It’s international season in the world of cyclocross. Gone are the trade teams, replaced by national colors and loose affiliations take the place of team tactics (Bart…? Sven…?). That’s right, this weekend sets the stage for the year’s first World Cup, taking place in Kalmthout, Belgium. Always with an eye towards fantasy, that means that double points are in order, and the chance to pick up a big weekend and make up for lost weeks is ripe for the picking. Still want in, click here, but do it quick, because missing a week of World Cup action could be a death knell for your squad. If international flavor is not your cup of tea, then Saturday plays host to the Granogue Cross, in Wilmington, Delaware, where the top American talent will duke it out for valuable UCI points.
The World Cup – The Men
The Belgians in Belgium, end of story. If you want to talk about fantasy teams, you can start with the team that Belgium is bringing to the first World Cup. They are led by the reigning Belgian National Champion – Sven Nys. If Sven isn’t feeling up to the task, he’s got able backup in the form of Bart Wellens. Both will be able to ride workhorse extraordinaire Erwin Vervecken around the course all day, eventually bringing home the spoils. They’ll even have the help of Klaas Vantornout, Bart Aernouts, Niels Albert, Kevin Pauwels, Dieter Vanthourenhout and Rob Peeters. Amazingly enough, not one of the Belgians is ranked outside of last year’s UCI top 30. Does a team with this much talent have the ability to work together? Will Bart chase down Sven? Either way, you can’t go wrong with any of these guys on your team.
Coming in with the next most able team to this weekend’s race are the boys from the Netherlands. Lars Boom – the World Champion – leads a solid team, but probably lacking the firepower to mix it up with the Belgians. Add that to Lars’ apparent lack of early season form (Finishing 18th in last weekend’s Superprestige) and the odds seem to stack up against the Dutch. Among others, the Netherlands will be represented by Richard Groenendaal, Gerben de Knegt, Thijs Al and Wilant Van Gils.
The Czechs have a solid team representing their country, with Zdenek Stybar leading the way, helped along by Radomir Simunek, Petr Dlask and current U23 ace, Lukas Kloucek. Kloucek has some great form at the moment and, while he won’t be able to go the entire distance, he may be able to fire some shots at the big guns in the early stages. Much to the dismay of Enrico Franzoi fans (myself included), he has not been included in the Italian roster, with Marco Bianco taking point in his absence. Francis Mourey will lead the french charge and will look to do some damage and hold his own. Christian Heule will get the top billing for Switzerland, while Joachim Parbo will be Denmark’s lone representative.
The American representation will be light this week at the World Cup, with Jonathan Page hoping to improve on his 17th place at Ruddervoorde last weekend and ride the form he’s got that took him to 2nd place at Thursday’s Kermiscross Ardooie (he did beat the World Champ in Ruddervoorde, however). He’ll be accompanied by Adam Myerson.
The World Cup – The Women
On the women’s side of things, the reigning World Champion – Hanka Kupfernagel – is taking a pass on this weekend, so many teams will fall back a bit after this weekend, lacking one of their heavy hitters. Birgit Hollman leads the German team in her absence. Maryline Salvetat leads the French team – possibly one of the strongest in the race – and gets support from Christel Ferrier-Bruneau, Nadia Triquet-Claude and Caroline Mani. Those four took the top four placings in the Challenge France over last weekend.
The Netherland are also a team to beat, with Daphny Van den Brand – last year’s #1 UCI ranked rider – leading the way, followed by Sanne Van Paassen, Saskia Elemans, Arenda Grimberg and Linda Van Rijen, all of whom were in last year’s UCI top 25. Sanne Cant leads the way for Belgium, with Veerle Ingels, Katrien Pauwels and Katrien Aerts by her side.
Helen Wyman and Gabriella Day co-anchor a British team of two – both riders have multiple wins to their names already this season. The Czech charge is led by Pavia Havlikova.
The United States is well represented in the women’s side of the World Cup, led by American champ Katie Compton, who wins everything in sight, and she should be able to be in the mix this year, judging by her hot early season form. She will be fighting with, instead of against Susan Butler – who has some good performances to her name this season already as well – and Cyclocross Magazine contributor (and fantasy team owner!) Christine Vardaros.
Last weekend’s festivities were somewhat of an anti-climax when it came to domestic racing. Sure the fights between Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon were exciting, but they lacked some substance. That should all change this weekend as all the big guns of American racing have nowhere to go buy Wilmington, Delaware. All of the cogs in Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com’s machine will be in the mix, with Johnson and Jamey Driscoll being reunited with Harbin Park winner Jeremy Powers. The Kona twins will be reunited as well with Trebon getting helpful assistance from teammate Barry Wicks.
Jonathan Baker will also bring some new flavor to the East Coast mix when he makes the trip over to take on New England’s elite.
On the women’s side, the affair will be focused on the same set of riders who have been mixing it up over the last few weekends. Maureen Bruno Roy will look to build on her string of early season successes. Rebecca Wellons will also look to trade in her pair of third place finishes from last weekend in favor of one of the other podium steps. No word yet on whether Amy Dombrowski will be showing up at this weekend’s affair (she’s not on the start list on Bikereg.com) but if she shows up, she will undoubtedly be a quality pick for the weekend.
If you’re worried about how your team might be doing at Granogue, I will be providing live updats from the race and trying as hard as I can not to overload the system once again. But I make no promises.
So here’s my predictions for to earn maximize points this weekend:
Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar, Jonathan Page, Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Niels Albert, Daphny Van den Brand, Christel Ferrier-Bruneau, Katie Compton, Sanne Van Paassen and Linda Van Rijen.