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: wietsebosmans.cz

Wietse Bosmans. Photo: wietsebosmans.cz

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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Cross Predictions – Week 20

2012-cx-world-cup-koksijde-112-niels-albert

It’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. I’m sure CrossVegas will dispute that claim, but the fact remains, the world’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. Here’s how I think things will go down:

Cincinnati Kings International (C2)

The Winner

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.

The Podium

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 Czech’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

The Winner

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.

The Podium

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)

The Winner

Francis Mourey – after capturing another national title in dominating fashion, look for Mourey to pick up another victory as his season winds down.

The Podium

Thijs Al – a two-time Dutch national champion, he’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. He’s one of these riders who is just on the cusp of being one of Belgium’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,  and Bart Wellens.

The Winner

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.

The Podium

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 he’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)

The Winner

Aitor Hernandez – Another race without a start list, I’m going with the Spanish national champion for this Sunday’s race.

The Podium

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 don’t think he’ll make it three in a row.

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2012-2013 Cross World Cup Wrap-Up

With a fifth place at the final World Cup round on Sunday, Niels Albert wrapped up his second overall World Cup title. It also marks the eighth title for a Belgian in the past ten editions of the World Cup. Albert narrowly edged out fellow Belgians Kevin Pauwels and Sven Nys. Lars van der Haar breaks up the Belgian domination with a fourth place overall, nearly 100 points back. Bart Aernouts (Bel) rounds out the top-five. The top American was Jonathan Page, who finished a distant 29th, about 400 points behind Albert. It should be noted that World Cup points are very top heavy, meaning that outside the top-ten the points drop off drastically. With that said, here’s a look at how Albert took this year’s title.

Lars van der Haar out sprints Albert for second. Photo: Balint.

Lars van der Haar out sprints Albert for second. Photo: Balint.

Round #1 – Tabor

Last year’s overall champion, Kevin Pauwels, looked like he was on track for another title with a solo victory in Tabor. He escaped from a strong lead group that included Lars van der Haar (2nd), Niels Albert (3rd) and Klaas Vantornout (4th). The real action was a little further back, where Sven Nys overcame a broken chain to finish fifth and American Jeremy Powers had the best ever placing for an American when he crossed the line in seventh place.

Overall Standings after Round 1

  1. Kevin Pauwels – 80
  2. Lars van der Haar – 70
  3. Niels Albert – 65
  4. Klaas Vantornout – 60
  5. Sven Nys – 55
Rob Peeters rode well but during one his visits to the pits, he failed to stop. Photo: Balint.

Rob Peeters rode well but during one his visits to the pits, he failed to stop. Photo: Balint.

Round #2 – Plzen

One week after finishing third in Tabor, Albert took a commanding victory on a muddy course in Plzen. Albert simply rode away from Klaas Vantornout (2nd) and Kevin Pauwels (3rd) enroute to his first win of the season. The real story was Rob Peeters, who crossed the line in third, but was disqualified for an “irregular pit stop.” American Jeremy Powers crashed in the first corner and eventually left the race after suffering a mechanical.

Overall Standings after Round 2

  1. Niels Albert – 145
  2. Kevin Pauwels – 145
  3. Klaas Vantornout – 130
  4. Tom Meeusen – 106
  5. Sven Nys – 105
Francis Mourey. Photo: Balint.

Francis Mourey. Photo: Balint.

Round #3 – Koksijde

The last time the cross world was in Koksijde, Albert picked up a World title and the Belgians took the top-seven spots. Francis Mourey (3rd) attempted to spoil the party, but was quickly overtaken by Albert, who looked poised for another victory on a course that literally bears his name. However, the ride of the day came from eventual winner Sven Nys. Nys slowly rode his way towards the front, catching and passing a dejected Albert during the final lap. More importantly, the World Cup saw three different winners in the first three rounds, leaving things wide open.

Overall Standings after Round 3

  1. Niels Albert – 215
  2. Sven Nys – 185
  3. Klaas Vantornout – 185
  4. Kevin Pauwels – 184
  5. Bart Aernouts – 158
Julien Taramarcaz had a solid ride in Roubaix. Photo: Balint.

Julien Taramarcaz had a solid ride in Roubaix. Photo: Balint.

Round #4 – Roubaix

Sven Nys would pick up his second straight World Cup win on a very fast course in France. After Pauwels (2nd), Albert (3rd) and Swiss champion Julien Taramarcaz formed and early lead group, Nys bridged the gap as the lead group swelled to nine riders. Taramarcaz became a household name as he held the lead until the final few laps. In the end, no one could match the strength of Nys as he escaped from the leading foursome in the final few corners, looking like the Nys of old.

Overall Standings after Round 4

  1. Niels Albert – 280
  2. Sven Nys – 265
  3. Kevin Pauwels – 254
  4. Klaas Vantornout – 209
  5. Lars van der Haar – 197
Sven Nys on one of the many muddy runups in Namur. Photo: Balint.

Sven Nys on one of the many muddy runups in Namur. Photo: Balint.

Round #5 – Namur

On one of the wildest and toughest courses on the circuit, Pauwels picked up his second World Cup victory on a muddy course around the Citadel in Namur (Namen for our Flemish friends). The real action was the battle for second and third. Albert suffered a flat tire during the final lap and almost helplessly watched Nys close a 30 plus second gap and take control of second in the final few hundred meters. A bit further back, Jonathan Page secured his spot for Worlds with a 15th place finish. Page’s final lap times were on par with those of Nys and Albert.

Overall Standings after Round 5

  1. Niels Albert – 345
  2. Sven Nys – 335
  3. Kevin Pauwels – 334
  4. Klaas Vantornout – 264
  5. Bart Aernouts – 246
Zdenek Stybar leads the chase. Photo: Balint.

Zdenek Stybar leads the chase. Photo: Balint.

Round #6 – Heusden-Zolder

Three days removed from his second place in Namur, Nys put in a solid last lap effort to rid himself of Albert and pick up his third World Cup victory of the season. Zdenek Stybar, who now races cross only during “Holy Week,” edged out a strong chase group for third. Nys’ victory was enough to put him on equal terms with Albert, as the World Cup becomes a two man race.

Overall Standings after Round 6

  1. Sven Nys – 415
  2. Niels Albert – 415
  3. Kevin Pauwels – 389
  4. Klaas Vantornout – 301
  5. Lars van der Haar – 291

Round #7 – Rome

After a tough few weeks in Belgium, the cross collective escaped to a warmer, dry and faster course in Rome. Pauwels and Vantornout were able to get away from a strong chase group, leaving the likes of Albert and van der Haar behind. Nys, recovering from an illness, was never a factor, finishing 20th. A last lap mechanical for Vantornout left Pauwels all alone while Albert was able to use the opportunity to finish second. Italian Marco Fontana put in a superb ride and finished third. More importantly, Pauwels was able to close the gap to Albert, giving him a chance to capture his second consecutive overall title.

Overall Standings after Round 7

  1. Niels Albert – 485
  2. Kevin Pauwels – 469
  3. Sven Nys – 446
  4. Klaas Vantornout – 356
  5. Lars van der Haar – 341
Martin Bina leads a snowy, icy race in Hoogerheide. Photo: Balint.

Martin Bina leads a snowy, icy race in Hoogerheide. Photo: Balint.

Round #8 – Hoogerheide

Icy, snowy conditions met the riders in Hoogerheide for the final round of the World Cup. As a result of the dangerous conditions, the usual suspects played it safe and really never contended for victory. Martin Bina took the victory ahead of van der Haar and Simon Zahner, marking the first time since 2007 that a Belgian didn’t finish on a World Cup podium. Nys was the best of the rest finishing fourth ahead of Albert. Pauwels finished a distant eighth, locking up the overall for Albert.

Final Overall Standings

  1. Niels Albert – 540
  2. Kevin Pauwels – 515
  3. Sven Nys – 506
  4. Lars van der Haar – 411
  5. Bart Aernouts – 372
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2013 Nationals Predictions – US & Belgium

Sven Nys and Niels Albert locked in battle at Koppenbergcross.

Sven Nys and Niels Albert locked in battle at Koppenbergcross.

Often considered the pre-World Championships, especially after last year when Belgium swept to top seven spots at World’s, the Belgian National Championships return to Mol. The course is a challenging one and because it is wrapped around a lake, it features plenty of sand. Niels Albert comes in has the heavy favorite, while defending champion Sven Nys announced he will be on the start line on Sunday. All of Belgium’s top names will do battle this weekend, including Bart Wellens who is the only rider besides Nys and Albert to win the national title in over a decade.

Stateside, nationals return to Madison, WI where cold temperatures and a mix of snow and ice have blanketed the course over the past few weeks. The circuit is similar to last year’s, but the ultimate factor will be the temperature. It is predicted to stay very cold, meaning the course should be frozen and rutted. However, if temperatures rise, it could turn into a muddy mess. Defending champion Jeremy Powers seems poised to repeat as champion, but the usual crew of riders, including Tim Johnson, Ryan Trebon and Jonathan Page will be there to stop him.

Here’s how I think things will shake out:

Belgian National Championships (CN)

The Winner

Niels Albert – in my opinion only Kevin Pauwels could stop Albert’s bid for a second national title. In the end though, I see this as a classic race where Albert attacks and no one chases him down until it’s too late. Pauwels has a shot to stick with him, but for some reason I just don’t think he can pull it off.

The Podium

Kevin Pauwels – despite giving Albert the edge, Pauwels could win on Sunday. His form is starting to come around and, as we saw in Namur and Rome, he’s capable of winning when it counts. While I think he would make a nice champion, I just don’t see it happening.

Sven Nys – despite having “refreshed legs,” I don’t expect any miracles out of Nys. I’m still convinced this season is all about Louisville for Nys, despite what he says. Could Nys shock us all in Mol? Absolutely. Would I be surprised? No. Do I think he will? Probably not.

Ryan Trebon. Photo: Todd Prekaski.

Ryan Trebon. Photo: Todd Prekaski.

US National Championships (CN)

The Winner

Ryan Trebon – Trebon has kept his head down and his mind focused on Madison and Louisville. While the rest of his competition has been criss-crossing the Atlantic, Trebon has been in California training. In my opinion he comes into this race as a big wildcard. Unlike most years, I’m going for the wildcard.

The Podium

Jeremy Powers – while Powers has dominated this season in the US, I think his luck runs out at Madison. I have this race playing out in my mind where Powers hits the gas early and one or two riders chase him down. Trebon has played this card before as well. If Powers can hold it, I could see him winning again, but I don’t think he will.

Jonathan Page – Page is on a roll lately and has reminded us that he’s still racing at a high level. While I don’t expect a fourth title for him, I do expect another podium appearance. Afterall, he hasn’t missed the podium in over a decade.

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