Hoogerheide leaves clear favourites for Cyclocross Worlds
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Hoogerheide leaves clear favourites for Cyclocross Worlds

by Ben Atkins at 5:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, World Championships

The final World Cup race of the 2009/10 season was the last rendezvous before the coming weekend’s World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. Three, or possibly four, names identify themselves as the outstanding favourites for the men’s race; names that have been at the front of virtually every major race of the season.

Conditions in Tabor are reportedly very cold right now, with several inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures; meaning the frozen course is also expected to play its part.

‘Styby’ is number one

The number one favourite, by common consent, is Czech champion and home rider Zdenek Stybar, who confirmed overall victory in the World Cup with his second place this weekend. The 24-year-old won his third successive national championships on the same venue just two weeks ago and will have the crowd behind him.

"I'm not super favourite,” “Styby” modestly told Het Nieuwsblad after the race in Hoogerheide, “I love the area the race is in, but the iceman of us is surely Sven Nys. Check out his results on such surfaces, this isn’t a typical cross strength. If maybe he comes up short, Niels Albert has also been at his level. I‘m not too worried by my defeat today. I was worse than in Roubaix, but I have two hard weeks training behind me."

Albert to defend

Defending champion Niels Albert was dominating the World Cup before being brought down by a spectator in the Belgian championships two weeks ago. The incident caused him to break a rib that affected his subsequent racing, may well have cost him the overall World Cup, and could spoil his chances of victory this weekend.

Albert managed to overcome his physical problems to win the race in Hoogerheide, but he too is concerned about the conditions of the Czech course.

"I heard that it’s frozen there right now and as low as -16 degrees (~3 degrees Fahrenheit) on the ground,” he said to Het Nieuwsblad. “On the day of the World Championships the forecast is a slight thaw so we get a little mud, but not very much. There are some Albert-lines in between where I will best be able to use my strength. "

Nys likes the ice

Sven Nys can never be discounted, and is cited by most as the rider best able to deal with the kind of conditions expected this weekend. However, a fifth place finish in Hoogerheide where he was visibly unable to follow and acceleration from Albert may indicate that the 33-year-old ‘Kannibaal’ may be tiring at the end of a long season.

"Everything seemed to go well in Hoogerheide, said Nys’ coach Paul Van den Bosch to Sporza, “but apparently he went over his pace and he was afraid his engine would blow up.

"Sven did well… and he proved with a good final lap that his condition has nothing going on. We are not worried, because everything went well in training on Saturday. I’m confident that in Tabor we will see a better Nys."

After Sunday’s World Cup race there was speculation that his decision to race in the Kasteelcross in Zonnebeke, Belgium the day before cost him energy when the other favourites were resting. Van den Bosch refutes this.

"If he does not win the World Championships it will not be because of Zonnebeke, it will be because the others were better. Albert and Stybar had the reason of the World Cup on Sunday; they made life difficult for each other and gave everything. This may cost them more physically than riding Zonnebeke."

Despite dominating the sport for almost ten years, Nys has only won the World championships once, in 2005.

Pauwels added to the mix

A fourth name can be added to the list according to van den Bosch: that of Stybar’s Telenet-Fidea teammate Kevin Pauwels, the winner of the Zolder round of the World Cup in December and third behind Albert and Stybar on Sunday.

"Sven is still one of the four top candidates at the World Championships,” he said. “He has no less an opportunity than Albert, Stybar and now I can add Kevin Pauwels. That race on Sunday was an extremely strong showing that it’s a team game."

For van den Bosch too, the condition of the course will be decisive.

"They predict warmer weather in Tabor and thawing which could make the course very heavy,” he said. “On a frozen course Sven has the best chance, he is the best at riding on ice.

"If it thaws it will make for a difficult course and increase the chances of Albert, but the conditions on the day will be decisive."

No spikes allowed

Should the course be frozen on Sunday, riders will be unable to call upon the new “Diabolo” tubular from Dugast. The Dutch manufacturer provides its sought after rubber to most of the top riders and recently developed a spiked version of its cross tubular.

According to Het Nieuwsblad the Diabolo is so effective on ice that Sven Nys recently successfully tested them on the speedskating rink at Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Unfortunately for those who may have wanted to use these new tubulars, they have been banned by the International Cycling Union (UCI).


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