Itâ€™s a rare occasion when a race in the US gets more hype and more coverage than in Europe. For the second time ever, the reigning World Champion will race stateside in a race that has, perhaps, the strongest field ever assembled in the US. Iâ€™m sure CrossVegas will dispute that claim, but the fact remains, the worldâ€™s best will descend on Cincinnati this weekend in a final tuneup before worlds. While there are options in Europe, this weekend will be focused on Cincy, for one last glimpse of a US/European showdown ahead of Worlds next weekend. Hereâ€™s how I think things will go down:
Cincinnati Kings International (C2)
Niels Albert – While you may think this is a given, there are several factors working against Albert and several other riders this weekend. First is the travel, except for the Rome World Cup, the Europeans are used to driving to races (at most a 2 hour drive), relaxing in their motorhomes and focusing solely on racing. In addition, Albert has never raced in the US, never raced on this type of course and never dealt with American fans. With that said, one last victory before he loses his title (spoiler alert!) is in the cards.
Radomir Simunek – this is where things get interesting. The European talent is deep at this race, with about half-a-dozen riders capable of a podium on Saturday. Look for the Czechâ€™s top rider, save Zdenek Stybar, to make a bid for victory and keep things interesting. In the end, I see him on the podium.
Julien Tamaracz – after the Roubaix World Cup, Tamaracz has become a household name (if you can spell and pronounce it). Look for the Swiss national champion to be in the hunt and possibly make the first move in Cincy. In the end I think Albert is a bit too strong, but if the pace is high and the attacks start early, Tamaracz could make things very interesting. Like Simunek, I have him on the podium.
Kings CX – UCI Elite Women
Helen Wyman – Wyman has been on a tear this season. After a strong start in the US (she spent nearly 7 weeks here) she returned to England and won the European Championship. She currently leads the Bpost Bank Trophy and is a consistent top-five finisher at the World Cups. Recently she’s struggled a bit, losing to Nikki Harris at the British national championship, but looks poised to rebound for worlds. Look for this weekend to jump start that.
Georgia Gould – Gould has had an impressive season and is arguably the second best female cross racer in the US. She’s had a very consistent season that constantly sees here on the podium. Look for her to stay near the front and land on the podium.
Katerina Nash – an outside threat for worlds, Nash has come into from right on time. During Holy Week, she constantly found herself in the mix with the likes of Katie Compton and Marianne Vos. Nash could give Wymann a run for her money, but I think she’ll have to settle for a podium spot.
Cyclo-cross International du Mingant Lanarvily (C2)
Francis Mourey – after capturing another national title in dominating fashion, look for Mourey to pick up another victory as his season winds down.
Thijs Al – a two-time Dutch national champion, heâ€™s been overshadowed by fellow countrymen Lars van der Haar and Lars Boom. Al has had a solid season and should podium on Sunday.
Jan Denuwelaere – a very strong rider, he became more well-known after Stybar took him out in Essen. Heâ€™s one of these riders who is just on the cusp of being one of Belgiumâ€™s best riders. Look for him to podium on Sunday.
35th Gran Premio Mamma E Papa Guerciotti AM
Without a start list, we can only venture a guess as to who will be there. This race has a storied past, previous winners include Sven Nys, Mario de Clerq, Â and Bart Wellens.
Marco Fontana – after winning another national championship, look for Fontana to pick up the victory on Saturday. He received a lot of press after riding well in the Rome World Cup and looks to continue riding well this weekend.
Enrico Franzoi – Franzoi has had a very successful season thus far and could win on Saturday. I expect him to make things interesting, but think heâ€™ll have to settle for a podium spot.
Fabio Ursi – despite not racing much this season, Ursi narrowly missed out on a podium spot at the Italian national championships. Look for him to podium this weekend.
Ispasterko Udala Sari Nagusia (C2)
Aitor Hernandez – Another race without a start list, Iâ€™m going with the Spanish national champion for this Sundayâ€™s race.
Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga – always a podium threat, look for him to podium this weekend.
Egoitz Murgoitio – a two-time winner of this race, Murgoitio is obviously a favorite. However, I just donâ€™t think heâ€™ll make it three in a row.