PLZEN, CZECH REPUBLIC – This weekend, the World Cup cyclocross series continues with its second race in the Czech Republic. Last weekend’s World Cup at Tabor was an exciting day, one that saw Sanne van Passen narrowly best Katie Compton in the sprint for the line, and Kevin Pauwels solo away while Sven Nys impressively clawed back to the top five after breaking his chain. Current US National Champion Jeremy Powers also stamped his presence on the Euro field, leading the chase and taking a seventh-place finish. Equally impressive was Redline’s Logan Owen (our Issue 13 cover story), who took fifth place in the junior field.
Last year at Plzen it was a dominating Katie Compton who stomped her way to a solo win ahead of Sanne van Paassen. After an initial separation created by Britain’s Helen Wyman, Compton took to the front on the fast, twisty course and used her power to accelerate hard out of the corners. The attacks dislodged all but Daphny van den Brand and the Czech Repuplic’s own Katerina Nash, forcing van Paassen to claw her way back on. By the time she got back to Nash, however, Compton was gone.
In the men’s race, it was a tactical Nys that used all his years of experience to best Kevin Pauwels and Zdenek Stybar. The 2011 race will be remembered as much for Nys’ impressive last-corner move into the lead as it will for the disastrous start, in which race officials began the race while cameramen were still in front of riders on the line. The botched start caught out a clearly upset Niels Albert, as well as Timothy Johnson. Powers avoided the star-line difficulties and had an incredible race, making his goal of a top-10 finish.
With the weather looking to be fairly mild, expect this to once again be a fast power course, with the gaps made on the long stair section and riders taking advantage of being in good positions coming out of the turns. Pauwels, Nys, and Albert all continue to show they are a hand above the rest, though Lars van der Haar has only continued to improve in his hunt for a win. Klass Vantornout, as well, has shown impressive consistency at the head of the race. With Powers clearly stepping up his game as he seeks a front-row start at Worlds, look for him to be in the mix on a course he’s proved suits him.
For the women, Katie Compton has the advantage on such a strong course, though Sanne van Paassen has shown she can do more than just hang with the American champion. If the Dutchwoman can keep Compton’s wheel as she did last week, we may just see a repeat of last weekend. Don’t discount the Belgian champion, Sanne Cant, either, as she’s been hanging in the shadows in the past few weeks, but always near the front.