International Cyclocross Weekend Preview: Holy Week Kick-Off

Photo by Luc Claessen | http://www.ispaphoto.be

It’s that time of year again, we are a few weeks out from the various national championships, and a little over a month away from the world championships. More importantly, it’s Christmas time, which means an action-packed week of racing, begging Friday, December 23rd and stretching into the new year. Here’s our usual weekend preview, stretched a bit to include next weeks races.

Superprestige – Diegem (C1)

After nearly a month off, the Superprestige series invades Diegem on Friday for some night time racing in the city center. Heading into the previous round in Gieten, Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels were tied for the series lead and looking to throw down. Nys would get the better of Pauwels in an exciting sprint finish and take control of the series by five points. Despite Pauwels’ second place finish, he actually slipped to third, behind Zdenek Stybar thanks to an intermediate sprint. Pauwels is still a slim six points behind Nys.

After a pair of podium finishes last weekend, Niels Albert will be the man to watch in Diegem. Albert has won the past two editions of this race and looks to be right on track for a Belgian National Championship defense in a few weeks. Obviously, Pauwels and Nys will figure into the mix as should Stybar, who suddenly found his legs last Sunday. Klass Vantornout, Bart Aernouts, Rob Peeters and Tom Meeusen will all be looking to contend for victory as well.

GP DAF Grand Garage Engel (C2)

I tried my best with this race, scouring the internet for what felt like hours, with no luck. The best I can find are results from 2008 and 2009. Rob Peeters won in 2009 and Davy Coenen won in 2008. This race is up against the World Cup, which means it will be attended by those who were not selected by their nations and are not racing in Switzerland. If anyone has any info on this race, feel free to let us know.

Internationales Radquer Dagmersellen (C2)

Switzerland’s national series returns on Sunday in Dagmersellen. The big surprise is the scheduled appearance of last years winner, Francis Mourey. Mourey is on the start list and is absent from the Zolder start list. It’s surprising to see a rider of his caliber skipping a World Cup round, especially with the form he’s on. Look for Lukas Fluckiger to attempt to stay with Mourey and contend for the victory.

UCI World Cup Round 6 – Heusden-Zolder (CDM)

The World Cup heads to the Formula 1 tack in Zolder on Monday, the day after Christmas. The course itself utilizes portions of the track mixed with technical wooded sections to make for a challenging course. Lars Boom picked up the victory in Zolder last year on a course that was covered in snow. Boom returned to cross last weekend at Namur and despite a strong start, he finished in the middle of the pack. If anyone could suddenly pull off a victory, Boom would be that guy.

With all the heavy hitters in action last weekend in Namur, it was Sven Nys who came out on top, capturing the overall lead in the process. Niels Albert was hot on his heels and could prove to be a thorn in Nys side on Monday. Kevin Pauwels sits five points behind Nys and will be looking to recapture the lead with a victory. Zdenk Stybar seems to be returning to form and will be gunning for a huge victory in Zolder.

Look for young Tom Meeusen and fellow Belgian Bart Aernouts to mix things up and keep everyone on their toes. Klass Vantornout has been knocking on the door for a few weeks now and has to be in the discussion for a victory on Monday. Finally, there’s the French who came out of nowhere putting three riders in the top-ten in Namur. As previously mentioned, Francis Mourey will be absent, but France is still sending a top-notch squad.

GVA Trofee Round 5 – Azencross (C1)

Despite a poor finish in Essen, Kevin Pauwels continues to stretch his lead at the mid-way point of the series. Pauwels has a 22 point lead of Zdenk Stybar and a 31 point over Tom Meeusen. All three riders will be looking for victory in Loenhout on Wednesday. Standing in their way will be Sven Nys, who had the Essen round locked up until he suffered a mechanical on the penultimate lap.

Niels Albert won this race last year and would love to pick up another victory. With the overall a pretty much forgone conclusion, the tactical battle we have seen in years past will most likely not happen this year. The leaves room for other riders, including Klass Vantournout and Bart Aernouts, to have a shot a victory. The big surprise could come from 2007 winner Lars Boom, who began his cross season last weekend.

Versluys Cyclcross (C2)

Versluys Cyclcross takes place for the third time in Bredene, Belgium on the 29th. Last year Zdenk Stybar was able to pick up the win over Sven Nys and Niels Albert. Stybar and Albert stood on the podium in 2009 behind surprise winner, Dieter Vanthourenhout. Since we are a week out from this race, there’s no start list available, but Belgiums top stars are all expected to attend this race.

 
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