With a half a week left until the World Championships, we have all the fodder for speculation that we’ll get. As always, here are Pavé’s Cyclocross Power Rankings, with each rider’s ranking from last week in parenthesis.
1. Niels Albert (1). He’s won five races in January and shows no signs of weakness. Going into the World Championships, he is the man to beat.
2. Kevin Pauwels (3). With a couple of 2nd place finishes in recent weeks, Pauwels is clearly a threat for stripes.
3. Zdenek Stybar (2). Despite eventually finishing behind Nys, Stybar showed a glimpse of his early-season form by opening up a 15 second gap early in the race at Hoogerheide. He’s spend much of this past month in Mallorca focusing on training; maybe he’s just needed a few races to top off his form.
4. Sven Nys (5). I may have called his season peaked a bit too early, as he’s still been able to dispatch Stybar in two recent races. A WC win would help make up for a bit of a topsy-turvy season, but I don’t see him creeping too high on the podium.
5. Klaas Vantornout (7) – A pair of fifth place finishes recently suggests that a run at the podium in St-Wendel isn’t too far from his grasp.
6. Tom Meeusen (9) can be counted on for a strong finish, and if the rumors of an infighting Belgian team at Worlds pan out, might be well-poised to take advantage of any chaos for a podium spot.
7. Bart Aernouts (8). His middle name might as well be Steady Freddie.
8. Steve Chainel (n/a), the great French hope, has had a few top-ten rides lately, and I wouldn’t put it past him to be the highest-placing Frenchman at Worlds.
9. Bart Wellens – has his injury from Tervuren gotten the best of him? He line in Hoogerheide. Maybe he’s spending more time filming his reality television program. His 2nd place at the Belgian Championships shows that he’s always a threat, but not much to speak of in the weeks since gives me pause.
10. Gerben De Knegt (n/a) steadily finishes in the top ten. It would be nice to see him ride himself into a top-five placing, but time is running out this season.
Dropped this week: Francis Mourey (4) – I may have been wrong about Mourey. Fast courses suit him, but when the going get rough, he falls off.
Stay tuned for Friday’s World Championship Previews.