The eighth week of cross in Europe features eight races spread across the continent including a round of the Bpost Bank Trofee (formerly GVA Trofee), a round of the Superprestige series and a national championship. Smaller events will take place in Luxembourg, France and Switzerland, just to name a few. The week starts off with Koppenbergcross on Thursday and ends with the second round of the Superprestige on Sunday. Sweden will become the second nation to crown its national champion this season in Sunne. Hereâ€™s how I think the weekend will play out:
Bpost Bank Trofee Round 2 – Koppenbergcross (C1)
Sven Nys – despite his poor performance in Plzen on Sunday (due to a crash), look for Nys to once again be the king of the Koppenberg. Nys had seven consecutive wins heading into last year’s race, when Kevin Pauwels snapped that streak. I expect Nys to once again reign supreme atop the Koppenberg and put that crash behind him.
Niels Albert – despite a seventh place finish last year, I expect Albert to podium on Thursday. The World Champion proved heâ€™s on good form with a commanding victory in Plzen. A new section of the course should make the race an even more technical affair, which gives the edge to Albert. However, I think Nys will be too strong.
Kevin Pauwels – Pauwels will try to maintain his one second lead over Albert on Thursday. The Koppenberg traditionally causes big gaps, so all eyes will be on the Pauwels-Albert duo as they battle for the overall.
Cyclocross International de Marle (C2)
Francis Mourey – Mourey has struggled a bit this season, but always seems to do well in France. I expect him to rebound from a poor October and take home a victory on Thursday.
Steve Chainel – last years runner-up may have to settle for the same spot in Marle. Chaniel came across the line nearly a minute behind Mourey last year and only seven seconds ahead of third place (John Gadret). There should be smaller gaps this year, but I still give the edge to Mourey.
Aurelien Duval – look for the French National Champion to figure into the mix on Thursday. I could easily see him winning this race, but for some reason Iâ€™m liking Moureyâ€™s chances right now. With that said, it would not surprise me to see Duval on the top step.
GP de la Region Wallonne (C2)
Niels Albert – without an available start list and Albertâ€™s form right now, Iâ€™m going to give the nod to him for a repeat in Dottignies Mouscron, Belgium.
Radomir Simunek – after trying to hold his own the past two weeks in his native Czech Republic, look for Simunek to return to the podium this weekend in Belgium.
Rob Peeters – early this season, I picked Peters to do very well and surprise some people. While that hasnâ€™t been the case, Peeters third place last weekend in Plzen (later DQâ€™d) shows that maybe I was just too early in my predictions. Look for the Belgian to podium on Saturday.
Swedish National Championships (CN)
Magnus Darvell – the defending champion should recapture his crown in Sunne on Saturday. Darvell is the only Swede to really race cross, competing in five World Cup rounds and the World Championships last year. While his results arenâ€™t impressive, itâ€™s the experience that counts and gives him the edge.
Jens Westergren – last year Westergren landed on the podium in third place, one second behind second place and twenty seconds behind Darvell. I expect him to land on the podium again this weekend.
Jesper Dahlstrom – at 23-years-old, Dahlstrom could be the future of Swedish cross. He missed the podium last year, but I expect him to have a solid result on Saturday and grab a spot on the podium.
Superprestige Round 2 – Zonhoven (C1)
Niels Albert – after a few weeks riding the Nys train, Iâ€™m going to switch over to the World Champion. With rain in the forecast (our weather man was fired this week after claiming Plzen would be fast and dry), Albert should be on target for a repeat victory in Zonhoven.
Sven Nys – a runner up in Zonhoven last year, Nys should land on the podium again on Sunday. A 12th title is still in the cards for Nys, so expect him to give it his all. Even if he fails to win, as I suspect he will, a podium appearance will keep him in contention for the overall. The fact that he crashed hard in Plzen may affect him, but the rest between Koppenbergcross and Zonhoven should help.
Kevin Pauwels – rounding out the all Belgian podium, should be the current UCI number one rider, Kevin Pauwels. While he has shown signs of the phenomenal season he had last year, heâ€™s still not quite there in my book. He should be in contention for the win on Sunday, but I expect him to fall short and land on one of the lower steps of the podium.
International Radquer Hittnau (C2)
Enrico Franzoi – Franzoi has had a solid start to the season, with podium appearances in Switzerland and a solid ride at last weekend’s World Cup round. Look for the Italian to take the top step of the podium on Sunday.
Marcel Wildhaber – last year Wildhaber came across the line first in an exciting three man sprint in Hittnau. While he will be in contention the entire day, I expect Franzoi to be just a little bit better.
Simon Zahner – in what should be an Italian/Swiss affair, look for Zahner to give the home country the edge by landing on the podium on Sunday. Heâ€™ll have his hands full, but I think heâ€™ll do it.
National Trophy Series Round 2 (C2)
Jody Crawforth – after finishing third in round one, look for Crawforth to take control of the National Trophy Series with a win on Sunday in Ipswich.
Paul Oldham – The perennial arch-rival of Crawforth, Oldham got the better of him a few weeks ago finishing second, just ahead of Crawforth. With round oneâ€™s winner Ian Field in Belgium, Oldham and Crawforth will begin their battle for control of the series in earnest on Sunday. I expect Crawforth to get the early edge.
Oli Beckingsale – despite being 37-years-old, Beckingsale is still a podium contender in Britain. Look for his experience to help him get on the podium on Sunday.
International Radquerfeldein GP Lambach/Stadl-Paura (C2)
Ondrej Bambula – Bambula won this race last year by over a minute. Look for the same dominant performance on Sunday as the Czech rider proves heâ€™s a force to be reckoned with.
Tomas Paprstka – this young Czech rider has had a solid season thus far. Look for him to step up his game on Sunday and get his first podium of the season.
Filip Adel – last yearâ€™s runner up should complete the Czech sweep on Sunday. Like Paprstak, Adel is a young Czech rider and shows the potential to replace riders like Radomir Simunek and Martin Bina down the road. I like his chances on Sunday.