Kevin Pauwels pushing the pace at the top of the hill. © Bart Hazen

Kevin Pauwels pushing the pace at the top of the hill. © Bart Hazen

by Kat Statman
With one big weekend left in the season, things have noticeably slowed down on the rumors and rumblings side of pro ’cross racing. Most riders already have their contracts worked out. There are only a few riders really looking to grab wins or strong rides over the final weekend (I’m looking at you Nys and Pauwels) and many others are just ready for the season to end so they can take a rest. It’s been a long winter for many and the time off is well deserved. Even though things seem to be almost at a standstill, however, news is still coming down the wire both stateside and across the pond. Lars van der Haar, current Under 23 World Champion, has officially re-signed with the Rabobank-Giant Off Road squad; Tim Johnson rides on Washington; the big showdown in Oostmalle is this weekend, will Nys or Pauwels take home the GvA trophy? The long winter has worn on young Tom Meeusen; Stybar has already started his 2011/2012 season prep, watch out folks!

Lars van der Haar continues with the Rabobank-Giant Off Road Super Squad!

It was announced recently that Lars van der Haar has re-signed with the Rabobank-Giant Off Road Team. From the Rabo Sport Website: “I really wanted to stay with the Rabobank Giant Offroad team. My results this season are partly due to the excellent atmosphere that prevails in our team,” says Lars van der Haar. “I’ve had many great victories this year, but next year I want to win as much as possible. I hope to continue taking steps that bring me to my ultimate goal – and that’s to go pro.” Van der Haar has had an excellent Under 23 season, taking numerous wins, including the biggest one of them all with the Under 23 World Championship title, clearly making him a valuable asset to any team out there. Most Under 23 World Champs have gone on to win Elite World Championship medals – just look at Albert, Nys, Stybar, Wellens and on and on. With the recent acquisition of Katie Compton, it looks like Rabobank-Giant is rebuilding its powerhouse squad. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that van der Haar does not go the way of his Dutch compatriot Lars Boom and leave the fields for the open road.

Another Johnson to Storm the Capitol

After the death of President Kennedy, Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson stormed the capitol with his up front, no nonsense attitude. Well this spring Tim Johnson will be riding on Washington for real change, not just the infighting between UCI promoters or between the UCI, athletes and team managers. The past few weeks twitter has been buzzing with Tim Johnson’s ride on Washington. This March, Johnson and any of those interested will be riding from Boston to Washington for the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. Now that Tim is a full time ’crosser, he can put in the base miles in March like the rest of the full time guys in Europe and he is using his base training for the better, in support of People for Bikes, a Bikes Belong project. For more info go to People for Bikes. Pro racer, cycling advocate, what can Tim not do?

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Get Ready – Sven Nys versus Kevin Pauwels. Who Can Take Home the Prize?

This weekend is the final round of the GvA Trophy series, where Kevin Pauwels and Sven Nys are locked in an intense battle for the overall win. Nys currently leads the series with 150 points, but after the last round Pauwels made it possible to take the trophy away from the king of ’cross, and now nips at his heels with 148 points. With the series points awarded from first to 20th as follows: 25-22-19-17-and then down by one from there, it is likely to be a very closely-contested affair. If Nys and Pauwels are in contention for the top three, then whoever finishes in front takes the win.

Overall, Pauwels has had an amazingly consistent and strong season, but I still have to put my money on Nys. This season Nys has continued to show why he should be considered the best ’crosser in history by taking his 10th Superprestige general classification as well as more wins than any other Elite European rider throughout the season. Yes, Sven has only won one Elite World Championship, but he has the most wins in every single general classification there is. The experience will undoubtedly pay off for him.

The race is not only about Nys and Pauwels, though they are the big story. Don’t forget that Stybar has not taken a win since he took home the rainbow stripes. He will be looking to do so this weekend. Don’t count out Albert or Wellens either. Albert has been off the mark slightly since his win at Hoogerheide, but he may just have enough kick for one final day. Wellens has not had the season he has been hoping for, maybe some added anger from not taking a single win this year will spur him on.

The Long Season Has Taken Its Toll on Young Meeusen

Tom Meeusen may sit out Oostmalle this weekend. The long season seems to have taken its toll on the young rider, and he may have to sit out the final two ’crosses this weekend with laryngitis. According to the Telenet-Fidea website, as well as other various news sources, Meeusen has had a high fever and not been on his bike the past week, making a start in Oostmalle unlikely. However, the young rider will wait until Saturday before he officially pulls the plug. Meeusen has had a stellar first Elite season, taking three big wins at the Superprestige Gieten, the Kalmthout round of the World Cup, and Nacht van Woerden. Meeusen has not only had spats of good form this year but been fairly consistent for such a young rider, with a 7th place in the Superprestige general classification and his current spot of seventh in the GvA as well. Finally, for such a young rider (he’s just 22 years old but races with the Elites) he is ranked 12th in the UCI rankings, quite a feat!

2011-2012 Season Prep Has Already Begun for the World Champ

Stybar is already looking to next year’s ’crosses. This week he announced via Twitter that he visited the Merckx bicyle company and is excited about next year already. So it looks like we will be seeing a Merckx ’cross bike again, folks. The question is, will this be a one-off just for the world champion or is Merckx going to diversify its line far enough to have a retail ’crosser ready? Not only this, but with Stybar’s publicly stated goals of the 2012 mountain bike Olympics, are we going to see a mountain bike offering from the road company as well? Some out there, like SLAMTHATSTEM, might not be all that excited about a Merckx cyclocross offering, but with Stybar behind the possible project I’m sure that the designers and engineers at Merckx cycles will be looking to create a race-worthy steed ready for the abuse that Stybar will certainly dole out next year.