Everyone relieved that the election is finally over? I know I sure am, that way I can go back to diagnosing the world of elite cyclocross and the only polling system that matters is my homegrown cyclocross fantasy scoring system. How home grown is it? Well, I’m in fourth. Just sayin. If you haven’t signed up yet, you’re in a pretty big hole, but hey, no time like the present to start catching up: Fantasy Cyclocross. Also, if you want to see how you’re doing up until now, click here: Fantasy Cyclocross Results
Now, to business. At first glance, the best teams this week will be the ones that score best in the World Cup, taking place in Pijnacker, Netherlands. But teams who pick up some solid points in both days of the Centennial Park Cross could spring a coup on those loaded to the gills with euro talent. So here’s how the weekend looks: Saturday – Toronto International Cyclocross day 1 in Toronto, Canada. Sunday – World Cup: Pijnacker, Netherlands; Toronto International Cyclocross day 2 in Toronto, Canada.
The World Cup Men
And away we go. Last year’s World Cup stop in Pijnacker was won by The Netherlands’ Lars Boom, followed by Belgium’s Bart Wellens and Klaas Vantornout. Superstar Sven Nys brought things home in fifth. Last year’s race was a muddy affair, and with Google projecting rain and a high of 57F, mud seems to be in store again. This will help along individuals who are particularly good in muddy courses, such as Boom and Wellens and could hinder riders who don’t particularly like those conditions.Lars Boom has been a rider recently riding his way into top form. Back to back second place finishes last weekend, at the Koppenberg Cross on Saturday and the Superprestige stop on Sunday indicate that his form is getting close to spot on. For that reason, I’d say he’s due to take home his first World Cup victory of the young season. Behind him, the strongest contenders to the top step of the podium have to be Nys, Wellens, Vantornout and Belgium’s Niels Albert who has been on especially strong form, after taking third place at the Koppenberg and winning the Superprestige.
Riding in support of Nys, Wellems, Albert and Vantornout from Belgium are Kevin Pauwels, Bart Aernouts, Erwin Vervecken, Rob Peeters and Sven Vanthourenhout. Peeters has been on a hot streak recently, helping Nys along to his recent victories and bringing home a number of top ten finishes for himself. Vervecken skipped last sunday’s Superprestige stop in favor of racing in France, and took home a second place finish, undoubtedly boosting his psyche and reminding us all that he’s still got it. Vanthourenhout is still coming back from a wrist injury and hopes to be back at full strength.
Boom brings along Thijs Al, Richard Groenendaal, Gerben de Knegt, Wilant Van Gils, Eddy Van IJzendoorn, Roy Van Heeswijk, Patrick Van Leeuwen and Thijs Van Amerongen to the fight. The Dutch are not nearly as strong as the Belgians as De Knegt, Groenendaal and Van Gils are still looking to highlight their seasons with good finishes. Boom will receive the most help from Al, who has been in the top ten a number of times this season.The Czechs have a very strong team on hand this weekend, as Zdenek Stybar and Martin Bina fly at the front. Riding along with them are Radomir Simunek, who was active this weekend despite fading late in the races, Petr Dlask who has always been a constant performer, Kamil Ausbuher, Martin Zlamalik, Jaroslav Kulhavy and Vladimir Kyzivat. None of these chaps will win this race, but Stybar is capable of the top 5 and Simunek and Dlask could bring home some points with a good ride.
All three Italian choices are available this weekend as Enrico Franzoi, Marco Bianco and Marco Aurelio Fontana will all be represented. Out of the Swiss camp comes Christian Heule, with Francis Mourey the best Frenchman represented this weekend. Mourey has some good form of late, with two wins last weekend, albeit against lesser competition, boosting him into challenger status. The lone American representative will be Jonathan Page who will look to better his performances on the season with a good showing on Sunday.
The World Cup Women
Hanka Kupfernagel leads the pack into this weekend’s World Cup after picking up a win in the European Championships last Sunday. The winner of last week’s stop on the Superprestige circuit (yeah, I was surprised too… a Women’s race at a Superprestige? Progressive!) was The Netherland’s Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn who has done little up to this point in the season, but cannot be counted out this weekend. Also coming from The Netherlands is Daphny Van den Brand who finished 5th at last week’s European Championships. She will look to move up from where she stands currently but faces an uphill battle as many of the world’s top women are on hot form of late. Saskia Elemans, Sanne Van Paassen and Linda Van Rijen will ride in support of the Dutch duo, among others.
Few are doing better collectively than the French these days. Unfortunately, last weekend’s silver medalist at the European Championships, Maryline Salvetat, will not be starting this weekend’s World Cup. The French attack will be led by Christel Ferrier-Bruneau, Nadia Triquet-Claude and Caroline Mani. Ferrier-Bruneau has what it takes to crack the top five and look out for Triquet-Claude and Mani to squeeze into the top 10. Pavla Havlikova and Katerina Nash will front the Czech attack, after each put on strong performances at the European Championships. Nash went on to best some of Europe’s elite in coming in third, proving that maybe competition in America is better than we all think! You Betcha!
Katie Compton will head things up for the Americans, with Cyclocross Magazine’s very own Christine Vardaros along side. Last year, Compton took home arguably the biggest win of her career by winning the World Cup stop in Pijancker. Her recent leg issues call a repeat into question, but in my dealings with Compton, I’ve learned that there is never, ever any counting her out. Wendy Simms hopes to score a big result for Canada.
The World Cup U23s
Philipp Walsleben of Germany will look to continue his dominance of the U23 circuit after taking victory by a minute in last weekend’s European Championships. Tom Meeusen of Belgium, Aurelian Duval of France and Lukas Kloucek of the Czech Republic will attempt to throw him off course.
Toronto International CyclocrossHere’s where smart owners will maximize their points this weekend. Trading in the bottom two Elite Men’s picks this weekend from European men to American men will prove fruitful, ultimately. There are two C1 events taking place this weekend in Toronto, which means as many points as the world cup over in Europe. Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers are both making the trip North and are pretty good bets to take home victory at least one of the days, with a split of victories at fair odds as well. That means the chance for each of them to come home with 55 points each. That’s better than second in a World Cup! With that weekend a slow weekend overall, and less competition (no offense to any of our Canadian readers) on the whole, Johnson and Powers are strong picks.
So there you go, Instead of pitting European versus American picks this weekend, let’s all make educated picks and split our time between matters of the state and matters of international interest. Wait, none of the races are in America…? Time for an invasion I guess.
Here’s my Certified Grade A picks for this weekend, never any filler:
Lars Boom, Zdenek Stybar, Klaas Vantornout, Niels Albert, Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, Hanka Kupfernagel, Christel Ferrier-Bruneau, Pavla Havlikova, Wendy Simms, Saskia Elemans