As the season winds down a bit in the US, things are heating up in Europe. There’s a pair of UCI C2 races in North Carolina this weekend and four races in Europe, including a C1 race in Belgium. It promises to be an exciting weekend, especially with “Holy Week” right around the corner. Here’s how I think things will play out:
North Carolina GP – Day 1 (C2)
Dan Timmerman – after picking up his first UCI victory of the season last weekend in New York, look for Timmerman to continue that success in Hendersonville. There were some storms earlier this week, so the ground may be soft, but it shouldn’t be the mudfest we saw last Sunday. Reguardless, I like Timmerman’s odds.
Brian Matter – with a bevy of top-ten finishes this season, it seems like a matter of time (no pun intended) before he lands on the podium. He had success here last year and I like his odds this weekend.
Kerry Werner Jr – if you don’t know this Pennsylvania native, you should. He has seemingly come out of nowhere in the mountain bike world and when he races cross he does well. He won last weekend in New York and should do well this weekend.
North Carolina GP – Day 2 (C2)
Brian Matter – while I like Timmerman’s odds of pulling off the double, look for Matter to make a bid for victory on Sunday. As previously mentioned, he’s been close all year. With nationals less than a month away, look for him to grab valuable UCI points to improve his starting position.
Dan Timmerman – not much to say here, except Timmerman is riding really well right now. He should be in contention all weekend, but I’m going to say he only lands on the top step of the podium on Saturday.
Kerry Werner Jr – it pains me to have the same three guys on the podium both days, but that’s what my gut is telling me. While I will most likely be wrong, these three guys stand out in my eyes and I like their odds.
Soudal Classics – Leuven (C1)
Sven Nys – look for Nys to make up for last weekends broekn pedal and continue his domination in Belgium. This somewhat unofficial series has been split evenly this season between Nys, Kevin Pauwels and Niels Albert. With “Holy Week” right around the corner look for Nys to come out on top and make sure everyone knows who’s boss.
Kevin Pauwels – Pauwels has started to show signs of the form he had last season when he was nearly unstoppable. With the pressure off of him a bit (now on Albert), look for him to give Nys a run for his money. Unless Nys suffers a mechanical, Pauwels will have to settle for the podium.
Rob Peeters – I’m a big Peeters fan, even before he finished second at Worlds. He did well here last year and is starting to come into good form. He’ll battle the usual cast of characters and I think he’ll come out on top.
Cyclo-cross International Ciudad de Valencia (C2)
Aitor Gutierrez – the winner last weekend in Igore, Gutierrez had a poor performance in Valencia last year. Look for him to continue his soild results in Spain with another victory this weekend.
Issac Fernandez – a podium finisher last year, Fernandez in one of about a half-dozen riders who shoulsd contend for the podium this Sunday. He’s a strong rider and should be in the mix the entire race.
Javier Ibanez – despite failing to make the podium last weekend, I think Ibanez is still a rider to beat in Spain. Look for him to rebound with a podium finish in Valencia. I could even see him land on the top-step of the podium if things go his way.
National Trophy Series – Round 5 (C2)
Paul Oldham – look for the defending National Trophy Series champion to make a bid for the overal in emphatic fashion in Shrewsbury. While a Belgian or two could show up and ruin the day, I expect Oldham to make a bid for it all. He trails Oli Beckingsale by two points right now, in a battle that will surely go down to the wire. I expect Oldham’s experience to take over as he rides to victory on Sunday.
Oli Beckingsale – like the rest of England, I keep expecting Beckingsale to drop off at some point during this season. After all, the mountain biker has never raced a full season of cross, let alone battle for an overall title. However, he’s here to stay and like Oldham is always a podium threat. Look for him to throw down on Sunday as he aims to keep his overall lead.
Joeri Hofman – this young Belgian is slowly working his way up the ranks and could be a podium threat on Sunday. He hasn’t done much UCI racing this season, but placed ninth in the U23 race at Koppenbergcross. Look for him to land on the podium in Shrewbury.
Slovakia National Championships (CN)
Robert Gavenda – look for Gavenda to repeat as champion this weekend in Slovokia. At 24-years-old, he’s one of the youngest riders in the field, but I think he’s one of the best.
Milan Barenyi – finishing just off the podium last year, Barenyi has had some solid results this year. I like his odds to podium on Sunday.
Vaclav Metlicka – like Barenyi, Metlicka is one of the oldest riders in the race. Despite that, I like him to repeat his podium appearance that we saw last year.