That ought to teach you to trust my picks eh? I did pretty well last week at the top end of the lineup, but the bottom half left something to be desired. Jonathan Page ran into some unfortunate stumbling blocks and abandoned, and Linda Van Rijen finished outside the points. Oops. Either way, another week brings another World Cup, and unlike last weekend, there’s no other way to get yourself points, so for the first week so far, a strong Euro squad is the name of the game.
In our fantasy league standings, Affurdoma!!! sits atop the ranks, with Team Cali and WDB close behind.
This week’s World Cup takes place in Tabor, Czech Republic. Unlike last weekend’s stop in Kalmthout, Tabor will be offering points to the young guns, with a U23 race on the menu to go along with the Women’s and Men’s races. A slight chill will be in the air that day, with daytime highs looking to set up around the 12 degree mark (Get with the metric system kids…it’s the wave of the future and language of international cyclocross). Unfortunately, no rain seems to be in the forecast, much to the dismay of mudders the world over. Christine Vardaros reported temperatures of 1 degree Celsius on Friday evening. It will be a cold one! Be sure to check out the photos she took while previewing the course.
The Elite Men
Is there really anything Sven Nys can’t do these days? Dude gets cracked in the head by his bike one day, and wins a heads-up sprint against one of the hottest commodities in the sport, Niels Albert the next. It’s no surprise that despite his late start this season, Nys is already atop the UCI Rankings. Placing bets on Sven will lose you more money than investing in (insert major financial institution here). Look at that topical humor, ladies and gentlemen!In fact, you’re really not going to go wrong with a Belgian heavy team regardless. Bart Wellens and Erwin Vervecken are sure to give top ten finishes this weekend, and Klaas Vantornout is another strong pick, after he won the midweek Nacht van Woerden on Tuesday. Klaas can be very sporadic with his results however, but he is a pretty strong bet to show up when the stakes are high. Sven Vanthourenhout is on the start list for Sunday’s race after missing some action due to his broken wrist. I can’t imagine he’ll have too good a showing this weekend after losing a good deal of his early season form. Rounding out the Belgian squad is Rabobank’s Bart Aernouts , Fidea’s Kevin Pauwels and Landbouwkrediet’s Rob Peeters . Take your pick, they’ve all had incredible early seasons and don’t look like they plan on stopping that any time soon.
Lars Boom has been coming on strong in the last couple days, finishing just behind Vantornout at the Nacht van Woerden on Tuesday. Good news for the man in the stripes, as you hoped he’d soon find that magic from last season that so many fantasy teams were banking on. Boom’s shortcoming has to be his team, however, because, compared to the Belgians, the Dutch are found wanting. Thijs Al has a strong 3rd place on Tuesday, followed by Richard Groenendaal in 4th and Gerben de Knegt in 5th, but those four plus Wilant Van Gils are really the only shells in the Netherlands’ cannon. Not exactly the stuff that will match up to the Belgian’s nine-strong salvo. But hey, quality over quantity is the name of the game, and maybe it’s time for Lars to show why he’s got the stripes and none of the Belgians do.
There’s no discounting home field advantage in any sport. Take a look at the Italians at the World Championships this year. This will play well into the hands of the Czechs who bring a strong, if again, not deep, team to this weekend’s World Cup. Leading the charge is Zdenek Stybar who rode well to 6th at last weekend’s stop in Kalmthout. The Czech champion will look to ride the wave of native support to victory. He will be helped along by Radomir Simunek and Petr Dlask , with the former scoring an impressive 4th at last week’s World Cup and the latter scoring a solid top 15 performance.
Good news for Enrico Franzoi supporters out there. Franzoi will make his World Cup debut this weekend, leading the Italian team to battle in Tabor. Franzoi will have the help of Marco Bianco but will lack the added firepower of Marco Aurelio Fontana, with the current Italian champion omitted from the starting lineup. Christian Heule and Simon Zahner will be the top candidates from the Swiss team, with Heule trying to improve from his 30th place finish last weekend. Francis Mourey will be lined up along with Jonathan Lopez on the French side, with Joachim Parbo the lone Dane in the field.
One man looking to improve his luck from last weekend will be Jonathan Page. Crashes and sickness marred his weekend at Kalmthout, and Page decided to drop out after finding himself running 31st on the course, hardly a finish befitting of a rider with his current form. Look for him to bounce back significantly this weekend and possibly end up in the top 15 when all is said and done. Page finished 23rd last year at Tabor, but is riding much better form this year and will no doubt be a bigger factor this weekend.
The Elite Women
Daphny Van den Brand looked easily the strongest woman in last weekend’s World Cup in Kalmthout and won again at the Nacht van Woerden on Tuesday. It will be hard to beat both her form and her team, with Sanne Van Paassen, Linda Van Rijen, Saskia Elemans and Arenda Grimberg with her for the ride. With those five taking up the top five spots of the Nacht van Woerden, the Dutch will be a hard nut to crack come Sunday (Those results are a bit misleading, as no other women outside The Netherlands were at that race).
Hanka Kupfernagel will be the one who will give Van den Brand the toughest time on Sunday, as her second place finish last weekend shows. Kupfernagel was only five seconds off of Van den Brand’s pace, and by her own accounts, she was surprised to be there. A motivated and prepared Kupfernagel will be a force to be reckoned with and it would be little surprise to see the World Champ ride away at Tabor.
The french foursome of Maryline Salvetat , Christel Ferrier-Bruneau , Nadia Triquet-Claude and Caroline Mani will put up a good fight against Kupfernagel and the Dutch. Each of them is capable of taking home a high placing and will create some good theatre during the race. I don’t see any of them taking the top podium spot but two of them will probably make it into the top ten, if not the top five.
Pavla Havlikova of the Czech Republic will use the home crowd’s motivation to try and close down the six seconds that separated her from Van den Brand at last weekend’s World Cup, and could be a good pick to make this week.
Much to the dismay of a ton of teams, Katie Compton will NOT be taking the start in Tabor. Christine Vardaros will be the lone American representative and will no doubt have an extremely strong showing. Wendy Simms , the current UCI points leader, will be the representative from Canada, and she’ll give a lot of people a lot of points this weekend. Leader’s jerseys have a way of giving the wearer extra incentive to go fast. There’s an idea, let’s all wear leader’s jerseys at our next cross races, we’ll all go WAY faster! The British women are again headed up by Helen Wyman and Gabriella Day . Wyman underperformed a bit last weekend compared to last year’s UCI Overall ranking of 4th, so she’ll look to do better this weekend.
The U23 competition will come down to a three horse race between Belgiums Tom Meeusen , Germany’s Philipp Walsleben and the Czech Republic’s Lukas Kloucek . I’m picking Kloucek this weekend, because, well, it’s a crap shoot and they’re in the Czech Republic and that makes him the man to beat. Danny Summerhill and Bjorn Selander are in Tabor representing the good ol’ US of A, and while they don’t figure into the fantasy situation, I just wanted to wish them the best of luck.
Jeeze that was long. Here’s my picks for the weekend. Enjoy, and keep your torches and pitchforks at home, these don’t come with a guarantee.
Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar, Bart Aernouts, Niels Albert, Radomir Simunek, Tom Meeusen, Hanka Kupfernagel, Christel Ferrier-Bruneau, Pavla Havlikova, Wendy Simms and Saskia Elemans .