The two German Elite national champions, Hanka Kupfernagel (Stevens) and Phillipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) could very well prove to be decisive factors in Sundays races.
Kupfernagel, 36, is on most pundits’ short list of favorites in the Eilte women’s race. Although Katie Compton (Planet Bike-Stevens) had the edge over the field in the final World Cup in Hoogerheide, Kupfernagel was able to ride back to her nemesis Marianne Vos’ wheel and beat her to the second step of the podium. She’s no stranger to the World Championship podium either, taking medals in 10 of the 11 editions of the event, which was first offered by the UCI for women in 2000. Included in that list are four rainbow jerseys, the most recent coming in 2008. For the past two years, Kupfernagel has had to settle for second behind Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit).
With a pedigree like that, Kupfernagel would be a rider to watch at any Worlds venue. But competing on home soil in front of a crowd of her countrymen in St Wendel is sure to give the star an extra boost. 25,000 fans are expected to be at the venue, and German television will also be broadcasting the women’s event live, largely because of Kupfernagel’s participation.
The last time Worlds was held in St Wendel in 2005, Kupfernagel took the win. And right behind her with her best-ever World Championship result was another home crowd favorite – Olympic cross-country gold medalist Sabine Spitz. Spitz took second in her National Championships this year, 39 seconds behind Kupfernagel, showing that she’s on great form. Although she focuses on her mountain biking, she’s clearly capable of pulling out a big day on the ’cross course.
Can Walsleben Surprise at Home?
Phillipp Walsleben calls the town of St Wendel home, so he’s a true local favorite. The young BKCP-Powerplus rider has shown progress in his second year at the Elite level, including taking seventh place in the final two World Cups. Although Walsleben has ridden in the shadow of his superstar teammate Niels Albert for much of the season, he looks poised to burst onto the top-end of the scene. And he can only gain confidence from his impressive repeat victory at the German National Championships.
In his final season as a U23, Walsleben won both the World Championship and European Championship titles, and picked up five World Cup and several other big race wins along the way. He looks to be on track to be in the mix for similar results in the Elite ranks in another year or two, but perhaps the local support this weekend will help to accelerate that process, if only for a day. Walsleben may be a long shot, but he could very well vie for a podium position on Sunday.
“Of course a World Championship at home is something special. The motivation to make something of it is there,” Walsleben told Cycling.be. “In my view, Niels is the natural favorite, and he will be facing off with Stybar. They are the two riders to watch. If I can run top five, then my season has been a success.”