1. Neils Albert – A couple weeks ago, we predicted that Neils Albert would take some time to hit his stride, but when he did so, he would dominate races for a solid stretch before fading. It seems Albert’s hit that stretch, winning capably and alone in Kalmthout and Ruddervoorde. He’s the man to beat; how long will he be on top of the heap?
2. Sven Nys – Sure, Nys’s last two races have netted him only 6th and 4th place, but it’s important to look deeper than the results. In Kalthout, he got tangled with a bobbling Kevin Pauwels, and in Ruddervoorde, suffered repeated chaindrops. I can’t help but think that it’s his luck, not his form, that’s holding him back. Last year he was plagued with repeated misfortunes – among them, a broken pedal and a mechanic pulling him off his bike. Let’s see if he can’t reverse his luck.
3. Bart Aernouts – Bart gets a boost up the standings thanks to a Superprestige podium. The Rabobank rider is looking strong, and it was only Albert’s dominant that spoiled what would have been a huge win for him. No hanging his head – it’s still a great place for Aernouts to be at this point in the season.
4. Klaas Vantornout – Like Aernouts, Vantornout gets a boost up the Power Rankings. He finished third at Ruddervoorde, behind Albert and Aernouts. Vantornout bested a field of his peers and has been riding consistently over several races. More podiums aren’t out of the question for him.
5. Bart Wellens – Bartje’s 5th at Ruddervoorde and consistent results following his preseason sojourn to North America. He’s looking to find a few more wins this year than in seasons past – he’s looking good, but it awaits to be seen if he’ll find the wins he wants.
6. Zdenek Stybar – Last week, the reigning World Champion was #1 in the Power Rankings; a couple wins followed by abstaining from Kalmthout due to playing a bruised knee safe made him look pretty fearsome coming in to the season, but his performance at Ruddervoorde leaves a bit to be desired.
7. Kevin Pauwels – the young upstart threat to Sven Nys’s Belgian cyclocross dominance was curiously absent from the top-ten in Ruddervoorde, sandwiching an anonymous performance between a poor start and a 13th-place finish. Does this bode ominously for his Superprestige aims?
8. Tom Meeusen – another youngster hot on the heels of some of cyclocross’s biggest names, Meeusen animated Ruddervoorde on his way to seventh place. Meeusen had a few major wins last year – he’ll look for a few more this year.
9. Steve Chainel – the road rider from FDJ led Ruddervoorde early before fading a bit, hanging on to the continent’s best cyclocross racers on his way to a top ten finish. Let’s see if he can repeat his performance.
10. Sven Vanthorenhout – despite less consistent results than his cousin Dieter, Sven was chosen for the Belgian World Cup team – likely on the strength of an 8th place finish at the Superprestige’s opener this past weekend.