads of state right now.
7. Davide Frattini (na) – A pair of 4th places puts Frattini back in the rankings. He seems to shine in the Mid-Atlantic but has been unable to to carry his success to other regions of the country. This weekend will provide him another opportunity to prove he can do well elsewhere.
8. Valentin Scherz (na) – Scherz will be in the US for the next few months and will likely remain on the domestic list this year. He’s been a top-20 rider in Europe as a junior and clearly has the ability to ride with the big boys over here. I’m sure we will continue to hear about him for years to come.
9. Derrick St. John (na) – St. John has had marginal success over the past few years, but always seems to do well when in his native Canada. At this point, he’s still a one-hit-wonder candidate. However, two 4th-place finishes is a great way to get your season going again.
10. Tristan Schouten (na) – Schouten is a tough call. He rode well in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this year but earned no recognition because of the firepower in the field. That said, a pair of 5th places proves that he doesn’t plan on fading anytime soon.
Dropped this week: Joachim Parbo (5), Chris Jones (6), Mark LaLonde (7), Geoff Kabush (8) and Troy Wells (10).
1. Niels Albert (1) – The only thing to say this week is that Albert had a bad start in Plzen. However, he still won in dominating fashion. It will be interesting to see if he can hold this form all year (just ask Nys how hard that can be).
2. Zden Stybar (2) – Stybar continues to ride extremely well. He’s Albert’s age, which means he’ll be here for a long time. Unfortunately, that also means he’ll have to figure out how to beat him if he really wants his career to take off.
3. Sven Nys (3) – Nys appears to be getting back to the consistency we’ve come to expect for him. He continues to ride in the underdog role though, something which he’s definitely not used to. It should be noted that he’s moving up the starting grid—a huge help.
4. Kevin Pauwels (7) – Pauwels is back where he belongs: with the leaders. As I’ve said before, this is his year to move from the top-10 to a consistent podium finisher. He’ll pick-up a big win at some point this year, and like Albert and Stybar he has time on his side.
5. Klaas Vantornout (4) – Vantornout continues to be a podium contender at races both big and small. His consistency continues to pay off, but that big win still seems out of reach.
6. Francis Mourey (na) – Mourey will continue to move on and off the list unless he decides to race a bit more. While no one can argue with two 5th place finishes in two World Cups, it would be nice to see him do some other races as well.
7. Christian Heule (na) – A strong 8th place in Plzen moves Heule back into the rankings. His form seemed to dip a little since he returned to Europe, but I think he’ll be a consistent top-10 rider for the rest of this season.
8. Erwin Vervecken (na) – Vervecken remains a top-15 rider at the bigger races, but his ability to ride consistently puts him into 8th this week. While he finished just outside the top-10 in Plzen (12th) he picked up a nice 8th place at Kermiscross and looks like he’s back on form.
9. Jonathan Page (na) – I think Page deserves to be back on this list with his consistent top-15 riding. His form is coming around and I expect some top-10’s this week. This time, I think Page is here to stay.
10. Katie Compton (5) – I can’t kick Compton off this list for not racing. While lesser riders will lose spots due to some time off, someone as dominant as Katie deserves better.
Dropped this week: Bart Aernouts (6), Dieter Vanthourenhout (8), Sven Vanthourenhout (9) and Martin Bina (10).
Once again this weekend riders in North America will have two options for racing. The bulk of the action will be in Kentucky as the USGP continues with two days of racing at The Derby City Cup. The Cyclocrossworld.com trio will be there as will the Kona boys. Clearly they’re the favorites to win and the showdown should be spectacular. New Gloucester, Maine provides the other opportunity for valuable UCI points with two days of the Downeast Cyclocross. The New England fields are always strong and exciting even if somme of the bigger names elsewhere.
By the time you read this it is also likely that Sven Nys has picked-up a victory at a nighttime cross race in the Netherlands. However, Koppenbergcross will provide the biggest fireworks of the weekend come Sunday. The Koppenburg climb is the prominent feature of the tough, technical course. It’s is one of Nys’ favorite courses and a race he loves to win. It is also part of the GVA Trophy, which Albert currently leads. All in all, it promises to be an exciting weekend with some great racing on both sides of the Atlantic.
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