There are a ton of races in Europe this weekend, so I will keep the intro short. The Soudal Classics continue in Antwerp as does the Toi Toi Cup in the Czech Republic. Franceâ€™s national series wraps up on Sunday, while Italy hosts its first UCI race of the season. There are also races in Spain and Belgium on Sunday. Once again, Iâ€™ve defied the laws of geography and included Japanâ€™s National Championships in with the European predictions. Without further delay, here you go:
Soudal Scheldecross Antwerpen (C1)
Sven Nys – look for Nys to pick up his fourth victory in Antwerp and his second straight on the sandy, technical course. Nys won the first edition in 2005, again in 2009 and last year. All of the top cross riders will be there, but I canâ€™t see anyone stopping Nys.
Niels Albert – Albert does well in the sand and should be in contention on Saturday. Unfortunately, Albert seems like a broken man, especially when it comes to Nys. While a second victory in Antwerp isnâ€™t out of the question, I just donâ€™t see it happening.
Bart Aernouts – Aernouts has raced well in Antwerp in the past. Iâ€™ve got a good feeling about him for Saturday, so Iâ€™m sticking with him to round out the podium. With Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout riding well right now, it should be a tough battle on Saturday.
Toi Toi Cup Round #7 (C2)
Martin Bina – an unstoppable force in the Czech Republic, look for Bina to make it six straight. With only two rounds left, the overall is nearly his, but he needs to keep the pressure on. The last round is the National Championships and itâ€™s worth double points.
Michael Boros – Boros is in the thick of the battle for second overall. At times I feel like heâ€™s the only one who can stop Bina. While I donâ€™t think it will happen this weekend, I do expect him to podium.
Tomas Paprstka – a consistent podium threat, look for Paprstka to repeat his podium finish in Louny from last year.
Ciclocross del Ponte (C2)
Enrico Franzoi – with absolutely zero ability to read Italian and no start list, Iâ€™m going blindfolded into this one. Not only did Franzoi win here last year, but heâ€™s having a great season this year. Look for him to repeat on Saturday.
Marco Fontana – a lesser known name, Fontana is a solid rider who doesnâ€™t venture much out of his native land. Last year he took Franzoi to the line and narrowly lost out in a spectacular sprint. I expect much of the same this time around.
Elia Silvestri – although thereâ€™s a possibility of some foreign riders showing up, look for Silvestri to complete the Italian sweep. He struggled a bit in last yearâ€™s race, but I still think heâ€™s a podium contender.
Vlaamse Druivenveldrit (C1)
Sven Nys – Iâ€™ve said it before and Iâ€™ll say it again, until Nys proves me wrong, Iâ€™m sticking with the Belgian National Champion. He won here last year after getting away from Bart Aernouts late in the race. I expect Nys to make his move with two laps to go and head to finish line solo.
Klaas Vantornout – after a mechanical essentially knocked him out of Roubaix, Vantornout will be looking to rebound with a solid weekend in Belgium. I expect him to either set the pace or try to get away early and make Nys work to catch him. I still think Nys is better, which is why I have Vanornout on the podium.
Kevin Pauwels – after a good ride in Roubaix, Iâ€™m going to give Pauwels the nod this Sunday in Overijse. He finished fifth here last year, but with Niels Albert struggling and Tom Meeusenâ€™s up and down season, I think heâ€™ll capitalize on the opportunity and grab a spot on the podium.
Challenge National 3Ã¨me Epreuve (C2)
Francis Mourey – after taking the first two rounds of the series, look for Mourey to complete the sweep this weekend in Pontchateau. After a stellar ride in Koksijde, Mourey cooled off a bit in Roubaix. Heâ€™s staying in France for the rest of the year and would love to pick up another victory in his native land.
Matthieu Boulo – Boulo is a young Frenchman on the rise. Last year he quickly became a podium threat and has continued that trend this season. My gut say to go with him on Sunday, so I will.
Guillaum Perrot – Perrot is an Elite rider who has had a great season thus far. Iâ€™m assuming heâ€™ll get a pro contract next season and may even become a true contender to the dominant Mourey. Heâ€™s tied for second overall with Gadret and his podium finish will cement that position.
XXXVI Ziklo Kross Igorre (C2)
Egoitz Rekalde – the winner on Thursdayâ€™s race in Asteasu, look for him to repeat on Saturday in Igorre.
Aitor Gutierrez – always a podium threat, Gutierrez hasnâ€™t raced much this season, but has done well when he does.
Javier Ibanez – one of the older riders racing in Spain, this 36-year-old should ride well on Saturday. I expect him to podium.
38th Frankfurter Rad-Cross (C2)
Christoph Pfingsten – look for last years winner, and current German National Champion to repeat in Frankfurt on Saturday. Pfingsten has had some solid results this season, including some top ten finishes at some big races. The international competition and large field (100+ riders) should make things interesting, but I think heâ€™ll come out on top.
Simon Zahner – Zahner is another rider who has had a quiet, but good season. Last year he finished fifth in Frankfurt, but this time around look for him to land on the podium.
Ondrej Bambula – Bambula is one of nearly two dozen international riders who will be racing on Sunday in Frankfurt. Heâ€™s had some great results this season and I have a feeling heâ€™ll be in it until the end. With that said, thereâ€™s about a half-dozen riders who could easily make a bid for the podium.
Japanese National Championships (CN)
Yu Takenouchi – at this point, Takenouchi seems unstoppable. Look for him to retain his title on Sunday and continue to be Japanâ€™s best cross rider.
Hikaru Kosaka – although he hasnâ€™t found the podium yet, Kosaka seems to be knocking on the door. I expect him to surprise some people and land on the podium.
Atsushi Maruyama – another consistent podium threat, look for this 35-year-old to land on the podium on Sunday.