All eyes are on Tabor, Czech Republic for the first round of the World Cup. With a full slate of racing (Junior, U23, Elite Women and Elite Men), all of Europe will be there. Without Zdenek Stybar, the World Cup looks destine for another year of Belgian domination, unless riders like Francis Mourey and Lars van der Haar can produce something special. Because of the limit on riders (per country) in World Cup races, there’s a C2 race on Sunday in Luxembourg that will see a strong international field. While the field is primarily Belgian, there will be a handful of riders from around Europe looking to pick up UCI points. Here’s how I see it happening this weekend:
GP de la Commune de Contern (C2)
Joeri Adams – Adams should lead the Belgian charge in Contern. Last year Adams won by nearly a minute over Rob Peeters. I expect him to repeat on Sunday.
Sven Vanthourenhout – Vanthourenhout has been racing cross since 1997 and continues to be be a top-10 contender. While his results have slowed somewhat over the past few years, look for him to contend for victory in Contern. He should land on the podium, just not on the top step.
Jan Denuwelaere – the 24-year-old Belgian should end up on the podium like he did last year. Denuwelaere rode well last year in Contern and came away with a third place finish. Look for the same this Sunday.
UCI World Cup Round 1 – Tabor (CDM)
Sven Nys – while Nys is no longer the unstoppable force he once was, look for him to take the victory in Tabor. Last year Nys struggled and finished fifth, but with his good form, desire to win and experience, I expect him to lead the Belgian charge on Sunday.
Kevin Pauwels – after a slow start, last years World Cup overall champion, and winner in Tabor, looks for a repeat this weekend. While Pauwels will win this year, and may even take another overall title, he’s still a step behind Nys and Albert in my opinion.
Niels Albert – part of the inevitable Belgian sweep, Albert managed beat Nys last weekend in Ronse. While Nys poor start amy have been the real culprit last weekend, Albert is clearly on good form and one of a few men who can beat Nys. However, I don’t see it happening this weekend. I will say this, if Albert gets away early, he could hold on for victory.
Our riders to watch section for this race is filled with the non-Belgians who could play spoiler and some riders I’m keeping an eye on for various reasons. Francis Mourey could spoil the Belgian brigade on Sunday. Mourey finished fourth in Tabor last year and is always close to the lead group at World Cup races. Lars van der Haar makes his World Cup debut in the elite ranks and should land inside the top ten.
Gerben de Knegt will be in the starting grid on Sunday and has the distinction of being the oldest rider in the field at 38. Sven Nys and Jonathan Page are also in this race and aren’t too far behind de Knegt at 37. Page will have the company of two Americans this weekend in Tabor in the form of Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers. All eyes will be on Powers to see where he’s really at.