Cyclocross Power Ranking – Final Edition of 2009/2010

Here’s the final installment of Erik’s Cross Report and Power Ranking–for this cross season, at least.  Thanks to Erik for all his time and efforts–his insights are greatly appreciated.  Keep checking Erik’s site, The Run-up for more news and info this off-season.
It’s been a long season with a lot of great racing from a great group of riders. Each week since mid-September I’ve been cranking out weekly power rankings for European and US cross racers. This week, I’ve decided to put together one last ranking for 2009/10 that takes into account the entire season—it’s the top ten riders in cross this year. I’m going in reverse order this week to help build a bit of suspense. But if you’ve been following my column this year, you can probably guess the top 3. So without further delay, here’s the final power rankings of 2009/2010:
10. Sven Vanthourenhout – Sven started the season very strong, but failed to produce results in bigger races. Since he was consistently inside the top-10, he ends-up 10th on this list. Sven’s Belgian, which always hurts when it comes time to head to Worlds. In any other country he would have been at Worlds as one of his land’s best riders.
   Photo: Tim Van Wichelen
 9. Bart Wellens – Wellens’ first half of the season was destroyed by a bizarre illness. He bounced back in late December though, and ended-up making the Belgian Worlds team. He then ripped through the competition during the final few weeks of the season, capping it off with a win in the last race of the year. Hopefully next year will bring him more success—and better health.
8. Gerben de Knegt – de Knegt’s biggest win should have been at the National Championships in his native Netherlands until Lars Boom spoiled the party. Still, de Knegt had a great season—all things considered. At this point he’s still the Netherlands’ top cross racer, so I don’t expect retirement any time soon.
   Photo: Tim Van Wichelen
 7. Bart Aernouts – Aernouts may be one of the most overlooked riders of the year. He was in the rankings virtually every week, but only cracked the top-5 twice. He’s Belgian, which helps explain his anonymity, but he ended-up eighth in the UCI Points. If you take away Worlds (where he finished 37th), he never finished outside the top-20 and finished outside the top-10 only three times (two of those were 11th-place finishes). However, he only finished on the podium once. A little more experience and he could be a force to be reckoned with.
6. Francis Mourey – The French National Champion has some very interesting stats. He finished seventh overall in UCI Points due to a combination of consistent World Cup finishes and national race wins. Mourey did eight World Cups, finishing fifth four-times. He also finished fifth at Worlds. In addition to winning the French National Championship, Mourey won six races, four of which were in France. Overall, he had a very successful season, and I look forward to watching the 30-year-old improve over the next few seasons.
5. Kevin Pauwels – Pauwels was my pick to surprise this year; his victory at the Zolder World Cup proved he’s got what it takes to win. He’s only 26, so he’ll continue to improve. My guess is he’ll win 3 major races next year, challenging the likes of Sven Nys, Niels Albert and Zdenek Stybar. The biggest thing helping Pauwels is his consistency. Of the 33 races he did this year, he finished on the podium 12 times and outside the top-10 only 7 times.
4. Klaas Vantornout – Vantornout’s 2nd-place at Worlds surprised a lot of people, but if you watched him this season, you knew something was coming. He was usually the last guy to get dropped from the Nys/Albert/Stybar trio, and often was in the hunt for the win until the final few laps. He finished outside the top-10 only once this season, but failed to pick-up a victory. Next year, he should win several races, including some big ones.
   Photo: Tim Van Wichelen
 3. Sven Nys – Nys dropped-out of the rankings once this year due in part to his poor start to the season. As the season progressed, Nys gained some traction, but never returned to the form that made him a superstar. Nys did pick-up the GVA Trophy, a National Championship, and a Bronze Medal at Worlds. To most, these were good results, but it’s the first time since the 2003/04 season he didn’t win the Superprestige or World Cup. He’s had five-years of utter domination; perhaps this was just his first off year since the 03/04 season. Or, perhaps, we watched the changing of the guard. Only time will tell.
   Photo: Tim Van Wichelen
 2. Niels Albert – By mid-December, Albert seemed to have it all locked up. He was the reigning World Champion; Superprestige, the GVA Trophy, World Cup and UCI Points leader; and couldn’t be stopped. However, chinks in his armor began to appear around Christmas and by the second week in January, it all began to unravel. In the end, Albert was left with very impressive statistics, but nothing really to show for it. That said, Albert finished 31 races, winning nearly 50% of them, and only finished off the podium 3 times. Hopefully next year he can put it all together.
  Photo: Tim Van Wichelen
1. Zdenek Stybar – Was there any doubt that Stybar would be #1? He’s the only rider to not drop from the rankings and has been #1 five out of the past six weeks. Interestingly, Stybar won less races than Albert and Nys; he dominated by winning when he had to and riding as consistently as possible. For example, he only won three World Cup and two Superprestige rounds, yet managed to win both overall titles. It proves that cyclocross is all about consistency–how Nys has dominated in the past. The scariest part: Stybar is only 25. Even scarier: he’s Czech—the Belgians must be scratching their heads as to how managed to take the UCI Points, World Championship, Superprestige and World Cup titles away from them. Hopefully he continues his great riding next year.
And there you have it—the final Power Ranking of the 2009/2010 cyclocross season—I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  See you next fall!

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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