Welcome to Pavé’s midweek cyclocross coverage, wherein we take a look at the weekend’s performances by riders on the International circuit and sit in judgement of their abilities. That’s right – it’s time for a run-down of who we see as the top ten riders right now.
1. Zdenek Stybar – “Styby” once again takes top honors, having gone two-for-two this past weekend with victories in Stribo and Baden. Stybar’s coming out of the gate swinging, but finished his weekend with a bruised knee after a post-race barrier-bumping injury. It’ll sideline him for this weekend – his medical team is playing it safe. That said, he’s looking like he can win when he needs to. It’s too bad he’ll miss the C1 Euro season opener at Kalmthout.
2. Sven Nys – At 35 years old, Sven Nys can hardly be called past his prime, despite major wins stretching back 13 years, when he won the Superprestige series and a World Cup race in Tabor. He’s gearing up for another season-long battle with young star Kevin Pauwels – but recently got the best of him.
3. Kevin Pauwels is Belgium’s rider most likely to unseat Nys from his stranglehold on the Superprestige and GvA Trofee series. He’s also the rider to put your money on if a small group rides to the finish together – he’s downright deadly in a sprint.
4. Neils Albert is without wins at this young point in the season, but the former World Champion (and current Belgian champ) usually seems content to build slowly and target World Cup races. It netted him an overall victory in the World Cup last year; if he does the same again this year, he’ll pick off Superprestige and GvA Trofee wins during his reign of terror. He hasn’t yet hit his stride yet, but podium finishes suggest he’s where he needs to be.
5. Bart Wellens – Fresh off a North American preseason, Wells returns to Europe with three wins, a clutch of UCI points and some renewed confidence after missing half of last season and seeing his win tally steadily decline over the past five or so years. It’s looking as though he’s starting this season off well.
6. Klaas Vantornout – His 2010/2011 season may have been slim on wins but this year, but Vantornout’s getting off to a strong start with podiums within reach. Furthermore, since he was joined by Kevin Pauwels at his Sunweb-Revor team, the pressure’s eased. It should clear the way for more results.
7. Lars Van der Haar – The young Dutchman who stole our hearts at CrossVegas with an impressive late surge around a dying Rob Peeters and a sprinting Christian Heule picked up a win this past weekend.
8. Bart Aernouts – with a fifth place at the GP Neerpelt and a strong showing at CrossVegas, Aernouts is pulling together the beginning of a strong season.
9. Francis Mourey took second behind Stybar at Baden. It was hardly a packed field, but keeping the World Champ within an arm’s reach is no mean feat. Mourey can win at will in France, and preceeded Wellens’ North American reign of terror with his own in 2010, but his performance at major European races goes up and down. Fourth place at the World Championship was impressive – it would be nice to see him pick up some more big wins along the way.
10. Sven & Dieter Vantorenhout - unusual though it may be for the two cousins to be listed as one and be given a single spot in the Power Rankings, it’s happening – for the second week in a row. The Vantorenhouts have put in consistently strong performances, but more than that, they’ve been finishing close to each other, too – to wit, 6th and 8th at Neerpelt this past weekend.