This weekend, Euro fans have a double-header of ’cross to enjoy, as racers first head to East Flanders on Saturday for round three of the GVA Trofee – the GP Hasselt. The fast, mostly flat course is known to keep riders fighting each other rather than the terrain, though the sand pits, tight corners, and log barriers will still separate the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps the most defining feature of Hasselt is the pavement, however, as abrupt, tight u-turns lead into and out of the start/finish, and it’s been a rare race that hasn’t seen a crash on either the shoot for the hole shot or the sprint for the line. If history is any guide, Kevin Pauwels stands at the top of the list of favorites, having won here in both 2010 and 2011. Pauwels is still looking for a decisive win after a string of bad luck in the past few weeks, so expect him to take confidence from his strong showing at Hasselt in the past. Sven Nys, however, was never far from Pauwels’ wheel in the past two years, taking third at both editions, and Lars van der Haar – who has won here as a U23 – might just be able to hang on long enough to capitalize on the extremely short, dangerous sprint to the line. Since the series is based on time, expect racers to do their best to attempt to distance themselves early and often, and exploit any gap to the largest extent possible.
Currently, Neils Albert leads the series with a time of 1:57:41, followed by Nys at 54 seconds, and then Pauwels at two minutes, 17 seconds. The women’s edition, which is based on points, has Helen Wyman leading with 25 points, followed by Nikki Harris at 22 and Sanne Cant at 19.
On Sunday, all eyes turn to Sven Nys as he seeks to continue his impressive winning streak in the Superprestige Series, this time in round four at Gavere. The old-school course, in its 30th year, will treat fans to true classic cyclocross, with a muddy, twisty course that winds through forests and up one of the longest grinds in the sport. With the powerful climb, sharp corners, and technical descents, Gavere offers racers little opportunity to hide, so expect the field to split quickly. Though Pauwels won here last year, this is Nys’ course – and the tougher the weather, the better he performs on it. Nys has seven victories here, and with Niels Albert only three points shy of Nys in the series, expect the Belgian champ to be making use of his palmares as he tries to keep the World Champion at bay.
Check back in after each race for reports, photos, and results!