I will keep this introductory paragraph short since there are a lot of predictions to get to. The Bpost Bank Trofee and Superprestige series both continue this weekend as does the Toi Toi Cup. The National Trophy Series heads to Southampton, while Fluckiger Cross makes itâ€™s debut in Switzerland. Franceâ€™s national series also continues this weekend and Japan hosts one of its annual UCI races. Without further ado, hereâ€™s how I think things will play out:
Toi Toi Cup (C2)
Martin Bina – to say Bina is on a roll in the Toi Toi Cup would be an understatement. His victories are becoming more challenging, but I expect him to pick up his fifth straight Toi Toi Cup victory in Hole Vrchy.
Tomas Paprstak – Paprstak was out sprinted last weekend by Bina and would love to spoil the party this weekend. Look for him to go for the upset, but I expect him to fall a bit short.
Michael Boros – Boros was just a few seconds off the pace last weekend. Boros is a rider to watch, look for the youngster to land on the podium.
Bpost Bank Trofee – GP Hasselt (C2)
Sven Nys – last year Nys finished third in a three-up sprint in Hasselt. While he still trails Albert by nearly a minute overall, look for Nys to ride to a solo victory and close the gap in the battle for the overall.
Niels Albert – Albert missed Hasselt last year due to injury. As the current leader, he will be poised to keep the time gaps in control against the likes of Pauwels and Nys. Despite Albertâ€™s victory last weekend, Iâ€™m still on the Nys train.
Bart Aernouts – Aernouts quietly switched teams this year leaving Robbobank for the AA Drink team. Aernouts has moved up from chase group leader to podium contender this season and I like his odds on Saturday.
Shinshu Cyclocross Nobeyama (C2)
Keiichi Tsujiura – with Yu Takenouchi racing in Europe, it opens the door for some other Japanese riders to taste victory. Look for Tsujiura to take full advantage of this on Sunday.
Kohei Yamamoto – Yamamoto is another strong Japanese rider who is always a podium threat in his native land. Look for him to podium.
Masanori Kosaka – believe it or not, I think this 50-year-old rider can podium on Sunday. Heâ€™s the â€œmost experiencedâ€ rider with UCI points and is usually in the thick of things in Japan.
National Trophy Series Round 3 (C2)
Tom van den Bosch – after narrowly losing out on victory in Ipswich, look for van den Bosch to win on Sunday in Southampton.
Oli Beckingsale – at 37-years-old, Beckingsale is still a great competitor. Heâ€™s finished fourth and third in the first two National Trophy Series rounds. I expect him to podium this weekend.
Paul Oldham – finishing fourth in Southampton last year, look for Oldham to podium on Sunday. A perennial overall favorite, Oldham currently trials Beckingsale by a mere two points. Look for these two to go all out on Sunday.
Challenge National 2Ã¨me Epreuve (C2)
Francis Mourey Â – Mourey should continue his domination in his native land this weekend with a repeat in Besancon.
Julien Roussel – after finishing fourth last year, look for the relatively unknown Roussel to land on the podium and make his presence felt.
Nicolas Bazin – we caught up with Bazin a few weeks ago as he made the transition back to Europe (interview will be up next week). Since then he has struggled a bit. Look for him to rebound with a podium on Sunday.
Fluckiger Cross (C2)
Simon Zahner – while it would make sense to pick one of the brothers for whom this race is named after, Iâ€™m going with fellow countryman Zahner. Heâ€™s having a good season and I like his odds on Sunday.
David Kasek – one of a handful of Czech riders heading to Switzerland on Sunday, Kasek should be right in the mix. Look for him to podium.
Lukas Fluckiger – after a superb start to the season, Fluckiger has backed off a bit as he prepares for 2013. Look for him to defend his home turf with pride, honor and a podium finish.
Superprestige Gavere (C1)
Sven Nys – as I said, once again Iâ€™m all in for Nys this weekend. Heâ€™s starting to ride like the man we once knew, winning virtually everything in sight. Someday, the Superprestige series will be referred to as the Sven Nys Series with his decade plus domination. Can he make it a fourth straight Superprestige victory? I think so.
Lars van der Haar – despite receiving the â€œkiss of death,â€ in my opinion, van der Harr is a smart youngster with a good head on his shoulders. Albertâ€™s prediction as the heavy favorite shouldnâ€™t effect van der Haar too much. look for him to podium this weekend.
Niels Albert – Albert and Nys are the two best cross riders in the world right now. These two guys will be on every podium in my predictions until someone proves me wrong.