This Weekend in Cyclocross: Druivencross (Sunday), Overijse and the Scheldecross, Antwerp (Saturday). Sven Nys Rues his luck as Kevin Pauwel (left) took the win last year
The Druivencross takes place in woodland near Overijse and has the rather terrifying nickname of “De moeder van alle crossen”, which if your dutch isn’t up to scratch means The Mother of All Crosses” and is one of the few cross races Sven Nys hasn’t had the most victories - while he’s won 5, Roland Liboton won 15(!) editions between 1978 and 1987. There’s also a pretty big prize of €12,500 for any rider who can win 3 editions in 5 years, which isn’t up for grabs as Sven Nys won it last year
The course is just short of 3km, and runs over woodland, grass, and cobbles as well as regular paving and asphalt. As we all know, mud plus cobbles plus bikes equals fun. Last year we had riders slipping all over the place - up slopes, down slopes, round corners and on straight bits of roads, and with heavy rain today in the area, we can expect much of the same.
Sven Nys has had a consistent season, with 4 big wins (2 in the superprestige, 2 in the BPost Bank Trofee), and does like the muddy, horrible conditions, so you could consider him favourite. Niels Albert has been going well and looks set to win the Superprestige competition, but has generally done better when the conditions haven’t been as poor. Lars van der Haar and the in form Philipp Walsleben join our 4 famous Belgians. Of those, Van der Haar isn’t racing Saturday’s Scheldecross, so might have a little advantage.
The Scheldecross takes place near Antwerp on Saturday, with coverage starting on http://vier.be from 14h30 CET. Part of a loosely bound series of races sponsored by Soudal, (which also overlaps with one round of the World Cup), which isn’t part of a major competition.
The course isn’t that muddy, but there’s a huge sandtrap in the first half which has the riders running for a good distance, and then another similar sandtrap not long after. These provide most of the changes in rhythm for the course, so it might favour Albert over Nys, or even a good placing for Philipp Walsleben, who also starts. We also have our two other Toppers, as it were, with Klaas Vantornout and Kevin Pauwels starting as well. The race is relatively new, with 8 editions so far. Pauwels, Nys and Albert made up the podium in that order last year, and I wouldn’t expect anything different this year.
This weekend has two hopefully ace races - World Cup Round 3. everyone’s favourite dutch name that sounds a bit funny in english, (Koksijde) and then Gieten. Koksijde has a pretty fearsome reputation as a tough course - the race is slugged out mostly over the area’s sand dunes - slow down at the wrong point and you’ll stop completely. Take the wrong rut on a descent and you’ll have a faceful before you know it.
Last year there was fog and drizzle, which lead to a very heavy course. This year, it’s dry on the day, with rain today and tomorrow, to moisten things up, so there should be a good crowd, although I’m sure you’ve never doubted Belgium’s ability to hang around in the cold and rain to watch bikes.
The course strings things out pretty quickly. Just after the start line there’s a sweeping right hander over muddy ground which heads right into a sand dune - just like cobbles, positioning is key as the guys at the front will have to stop a lot later up the dune than those that follow, so they’ll have a lot less running to do. Unless the winner is Sven Nys, of course, who had a nightmare start last year but came back to win.
15s behind, Niels Albert came in 2nd. The season before, Nys again won the world cup race, but lost that year’s world championship race at the same location to Albert. With Nys having given up on the world cup after the 1st round, and Albert already a little behind, I’d expect Kevin Pauwels. Van der Haar hasn’t done terribly here, hanging near the lead group for much of the race last year. Klaas Vantornout’s best result is 3rd in 2009, so he obviously doesn’t like it as much as the others. Francis Mourey snuck on the podium last year, so given Walsleben’s great World Cup, plus good result last week, he should continue his good form. Pauwels, Van der Haar and Walseben in that order.
The 5th round of the Superprestige, Gieten in the Netherlands, is a similar proposition. Good weather on Sunday, but pretty poor running up. The overall Superprestige competition is already set up to be a 3 way shootout between Nys, Albert and Klaas Vantornout, with Nys leading. Vantornout came out on top ahead of Nys and Kevin Pauwels last year, and with Albert having only made the podium once in the past 5 years here, it’s hard to see him not losing ground.
The course at Gieten is reasonably flat - the first obstacle is a pair of planks followed by a sandpit. There ‘s a long drag up a grassy slope in the middle of the course which might provide opportunity to attack with a set of short ramps and some steps to follow, but after yesterday it’ll look pretty fast and easy by comparison.
If I was a betting man, I’d bet my house on Sven Nys. Winner in 2011 and missed out in the sprint to Klaas Vantornout last year, everyone will be looking at him. Based on previous results, it’s a bit of an ask for Albert (although he did win here in 2007), so it will be interesting to see who completes the podium.
As proper cyclocross as proper cyclocross gets - it’s muddy, it’s in the woods, there’s beer, and Belgians pushing prams through the mud wearing bobble hats. Last year, the mud was slippy as anything, but this year it’s going to be dry with a light wind, so it may well be a little easier to handle, and a little more sticky than slippy. If you wanted to introduce someone to cyclocross, this is the race to do it with. If anything, the falling leaves look pretty good, even if there won’t be many out there, thanks to the recent windy weather.
Last year, Bart Wellens had one of his best results here, so it’s definitely a course that benefits the lucky with good handling, so while Sven Nys is clearly favourite, Vantornout and Albert can’t be completely ignored for the win, with this season’s surprise, Philipp Walsleben an outside shot for a podium.
No Lars van der Haar as he concedes the 6 minute gap he had as of the 1st November is too large a gap to make it worthwhile. He’s a little off the pace in the Superprestige too, but will be starting so he’ll be looking to take his chances at that race to keep his condition for the World Cup (which he leads), but he’s not going to have the same motivation as everyone else for a top result.
There’s usually plenty of jostling for position, and last year there was a crash on the first bend. The race itself isn’t outrageously hard, with a sandpit right after that first bend being most of the obstacles. The course is a fairly standard set of up and down switchbacks in a country park (right by a duck pond, which is ace). There are also a few logs and low obstacles it’s always fun to see people attempt and fail to bunnyhop.
A word on the sponsors:
The Superprestige is sponsored by Hansgrohe, and lower down the sponsors pecking order, the BPost Bank Trofee is sponsored by Grohe. Both plumbing supplies companies, they’re one of several German companies set up in brotherly competition, like Adidas and Puma, if you wondered.
(Sven Nys on his way to the win in 2012 at Hamme-Zogge)
The cyclocross race known in English generally known as Hamme-Zogge because that’s where it is, or Bollekescross if you’re not hot on your british slang, or whatever, is this Sunday. The 3rd round of the season long Superprestige competition. Sven Nys currently leads this competition by one solitary point over Belgian champ Klaas Vantornout, with Niels Albert and Lars Van der Haar four and five points back respectively, there is still plenty to race for over the coming rounds.
The course starts with a very long road section, which Van der Haar led through from the gun. There are 3 bridges in the race, plus a few very muddy sections put in to add a bit more variety to the race. Last year, riders were splattered but not caked in mud, and with some rain forecast for the Saturday, but only a 10-20% chance of rain on the Sunday, I’d expect something similar.
One to watch would be british champ Ian Field. He’s been inching his way further into the top 20 with every race this season, and given he finished 26th last season, I’d expect that progression to continue, with the outside chance of a top 10.
As with all the superprestige races it’ll be streamed free on vier.be, so it’s definitely a chance to get the turbo out for an hour of intervals to break things up if you wanted to watch it in the garage.
Prediction for the top 3: 1: Sven Nys, 2: Lars Van der Haar, 3: Klaas Vantornout
Jon Mould, who rides for the Welsh development team (Team USN) rode the points race yesterday where after putting in some early work faded badly and had to withdraw. Today he turned that round and finished 3rd in the scratch race at the close of the world cup. I caught up with him after the race.
You just managed to finish 3rd in he scratch race, does that make up for the withdrawal from the points race yesterday?
Yeah, it did, I was really disappointed with myself yesterday, wasn’t myself, so it was good to get a medal and get something that I knew I was good enough to get, really great.
And standing on the podium next to Elia Viviani as well?
Yeah, I’ve raced him at the Tour of Britain and he won there as well, so he had a really close race with me and the Austrian, Mueller who was really strong, so a great end to a great world cup.
And with Team USN, this is all building towards the Commonwealth Games, how are you feeling ahead of that, it’s almost home I guess?
Yeah, it’s as close s we’re going to get in the foreseeable future so I’m really looking forward to it now, scratch and points races on the track, and then the road race, so it’ll be really good.
What would you say to any of the younger kids looking to get involved?
You’ve just got to get out there and enjoy it: you’ve got Newport Velodrome and then Maindy Track and then the tracks all across west Wales like Tywyn. You’ve just got to get out there and enjoy it.
Kristina Vogel had a very good time at the Track World Cup in Manchester, winning in the Team Sprint on Friday, the Sprint on Saturday and the Keirin on Sunday. I managed to grab her for a brief chat afterwards.
So does it feel good to get one over the brits?
Yeah, definitely, yeah! 3 days, 3 wins, It’s an amazing feeling, I’m so proud of myself. I’m proud that I’m getting strong and stronger, and my tactics are getting better and better. And to me the best part, the revenge against Becky, she’s also a good rider and the shape isn’t there yet, but hopefully she’s also heading to Mexico, the next world cup, and the next revenge
Have you enjoyed your time in Manchester?
Yes, of course. When you have 3 key races, you can’t see much of the town. I had a coffee in town earlier, but it’s lovely and the crowd is so amazing, the crowd is pushing yourself, and pushing the brits also. I’m really jealous of that because the only crowd in Germany is at the 6 days, like I say,
Have you raced much at the six days?
Yes, they also have some other races at those, but the track cyclists aren’t as famous as they are here, but it’s going better and better.
Do you think that’ll change in three years time then?
Kate Archibald, riding for the new Scottish team, lapped the field in a break of 3 late in the 10km Scratch Race after Mexico’s Sofia Arreola had done the same on her own earlier, then managed to force her way into 2nd place ahead of a heft of big names, here’s what she had to say.
That was awesome, well done. How does it feel to have got on the podium?
Quite scary to be honest! I didn’t go in with any kind of expectations, never mind high expectations, and it just played out to my strengths really, so I ended up on the podium.
As part of the trade team, what events are you doing?
Well, we registered the (Scottish Cycling - Braveheart.com) trade team with the aim of giving the scottish riders experience in international events like this ahead of the Commie Games this year. Unfortunately I’m the only one here this weekend, but we should be riding for the team to get a feel for it.
Looking to the Commonwealth Games, are you looking to take a step up the podium so we don’t have to hear “Land of Hope and Glory”?
Yeah, ha, erm, it’s the Pursuit I’ll be focusing on, so it’s quite definitive to be able to turn up on the day and really have a good idea of how it’s going to go, but we’re what, eight months away and I’ve got high hopes
Kate rides in the 3rd/4th place playoff in the Women’s Individual Pursuit today. Full results of the Women’s 10km scratch race are below
1 28 WOJTYRA Malgorzata POL 2 76 ARCHIBALD Kate SCB 3 299 KLIMCHENKO Tetyana UKR 4 25 ARREOLA NAVARRO Sofia MEX 5 15 BERTHON Laurie FRA 6 13 OLABERRIA DORRONSORO Leire ESP 7 186 KING Dani GBR 8 126 BARAZNA Katsiaryna BLR 9 52 USABIAGA BALERDI Ana EUS 10 46 BASSO Laura CTF 11 63 BRONZINI Giorgia ITA 12 285 ROMANYUTA Evgeniya RUS 13 66 SOMNET Jupha MAS 14 42 DRUYTS Kelly BEL 15 36 NEWELL Elizabeth USA 16 60 RYAN Caroline IRL 17 79 PAVLENDOVA Alzbeta SVK 18 38 GREVE Cristina Irma ARG 19 312 HILL Amy WAL 20 110 BAKER Georgia AUS
Friday: Bpost Bank Trofee #2 – Koppenbergcross, Oudenaarde
Sunday Superprestige #2 - The sand quarry, Zonhoven
The Koppenbergcross has a reputation as tough race. That horrible, deep rutted mud from the first corner plus the climb which gives it it’s name, the cobbled climb of the Koppenberg, regularly used in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Sven Nys has won 8 of the past 9 races here.
The 2nd race of the BPost Bank Trofee series, Sven Nys already has a good lead of 22 seconds over Martin Bina, with his most reputable competitor Niels Albert at 35 seconds, (the competition changed to a time-based classification, with 15, 10 and 5 bonus seconds available both at intermediate primes, and the final podium), with Belgian champ Klaas Vantornout not an impossible 1m28 back.
The Koppenbergcross also marks the start of the women’s competition, with the british duo of Helen Wyman and Nikki Harris making the podium in both 2011 and 2012. Wyman has fared better than Harris generally here, but Harris has better form coming in, so will certainly be a competition.
For the elite men, with one eye on Sunday’s round 2 of the Superprestige at Zonhoven, expect Nys, Albert and Vantournout to fight it out for the honours, with the rest merely making up the numbers.
The more (super?) prestigious race of the weekend, the Superprestige race at Zonhoven takes place on Sunday. Held in a sand quarry, the soft ground leads to a difficult race over ten laps. The Superprestige itself is a tight competition and rewards consistency over victories - first place takes just one point more over 2nd, meaning it’s much harder to lose in the opening weekend, compared with, say, the world cup. 4 of this year’s 6 most consistent riders, are there or thereabouts.
Last year’s race at Zonhoven was one of the most memorable of the season, when Niels Albert overtook Sven Nys for the lead on the inside of a downhill, forcing the (much larger) Belgian off his bike. I’d expect these two to fight it out with Lars Van der Haar for the win - the current leader of the Superprestige, Klas Vantornout has rarely placed highly here, so you’d expect him to surrender the lead of the series to 2nd place Nys.
After this weekend, we’ll have a better idea of who is fighting for what competition - Sven Nys has already written off the World Cup, and Kevin Pauwels has left himself with perhaps too much to do in this competition already, so I’ll sum those up in the week.
After yesterday’s grassy criterium, it’s going to be good to get back to Belgium for cyclocross with sandpits, steep bits of hill, a chance of mud, and plumbing products for the winner. The Superprestige kicks off this weekend in Ruddervoorde, and should be free (and legal!) to stream on vier.be if it’s anything like last year.
So, more like a “proper” cyclocross than yesterday, with rain forecast for most of the day. Sandpits on the course, more features and hopefully a more interesting watch. Lars van der Haar is clearly on another level at the moment, with Kevin Pauwels maybe the nearest to him.
Sven Nys has won on 10 occasions here, but it’s hard to tell what’s going on with him at the moment. With a half decent pre-season with a win in CrossVegas, followed by bad luck in the opening weekend of the World Cup, plus a race tending towards the hilarious yesterday where he clearly can’t have been digging as deep as the top 5, it’s hard to tell what today will be like for him. Safe to say we wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss out on the elite group.
So, podium predictions? Lars van deer Haar, ahead of Kevin Pauwels and on history (1 win and 3 other podiums in the last 5) Niels Albert. Check ProCyclingLive for live streams.
The 2nd race of the 2013 Cyclocross World Cup is this Saturday, with the competition revisiting the Czech Republic at the venue which hosted the first round last season. The course has usually held together quite well - the combination of it being early season, plus in a fairly well tended park means there isn’t too much to potential for a mudbath. Despite that, the course is always fairly lumpy, a lot of ups and downs, with a few steps and artificial obstacles, which are usually just far enough apart and just low enough to attempt to bunny hop if a rider is feeling brave.
It’s the heaviness of the course that makes the difference though. Unlike last week’s, which wasn’t too selective, the climbing makes it very easy to form an elite group - last year, the first lap was raced at 26km/h, so we saw a good selection by the start of the 2nd.
So, a physically tough but easy to handle course, which should suit a motivated and confident rider with good shape, and for that we can look no further than last week’s top two (and coincidentally last year’s Tabor top two), Lars van der Haar and Kevin Pauwels, and with Pauwels only out of contention last week because of a mechanical, it’s going to be hard to separate them.
Kevin Pauwels has won two editions at Tabor, and while Nys may have won four, Pauwels will be looking to win his 3rd on the bounce - you have to go all the way back to 2007 for a Nys win. Nys looked uncomfortable on the bike last week, so the lack of technicality and shifting ground, which usually would be good for him, should prompt him to ride an aggressive race with the hope of spoiling the party for the World Cup contenders.
The weather forecast for the rest of the week is a little rain on Thursday, with Friday being dry and the potential for sun on the day of the race, with light winds. Perfect race conditions for course spectators, but the worst kind of conditions for us sitting at home.
(photo courtesy of Kevin Pauwels’s website, map via cyklokros.cz)