This Sunday marks the exciting return of the World Cup series to Roubaix, France and the legendary velodrome that welcomes home road’s closest ’cross cousin, the Paris-Roubaix.

The 2010 Edition Challenged Riders With Slippery, Aggressive Mud © Bart Hazen

The 2010 Edition Challenged Riders With Slippery, Aggressive Mud © Bart Hazen

Last held in 2010, the brutal race was dominated by Zdenek Stybar, who proved best in the muddy, slippery slog as behind him Klaas Vantornout slipped away from Sven Nys to claim second. In the women’s event, Katerina Nash took her first World Cup win ahead of Hanka Kupfernagel and Marianne Vos, while 2009 Roubaix winner Katie Compton had to sit out due to leg cramps.

When dry, Roubaix is a fast, grassy course with few obstacles to cause separations. When wet, however, the twisty, off-camber descents take on a whole new level of treachery, and 2010 saw riders as technically gifted as Nys dismounting to all but slide down the hills rather than risk an untimely crash—as happened to World Champion Niels Albert.

American Champion Jeremy Powers will be in attendance, looking to grab as many UCI points as possible in his bid for a front line start at Louisville. Katie Compton, as well, should be looking to not only defend her World Cup lead, but take back the Roubaix title from Nash, who is slated to be racing the final USGP in Bend, OR.

Standing in the way of Compton will be one of the deepest fields women’s cyclocross has ever seen, with Marianne Vos back in action after last week’s second place to a flying Helen Wyman at Superprestige Gieten. The young Sanne Cant, as well, has been putting in impressive displays of late, rarely finishing off the podium, and Sanne van Paassen has shown she can take down the best when conditions are right.

For the men, Sven Nys remains a top favorite after his impressive display last week at World Cup Koksijde. However, Klaas Vantornout bested him the next day at Gieten, and bested him the last time the World Cup came to Roubaix as well. The lanky Sunweb-Revor rider has been consistently stronger than his teammate Kevin Pauwels this year, but don’t count the tiny Belgian out yet, either. Niels Albert will surely remember the crash that took him out of the running in 2010, and will be looking to improve on his string of second-place finishes this season. If the weather is dry, look for Lars van der Haar to hang onto the lead group and make good on Albert’s prediction that Van der Haar’s sprint is the one to beat in Louisville.

Be sure to check back in this weekend for a full report, photos and results!