After a wild weekend last week, things calm down a bit this weekend as there are only two UCI races in Europe. The cross collective heads to Koksijde for the third time in the past year for the third round of the World Cup. Last year, Sven Nys won the World Cup round while Niels Albert won the World Championship race. Both men are on great form right now, but Nys has spent this week recovering from an illness. This should make things very interestings. The Superprestige leaves Belgium for it’s annual trip to Gieten, Netherlands on Sunday, while Japan hosts another UCI C2 race in Yasu. Here’s how I think things will shake out:
World Cup Round 3 – Koksijde (CDM)
Niels Albert – Albert simply destroyed the field the last time they raced in Koksijde en route to a World Championship. With Nys and Pauwels not at 100%, I think this is Albert’s race to lose. I expect him to get away after the first few laps and never look back. It also helps that the most infamous dune on the course is now named after the Belgian.
Kevin Pauwels – Pauwels finished on the podium both times he raced raced in Koksijde last season. Despite his lack of results this season, I expect the young Belgian to do well on Saturday. While I don’t think he’ll contend for victory, I expect him to land on the podium.
Bart Aernouts – every once in awhile, I go out on a limb. While riders like Sven Nys and Lars van der Haar have dominated in the past, Aernouts tends to ride very well in Koksijde. Look for him to surprise some people and land on the podium on Saturday.
Kansai Cyclo Cross Yasu Round (C2)
Yu Takenouchi – the winner last year and last weekend, the Japanese National Champion is truly the countries top rider. At 25-years-old he’s also one of the country’s younger stars. Look for Takenouchi to pick up the win on Sunday.
Masanori Kosaka – at 50 years of age, Kosaka once again becomes the oldest rider to pick up UCI points after his second place finish last weekend. Some called me crazy for predicting him to podium last week, so I’m sticking with it. He finished just off the podium in Yasu last year, something I’m sure he’ll better this year.
Atsushi Maruyama – another one of Japan’s more experienced riders, Maruyama is always a podium threat. I expect him to grab a spot on the podium this weekend.
Superprestige Round 5 – Gieten (C1)
Sven Nys – despite being sick all week, and an expected poor performance in Koksijde, look for Nys to rebound with a win on Sunday in Gieten. Nys out sprinted Pauwels here last year and looks poised for the repeat. Nys remains undefeated this season in Superprestige races. I expect this incredible stat to continue this weekend.
Niels Albert – Albert missed Gieten last season, but has had success here in the past. Look for him to keep Nys honest and make it an exciting battle. However, I think Nys will end up on top.
Lars van der Haar – a rare opportunity for van der Haar to race on home soil, look for the young Dutch rider to be at the front on Sunday. While I don’t think he’ll be able to pull off the victory, he could make things very interesting. I expect him to end up on the podium.