The Top Four: Pauwels, Stybar, Nys, and Albert have a stranglehold on European cyclocross. These four have won every major race this season, unwilling to let wins slip through their stingy fingers to the rest of the pack. They are head and shoulders above the rest of the field, and as such, deserve to be looked at with a separation between them and the rest. They’re competing against each other – everybody else is just chasing them.
1. Kevin Pauwels (1) – Kevin Pauwels comes off a winless weekend, which is something that’s starting to look a bit unusual. But despite getting bested first by Sven Nys and then by Zdenek Stybar, Pauwels remains the strongest, most dominant rider in the field.
2. Zdenek Stybar (3) – the World Champion finally nabs his first big win of the season in crushing style, by breaking away from a huge lead group on a fast course and time trialing to the finish. It’s a nice reward for Stybar who’s obviously showed glimpses of brilliance over the past month – will he be able to repeat in short order?
3. Sven Nys (4) – Occasional off-podium results don’t stop Nys from duking it out with his younger rivals. And following some complaints about their performance during Stybar’s victory last weekend, he must might be fired up enough to come out with some wins this weekend.
4. Niels Albert (2) – Albert’s immediate future gets a big question mark thanks to a broken wrist sustained this week when a car hit him while he was training. His fourth place on the Power Rankings, therefore, is more of an indication of how this past weekend shaped up rather than an outlook for his future. Look for his injury to make some more room at the top for some others.
The rest of the field:
5. Francis Mourey (9) – Who’s the most dominant cyclocross rider in the world? Why it’s Francis Mourey, of course, who sticks to racing in France, either due to comfort with victory, sponsorship obligations, or other reasons. Hard to blame him on this one, it was a C1. And hey – he keeps winning. But if he keeps a Francocentric schedule, will he ever do better than 4th in a major international race?
6. Bart Aernouts (6) – Aernouts is hovering perpetually at 6th – incidentally, where he usually winds up finishing. With Albert injured, will Aernouts get a chance to shine?
7. Tom Meeusen (5) - The young up-and-comer has been racing up and down in the middle. We’re still waiting to see if he can match last year’s run of wins, and if we’re to gain confidence in his ability we’ll need to start seeing some podium finishes.
8. Radomir Simunek (8) - Albert’s teammate is slowly building to the kind of form that saw several podiums last year.
9. Bart Wellens (nr) – Bartje returns from a brief respite due to a virus, and nabs a solid 7th place. We’ll wait and see if the rest gives him the boost he’ll need to start challenging or wins instead of chasing.
10. Klaas Vantornout (7) - The tall man on Sunweb-Revor had some flashes of brilliance earlier in the season but it seems his form is waning, and as Aernouts, Meeusen, and Simunek are building form, that means a challenge for Vantornout.
Dropped this week: Rob Peeters.