After a wild week of racing, things calm down a bit in Europe this week. After a few weeks off, thanks primarily to two World Cup rounds, the Toi Toi Cup continues in Kolin, Czech Republic. On Saturday the Soudal Classics continue with Jaarmarktcross Niel, Belgium, while the Superprestige series continues on Sunday in Hamme-Zogge. On Sunday there are two UCI C2 races, one in Germany and one in Switzerland. Hereâ€™s how I expect things to shake up this weekend:
Toi Toi Cup – Round 5 (C2)
Martin Bina – after finishing second in the first round of the Toi Toi Cup, Bina has rattled off three consecutive victories. Look for him to solidify the overall with another victory on Saturday in Kolin.
Petr Dlask – Dlask has only landed on the podium once this season in a Toi Toi Cup race, but I expect that to change this weekend. Dlask has had success in the past in Kolin and that should translate to a podium finish on Saturday.
Michael Boros – the young Czech rider is always a podium threat. Heâ€™s in a tight battle with Dlask for second in the series and looks poised for another podium finish.
Soudal Jaarmarktcross Niel (C2)
Sven Nys – Eric De Vlaeminck, Bert Vermeire and Roland Liboton have all won Jaamarktcross five times in their historic careers. On Sunday, Sven Nys should join that list when he picks up his fourth straight victory in Niel. The only other four-time winner is Bart Wellens, who admitted this week that even he thinks Nys will win.
Niels Albert – the Albert/Nys show reached a crescendo last week in Zonhoven with one of the most exciting last laps in recent memory. What will these two do for an encore? My guess is a tight race with similar results as last weekend. Albert should keep it close, but I expect Nys to pull away and take a solo victory.
AurÃ©lien Duval – I rarely take risks, but Iâ€™m going to give Duval a shot. The French National Champion had one of his best weeks ever last week and looks to continue that in Niel. If he rides like he did on the Koppenberg, a podium shot is not out of the question.
Rider to Watch
While New Zealander Alex Revell has received a lot of attention this season for his trials and tribulations in Belgium, another non-European rider will be joining him as Yu Takenouchi heads to Europe. The Japanese National Champion raced in Europe three times last year, with his best result being a 33rd place finish at the seventh round of the World Cup. Takenouchi proves that cross is global and is a rider Iâ€™ll be keeping an eye on.
Superprestige – Hamme-Zogge (C1)
Sven Nys – after bailing on the Nys train the past few weeks, Iâ€™m going full bore into this weekend. Nys is undefeated through the first two rounds of the Superprestige series and I think things will remain that way. Last year he was pipped at the line by Kevin Pauwels (Zdenek Stybar took a solo victory) and had to settle for third. The wonâ€™t happen this year.
Niels Albert – I actually like Albertâ€™s odds on Sunday in Hamme-Zooge. The problem is Nysâ€™ odds are just a little bit better in my mind. After another good battle, Albert will have to settle for second or third.
Kevin Pauwels – Pauwels has struggled this season for a variety of reasons, including bad luck and crashes. But when he is on, heâ€™s capable of winning any race out there. I expect a good battle from the young Belgian, but I think heâ€™ll have to settle for a lesser podium spot.
Entega City Cross Cup (C2)
Johannes Sickmueller – with the absence of heavy hitters such as Christoph Pfingsten and Philipp Walsleben, Smickmueller becomes the favorite on Sunday in Lorsch, Germany. He has the most experience of any rider in the field and has had a solid start to the season. Look for him to win on Sunday.
Michael Schweizer – the German U23 National Champion has slowly risen through the ranks and could pick up the win on Sunday. I think Sickmuellerâ€™s strengths outweigh Schweizerâ€™s, which is why Iâ€™m giving him the edge on Sunday.
Ole Quast – after moving up to the elite ranks, Quast has struggled a bit outside of Germany. However, things appear to be turning around for the 24-year-old German. Look for him to podium on Sunday.
Internationales Radquer Frenkendorf (C2)
Francis Mourey – Mourey has struggled a bit this year outside of France, but is always in contention at smaller races. I expect the former French National Champion to win in Switzerland on Sunday, but it could be a tough battle.
Enrico Franzoi – the strong Italian rider has found great success this year in Switzerland and could very easily win on Sunday. While Iâ€™m giving the edge to Mourey, it wouldnâ€™t surprise me to see Franzoi on the top step of the podium.
Simon Zahner – Zahner has had a very strong season thus far, including a top-ten finish at the first World Cup round. Heâ€™ll have his handsful on Sunday, but should be able to finish on the podium.