Superprestige Round 2 – Zanhoven (C1)
After two weekend in the Czech Republic, the world’s top cross riders head to Zanhoven, Belgium for round two of the Superprestige series. All eyes will once again be on Zdenk Stybar who would love to repeat his victory in Zanhoven last year. Stybar has looked like the strongest rider over the past few weeks, but has been outfoxed by the Belgians. The other obvious contenders for the victory are Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels who won round one and round two of the World Cup, respectivly. Last year, Pauwels beat Nys for second place at Zanhoven.
Beyond those three, there are several other riders who could surprise in Zanhoven. Klaas Vantornout has played the consument teammate over the past two weeks for Pauwels. Should Pauwels falter, it could be Vantornout’s time to shine. Bart Aernouts has been quite fast over the past few weeks, but he always seems to surprise when people least expect it. If his win at Nacht van Woerden this past week is any indication, he’s ready to shine. Bart Wellens started off the season very strong and, like Aernouts, has quieted down a bit. If Wellens is to pick up a marquee victory, this could be his best shot.
Three riders that will be interesting to watch are Niels Albert, Jonathan Page and Philipp Walsleben. Albert really seemed to struggle last weekend in Tabor and will be looking to rebound from a pair of dissapointing races – considering his current lead in the Superprestige series (following his Ruddervoorde victory) and his miserable World Cups, he might like to grab Superprestige tight. Jonathan Page finished inside the top-ten this past week at Nacht van Woerden, but has struggled to crack the top-15 at the bigger races – so it will be interesting to see where he winds up. Finally, there’s Walsleben, who has a quiet start to the season. The German Champion exploded onto the scene last year and seemed on the verge of a big win. While he’s not expected to win, a top-ten finish would be a great result for him. Walsleben’s not just a capable rider, but canny – in one race last year, when a mechanical ruined his chances of placing, he softpedaled to open up room on the course, and then clocked the fastest lap and took home a 1000Euro prize Will he have more tricks up his sleeve?
GVA Trophy Round 1 – Oudenaarde (C1)
The Koppenberg, perhaps the most famous climb in Belgium, will play host to Europe’s best cross riders on Tuesday. The course essentially climbs up the Koppenberg then makes a left into farm fields, slowly winding its way down to the base of the climb. To say that Sven Nys is the favorite is an understatement. The last time he didn’t win this race was in 2003, when Bart Wellens picked up the victory.
Behind Nys, the usual cast of characters will battle it out for victory, or more likely, second place. Niels Albert finished second in Oudenaarde last year ahead of Kevin Pauwels. It should come as no surprise that behind them were Zdenk Stybar and Klass Vantournout. The real surprise could come from Gerben de Knegt. He has had some success here in the past, and although his opportunities are limited, this could be one of his best.