Last week, we saw Sven Nys show the cyclocross world that he’s not yet done being one of the best in the business, as he took Niels Albert at the line at both the Soudal GP Neerpelt and the Vlaamse Industrieprijs Bosduin at Kalmthout. The current world champion, however, was both times only a few feet off Nys’ wheel, putting the pair a hand above the rest in Europe’s opening salvos. Will the two champions continue their reign? We’ll find out, as this weekend launches the eight-race Superprestige series, kicking things off at Ruddervoorde, Belgium, on October 7th.
While Sven Nys has won the overall Superprestige title a staggering eleven times, and has 55 Superprestige wins to his name, it has been two seasons since he last won at Ruddervoorde. Victory last year went to Niels Albert, who, with three laps to go on the muddy course in West Flanders, attacked his breakaway companion, Bart Aernouts, and established a lead that brought him solo to the finish. Nys, Wellens, Stybar and Vantornout were left to battle for the final podium spot, with Vantornout proving the strongest in the final lap.
Look this weekend for Nys and Albert to continue their rivalry, with Albert especially interested in shedding Nys before the finishing sprint. The who’s-who of European cyclocross, however, are sure to challenge last weekend’s status-quo: Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantournout, Tom Meeusen, Bart Wellens and the newcomer Lars van der Haar have all have been mixing it up near the front. For the past two years, Pauwels has come in second to Nys in the overall title, so expect the Telenet-Fidea rider to be looking for every opportunity to best his Belgian rival.
In the women’s field, it was Helen Wyman who last year took the inaugural Elite Women’s event at Superprestige Ruddervoorde. Fresh off of her US campaign, Wyman stole the show, attacking at the gun and never relinquishing her lead. However, this year, Wyman’s US campaign is extended and she’s registered for the Providence Cyclocross Festival in Rhode Island rather than shooting right back to Belgium after her double wins at Gloucester last weekend. At the Superprestige last year, her compatriot, Nikki Harris, did her best to close the gap, but ultimately had to settle for second ahead of France’s Lucie Chainel. With no rider clearly above the rest this early in the season, look for the women’s race to be an open bid.