Cross Predictions – Week 22

Sven Nys and Klaas Vantornout battle it out in Louisville. Photo: Balint (

Sven Nys and Klaas Vantornout battle it out in Louisville. Photo: Balint (

As the post worlds bourbon hangover wears off for most American cross fans, racing continues for a few more weeks across the pond. This past Wednesday saw four-time World Champion Bart Wellens pick up a victory ahead of newly crowned World Champion Sven Nys. On Saturday, the European contingent will head to Lille for Krawatencross which also acts as the sixth round of the Bpost Bank Trofee. The Superprestige series continues on Sunday in Hoogstraten.

Last year, both races were won by Tom Meeusen, who is still suspended due to his relationship with a doctor who is under investigation for doping. The Bpost Bank Trofee is all but over as Niels Albert has a commanding, 3:53 lead with three rounds to go. The maximum time a rider can lose in a single race is five minutes, meaning if Albert can put another minute into Kevin Pauwels (currently second), he could actually DNF a race and still win. Klaas Vantornout is third overall, over six minutes behind Albert.

The Superprestige series is a much tighter affair with the top three separated by less than 10 points. Nys leads the overall as he attempts to capture his third straight title and the 12th of his career. With two rounds remaining, Nys leads Albert by five points, while Pauwels sits three points behind Albert in third.

Here’s how I think things will shape up this weekend:

Krawatencross – Bpost Bank Trofee #6 (C1)

The Winner

Kevin Pauwels – after suffering from a dropped/jammed chain at Worlds, Pauwels quickly dropped out of the lead group and was unable to recover finishing a disappointing 12th. Pauwels won here in 2011 and I like his odds of another victory. Albert and Nys are on form as is Wellens, which means it will be a tough race. Since 1999, one of the aforementioned riders has won this race except in 2003 (Arne Daelmans) and last year (Meeusen).

The Podium

Sven Nys – the newly crowned World Champion would love to finish this season in the same dominating fashion he started the season. Wednesday’s race was an anomaly as Nys was suffering from jet lag and partying. While he could win on Saturday, I expect him the land on the podium, just shy of the top step.

Niels Albert – after a disastrous showing at worlds, Albert rebounded with a third place finish on Wednesday. Look for the former champ to keep the pressure on as he begins to wrap up the overall. He can afford to lose a bit of time, but since this series is based on time, he’ll have to keep things somewhat in check. Look for him to podium in Lille.

Superprestige Hoogstraten (C1)

The Winner

Sven Nys – as with most races, Nys is a multi-time winner in Hoogstraten. Since his first victory in 2000, he has won this race six times. Nys has well over 50 Superprestige victories and should use this race to cement his 12th overall title. It should be a good battle, but I expect Nys to reign supreme on Sunday.

The Podium

Klaas Vantornout – after coming up just short of the Belgian/World title double, look for the Belgian champ to challenge Nys like he did in Louisville. In the end, I’m giving the edge to Nys, but if Vantornout can triumph in Hoogstraten, it will become a three-way battle for the overall heading into the final round.

Niels Albert – Albert needs to win, or beat Nys by at least two spots to close the gap in the overall. While I think Albert will rebound from his poor showing in Louisville, I feel like everything is in Nys’ favor right now. Look for Albert to podium on Sunday after making a few bids for a solo victory.

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2013 Cyclocross World Championships Preview – Elite Men

When the dust settles on Sunday afternoon, the cyclocross community will have a new World Champion. Since 1950, the best cross riders in the world have gathered to race for the coveted rainbow stripes. This Sunday, 46 riders from 19 countries will line up in Louisville for their shot at a title. Over the past 15 years, this day has been dominated by the Belgians. They have won 11 titles in that time span, and last year the team swept the top seven spots, something that stills boggles the mind. This year is the first time ever that worlds are being held outside of Europe. Will the Belgian domination continue? Will we see a major upset/surprise? Here’s who to watch out for:


Niels Albert (BEL) – the defending World Champion came to the US directly from the Netherlands two weeks ago. His first race on US soil netted him a victory and helped cement him as a favorite for a repeat in Louisville. The first half of his season saw Albert struggle to win, and sometimes podium. Since mid-December, Albert has become a real threat and is often the man to beat. If his win in Cincinnati is a sign, Albert could be wearing the rainbow jersey for another year.

Sven Nys (BEL) – the “Cannibal from Baal,” is the greatest cyclocross rider of the past decade, and perhaps, the greatest ever. Nys has won everything there is to win in the sport of cross and has won them multiple times. In fact, he’s probably won more races than many riders have actually raced. However, when you look at his palmares (it’s going to take a while), you’ll notice one thing; he’s only won one World Championship. Nys started out his season in true Nys fashion, crushing the competition week in and week out. After suffering from bronchitis in late December, Nys has struggled a bit. If he can find that mid-season form, he’ll be unstoppable on Sunday.

Lars van der Haar (NED) – after winning a second straight U23 title, van der “Go Haarder” petitioned the UCI to allow him to race with the elites this year. While he hasn’t been able to pull off the big victory, he’s always in the mix and is a constant podium threat. If he can use his incredibly fast start to get a head of the Belgians, and hang on to their attacks, he could find himself in a position to win. Van der Haar has the fastest sprint in the field, so if he comes into the final lap with the leaders, look for him to unleash hell in the final few hundred meters.

Kevin Pauwels (BEL) – Pauwels has an opportunity to make history on Sunday. Pauwels has won a junior and U23 world title and would be the first rider to win one in all three categories. After winning the first World Cup, Pauwels seemed to lose form and struggled to podium. However, during “Holy Week,” he turned things around, winning a World Cup round and several other races. Since then, he’s won a few more World Cups and looks poised to make a bid for victory on Sunday.

JP (USA) – the two JPs (Jonathan Page and Jeremy Powers) will be looking to pull of the upset on Sunday. Page knows what it is like and what it takes to podium at Worlds (he finished second in 2007). Page’s season started out slow, but he has turned it on lately, including winning a fourth national championship a few weeks ago. If he can keep that form, combined with some good luck, we could see a 2007 repeat.

Powers’ season has been the opposite of Page’s. He started out incredibly well with multiple victories and a top ten at the first World Cup. Since then, his season has tailed off a bit and he hasn’t seen the front end of a race in while. However, if last weekend’s third place (behind Albert and Wieste Bosmans) is any sign, Powers could have refound his form just in time.

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2013 Cyclocross World Championships Preview – Elite Women

Despite having the smallest field of the weekend, the Elite Women’s race is a who’s-who of cross. The cost of traveling to and from Europe has caused issues for several nations, who decided not to send the maximum riders allowed, or none at all. It should come as no surprise that the United States and Canada will field the maximum of five riders. The US get’s an extra spot for Katie Compton since she is the World Cup winner, meaning that a total of six riders will represent the US on home soil. Here’s who to look out for:

Marianne Vos leads the charge in Namur. Photo: Balint.

Marianne Vos leads the charge in Namur. Photo: Balint.

Marianne Vos (NED) – perhaps the greatest female cyclist ever, Vos continues to impress across the various disciplines of cycling. In addition to being the defend champion, Vos captured a road world title, olympic gold, a national track title (in the madison) and won the Women’s Road World Cup in 2012. This cross season, she has won all but three races she’s entered, including the final three rounds of the World Cup.

Katie Compton (USA) – Compton has proven unbeatable on US soil and would love to continue that trend on Sunday. She’s arguably the greatest US cross racer ever and became the first American to win the World Cup this season. She’s been on the podium at Worlds before, and knows what it takes to win. If she can put it all together, she could easily be the World Champion in Louisville.

Katerina Nash (CZE) – Nash delayed her start to the season to recover from a long mountain bike season. This has proven very effective thus far, as she has podiumed in all but three races she’s entered. She hasn’t been able to top Compton or Vos just yet, but is always in the mix. One of her biggest advantages is that she spends most of the season racing in the US. Thus, she’s familiar with the course, the travel and the fans.

Helen Wymann (GBR) – the European champion has had one of her best seasons ever which has seen her become the second ranked rider in the world (in terms of UCI points). Wymann started her season by crushing the competition in the US and was one of a few riders who did the USGP in Louisville to get a feel for the course. If Wymann rides the way she’s capable of and has good form, she could become the second Brit to stand on the women’s podium.

Sanne Cant (BEL) – at 23-years-old, Cant is one of the youngest riders in the field, and could be the most surprising. She’s been in the thick of things with all the aforementioned riders and has proven to be a true threat. After winning the Belgian National Championships, she slipped a bit at the final World Cup round, leaving a few question marks about her form. With that said, she’s the fourth ranked rider in the world for a reason and will have every Belgian fans support on Sunday.

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2013 Cyclocross World Championships Preview – U23 Men

The Under 23 Men’s race will take place Saturday afternoon and should be a great race to watch. The U23 riders are literally on the doorstep of racing with the Elite Men and the World Championship race will bring the best of the best to Louisville. With the absence of two-time defending champion Lars van der Haar (he was granted permission to race with the Elite Men this year), the races is wide open. The field is the second largest this weekend, with 42 riders from 13 countries scheduled to start. Here’s who to look out for:

French U23 Champion Julien Alaphilippe. Photo: Balint.

French U23 Champion Julien Alaphilippe. Photo: Balint.wies

Wieste Bosmans (BEL) – last year’s runner-up, Bosmans is a heavy favorite for Saturday’s race. The Belgian U23 Champion won the U23 World Cup this year and recently finished second to Niels Albert in Cincinnati. Bosmans isn’t unstoppable, but he rarely finishes off the podium and appears to be on great form.

Wout van Aert (BEL) – often in the mix, van Aert is a strong Belgian who could easily make a bid for victory in Louisville. He’s only finished outside the top-5 twice this season and has three victories. The only drawback is that he hasn’t won a big international race outside of Belgium. With that said, he did well at nationals and appears to have good legs a head of worlds.

Mike Teunissen (NED) – despite finishing 13th at last year’s World Championships, Teunissen is a rider to watch. He won several Superprestige rounds this year and was able to take the victory at the European Championships. This season he’s often on the podium and rarely finishes outside the top five. If he does pull on the rainbow jersey in Louisville, it will be the third straight U23 title for the Netherlands.

Zach McDonald (USA) – after finishing fourth at the first World Cup round, McDonald has had mixed results. Stateside he’s ridden well, most recently when he finished second in the Elite Mens race at nationals. However, in Europe, he has struggled to finish inside the top-ten. McDonald will have home field advantage this weekend and if he can find that form he had at Nationals, he could join Tim Johnson as the only American men to medal in the U23 race at worlds.

Julien Alaphilippe (FRA) – after a slow start to the season, the French U23 National Champion has turned it on. He’s podiumed at the last three World Cup rounds, including a victory in Rome. Alaphilippe would love drier conditions (something that doesn’t seem likely), but as he showed in Hoogerheide, he can ride well in any weather. If he’s able to pull off what would be considered a minor upset, he would become the third French U23 World Champion.

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2013 Cyclocross World Championships Preview – Junior Men

33 juniors from 11 nations will toe the start line in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday. These 17 and 18 year old riders often go on to great things as they move into the U23 ranks and then to the Elite Men. The list of past World Champions is impressive: Bart Aernouts, Martin Bina, Lars Boom, Kevin Pauwels and Niels Albert, just to name a few. Here’s who you need to watch for in Louisville:

Mathieu van der Poel in Ronse, Photo: Balint.

Mathieu van der Poel in Ronse, Photo: Balint.

Mathieu van der Poel (NED) – to say that the defending World Champion is a heavy favorite is an understatement. He has won every race he’s entered this year and often posts lap times similar to the Elite Men. Very few riders have been able to keep in contact with van der Poel and he usually wins by impressive margins. As with all Europeans, the jet lag and travel is a question mark, but most of them seem to be adapting pretty well.

Logan Owen (USA) – Owen has proven himself to be a contender after a few stints in Europe. He’s been very competitive this season and hasn’t finished outside the top-five at any UCI race. He finished second overall in the World Cup and should have home field advantage on Saturday. If Owen pulls off the upset, he’ll join Matt Kelly (1999) as the on Americans to win a junior world title.

Martijn Budding (NED) – Budding finished on the podium of every World Cup round, except the first two. Like Owen, he’s always in the hunt for a podium and looks poised to continue that trend on Saturday. In addition to being the second ranked rider in the world, Budding recently finished second to van der Poel at their national championship. With that said, Budding was nearly a minute down to his fellow countryman.

Quinten Hermans (BEL) – Hermans has had a remarkable season thus far and is Belgium best hope at a medal in the junior race. He’s had the unfortunate task of trying to hang on to van der Poel’s wheel; he’s finished second to van der Poel 11 times this year. His results have faded a bit in January, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the Belgians know how to perform when it matters most.

Yannick Peeters (BEL) – after beating Hermans for a national title, Peeters has popped up on a lot of people’s radar. He’s only 17, so this is his first crack at Worlds and only his eight UCI race this season. He could surprise many in Louisville and has to be a super early favorite for next year’s World Championships.

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Kings CX – Who the Hell is that Guy?

Kings CX will mark the first time that many European riders will race in the United States. Here’s a quick guide to who these European guy’s are and why you should get to know them. For more info, be sure to check out our predictions where we discuss Radomir Simunek, Niels Albert and Julien Tamaracz.

Wietse Bosmans. Photo:

Wietse Bosmans. Photo:

Wietse Bosmans – winning all but two rounds of the U23 World Cup, he’s the odds on favorite to win the U23 World title next weekend. Last year he was second to Lars van der Haar. Due to a unique rule in which professional riders must race the professional elite men’s race, Bosmans raced with the big boys in Belgium’s National Championship race where he finished 9th.


Photo: cyclingteam cz

Vojtech Nipl Photo: cyclingteam cz

Vojtech Nipl – this 20-year-old Czech rider recently finished third behind Stybar and Simunek at the national championships. He’s a solid rider who had several top-ten finishes in the U23 World Cup. While he’s not a favorite to podium, he should do very well next weekend.

Alex Ravell. Photo: Geert van den Bossche.

Alex Ravell. Photo: Geert van den Bossche.

Alexander Revell – mustache aficionados will love this New Zealander, who is a celebrity in Belgium. I spent Holy Week with him and must say he’s one of the nicest guys out there. He spent this season racing in Belgium and has shown remarkable improvement as the season has gone on. His long hair and mustache make him easy to identify and he should get a decent call up due to his World Cup points.

Simon Zahner. Photo: Fabienne Van Heste

Simon Zahner. Photo: Fabienne Van Heste

Simon Zahner – if you weren’t paying attention last weekend, Zahner finished on the podium at the Hoogerhide World Cup. The week before, he finished second to Tamaracz at the Swiss national championships. He’s a wildcard in my book and his size makes him pretty easy to identify. Look for him to make things interesting this weekend.

America’s top riders will also be involved this weekend and I’m not leaving them out for any other reason except that most fans on Saturday know who they are. I will leave you with this though, look for Jeremy Powers to make a statement after a rough few weeks. Also, keep an eye on Jonathan Page, despite winning his fourth national title, he’s still seen as an underdog.

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