We’ve spent the majority of our time covering the male side of things over the past two weeks—now it’s time for the ladies! Here are 7 women to watch this ‘cross season:
Clearly Marianne Vos is the woman to beat. While some say Katie Compton is the best female cross racer in the world, Vos has proven time and time again that she can win when it counts. Her biggest “failure” last year was two-fold: she finisehd 2nd overall in the World Cup and at the Dutch National Championships. However, Vos won the European Championships, the World Championships, and ended the season as the UCI points leader. Overall, Vos won 10 out of the 16 races she entered, including three World Cup wins. This year I’m sure she would love to repeat last year’s successes while adding the World Cup overall and a National Championship to her haul.
For Katie Compton, last year’s biggest let-down was Katie Compton. Her persistent cramps aggravated her at the worst possible times, virtually costing Compton her season. By mid-December, she appeared to be a virtual lock for a World Cup overall title and a World Championship. By mid-January though, her season was all but over. She finished fourth in the World Cup standings after failing to start/finish the last few of races and ended her season with a DNF at Worlds. On the bright side, Compton won her sixth-consecutive National Championship and won 12 out of the 15 races she entered (sound familiar?). If Compton can solve her leg problems, she could become an unstoppable force. But tings aren’t looking good: it has already been revealed that Compton’s injuries from this year’s Mountain Bike World Championships are still preventing her from riding cyclocross. Only time will tell how—and if—she’ll rebound.
Last year, Katerina Nash has proven that US racing is just as good as, if not better, than European racing. The Czech dominated the US cross scene, winning the USGP overall with six-straight wins. Her only two non-wins were Rounds One and Two; she placed second to an in-form Katie Compton. Nash’s worst result of the season was fifth—at the second World Cup round. Nash rounded-out her season with a National Championship and fourth at Worlds—in her home country. This season, Nash has continued her US domination with a pair of wins this season in Washington and last night’s CrossVegas event. Nash looks ready to parley her US domination into further European success and perhaps a medal at Worlds.
Daphny Van Den Brand
Van Den Brand’s biggest coup came at the Dutch National Championship when she narrowly beat Vos in an all out brawl. She wound-up just off the pace at Worlds though, finishing third. However, Van Den Brand’s consistent riding allowed her to pick-up the World Cup overall, besting Vos by a few points. In fact, Vand Den Brand finished no worse than fourth all season. If she and Vos are in form, it’s going to be an all Dutch affair this season, one that could pit these two against each other in the world’s biggest races.
Perhaps the biggest name in women’s cross, Kupfernagel had a poor season last year, but still managed to make herself known when it counted. She raced a shorter season than usual, which accounted for her poor results. She won two races, including a National Championship, but only finished outside the top-5 once. Her second at Worlds was definitely a bright spot and reminder that Kupfernagel is a name no one should forget. This could be her final season, I bet she would like to go out by winning the rainbow stripes in front of her home nation in St. Wendel.
Sanne Van Paassen
As if the Vos/Van Den Brand duo wasn’t bad enough, Van Paassen is proving to be another Dutch star in the making. She raced nearly 20 times last year and made nearly a dozen podium appearances, including third at the National Championships. But while Van Paassen didn’t take a single victory, she also never finished outside the top-10. If Van Paassen continues her steady improvement and matures a bit (she’s the youngest woman on the list), she could be a force to be reckoned with. There’s serious potential for a Dutch 1-2-3 finish at Worlds—that’s downright Belgian!
Laura Van Gilder
Van Gilder is a name known well by most US road fans, but until a few years ago, she wasn’t well known for her cross skills. Over the past few seasons though, she’s become a podium regular and a two-time member of the US World Championship team. Some argue that her technical ability holds her back, but her record in the US seems to dispel that criticism. Last year she won the Mid Atlantic Cross overall, placed fifth at Nationals while racking-up several podium finishes. At 46, she’s the oldest woman in cross, but age hasn’t slowed her down. In fact, she’s won 3 races this year already—perhaps a National Title and another trip to Worlds are in the cards.
As with the men, this should prove to be an exciting season in women’s cyclocross. The Dutch trio is an ever-present danger, but Kupfernagel and (a healthy) Compton could be up for the challenge. If Compton gets healthy, Nash will have her hands full stateside—her biggest results could come from her European campaign. And behind these riders lurk dozens of women, all capable of big performances.
Unfortunately, compared to the men, there are significantly less races for the women in Europe. While the US seems to have equal UCI races for both sexes, the European races and series are vastly different. However, things appear to be changing. The women only have one less World Cup round this year, and many of the major European races are starting to add women’s fields. The advantage of this is that when there’s a women’s race in Europe, everyone shows up ready to compete. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll find out who is ready to dominate.
Thanks for reading—share your comments and picks below.