We’re in week 11 of the International racing calendar, and a drama-filled weekend saw Nys and Pauwels take their rivalry up a step, as Stybar’s struggles and Niels Albert’s broken wrist cause a bit of a stir-up of the Power Rankings.
1. Sven Nys (3) – the Cannibal from Baal is back on top, unseating his younger rival with a pair of victories this weekend. Nys used every trick in his deep playbook. It included a bit of skullduggery, but also sandriding, technical skills, and a fearsome sprint. He’s not to be trifled with.
2. Kevin Pauwels (1) – from our perspective, Pauwels traded some of his fearsome sprinting ability from last year for an engine that can ride away from the field on occasion. It’s served him well up until now, but it seems that if he can’t ride away from Nys or outsprint him, Pauwels might have a tricky time figuring out how to win. If the weather gets worse, Pauwels might only encounter further difficulty.
3. Tom Meeusen (4) – in a sign of a shake-up, Meeusen looks stronger than Stybar. He’s not quite solid in the top tier of cyclocross racers just yet, but he’s showing what he can do and reminding us that his several wins last season were no fluke.
4. Zdenek Stybar (2) – Stybar’s a step off of his form. He goes to the front and drives the front group but can’t break it apart, and finishes the race tired and beaten by those around him. It’s he who’s making room at the top by slipping downward. What will it take for him to find his winning ways?
5. Bart Aernouts (5) - a huge result for Aernouts this past weekend, getting third place at Koksijde after looking calm and comfortable in sand and strong until the end.
6. Klaas Vantornout (6) - Klaas holds steady just behind the leaders. We wonder if his results are a function of working for Pauwels – Vantornout often goes to the front hard in the first to laps to break the race up early. Is that a move he does for Pauwels, and if so, does it wound Vantornout’s chances later in the race?
7. Rob Peeters (nr) - where did Peeters come from? On Sunday’s race in Gieten, not only did he score a surprise 3rd place, but he did so by riding away from Stybar’s group and closing in on Nys and Pauwels as they opened up their sprint. He spoke loud and clear – he wants a spot on the World Cup Squad for the race in Igorre, Spain.
8. Francis Mourey (7) - what can we say about Mourey that hasn’t already been said? He continues to a) dominate France, b) get respectable off-podium results in Belgium, and c) walk the line between impressing us and boring us.
9. Dieter Vanthorenhout (9) - DV had a good ride at Gieten this weekend, but failed to build on last week’s 5th place at Hasselt.
10. Bart Wellens (10) - We know you’re struggling, Bartje. We’re still rooting for you.
Dropped this week: Radomir Simunek