Women’s Cyclocross Worlds: Can Katie Compton beat the Dutch?
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Women’s Cyclocross Worlds: Can Compton beat the Dutch?

by Ben Atkins at 11:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, World Championships
 

A cursory look at the final World Cup standings of the year would lead you to one conclusion: the winner of the women’s World Cyclocross Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic this weekend will be wearing the orange of the Netherlands. But is it that simple?

Overall winner of the competition was Dutch champion Daphny Van Den Brand, who failed to finish worse than fourth in any of the seven races. The jersey – like any competition based on a series – rewards consistency though, and her sole victory in the competition came in Kalmthout, Belgium back on December 20th.

Finishing just five points behind Van Den Brand was current rainbow jersey Marianne Vos. Had the 22-year-old started her season in October and not missed the first round in Treviso, Italy, she surely would have taken the overall competition.

Vos’ position is also based heavily on victories, having won three of the six World Cups that she raced: Koksijde and Zolder in Belgium, and Hoogerheide in the Netherlands.

Vos and Van Den Brand have sworn to work together to ensure a Dutch victory; just as they did at the World Cup race in Koksijde when they co-operated to keep US champion Katie Compton at bay. Should this happen in Tabor this weekend, the pair will be tough to pull back.

The third Dutch name is that of Van Den Brand’s teammate Sanne Van Paassen. Like Van Den Brand though, Van Paassen’s season has been built around consistency. The 21-year-old has had to be content with the scraps left by the others. Despite her lofty position of third in the standings, Van Paassen is an outside bet for a medal, but its unlikely to be better than bronze.

Has Compton recovered?

The name most likely to challenge the Dutch riders for the title is Katie Compton. Had she not suffered a recurrence of her leg-cramping problem just before the Roubaix World Cup two weeks ago, she would have surely taken the overall title instead of Van Den Brand. In other circumstances this would be titled “Can the Dutch beat Compton?”, but the big question around the US champion is whether or not she has fully recovered.

If she manages to get back to full fitness, Compton will be riding her first race in weeks, which could work either way. Either she’ll be fresher than her rivals or she’ll be short of race fitness.

If Compton starts the race fully fit she’ll be odds on for a medal of some sort, but whether it’ll be better than her bronze of last year remains to be seen.

Aside from Compton, Amy Dombroski and Meredith Miller should show well for the United States. Both have ridden strongly since flying over to Europe in the New Year.

Inevitably Hanka

The other name almost certain to be near the front of the race is that of German champion Hanka Kupfernagel. The four-time World champion was just off the World Cup podium all season, but in the tough conditions at Roubaix managed to take second place.

Kupfernagel has based her season on being at her peak for Tabor, she was at the front of the race in last year’s Worlds and will almost certainly be this year too.

Several dark horses could surprise the favourites and take a medal or even the jersey itself. Belgian champion Sanne Cant is still just 19-years-old, but has been snapping at the heels of more experienced riders all year. Victory, or even a medal, for Cant could start the process of elevating Belgian women’s cyclocross to somewhere near the position of men’s.

Can the locals make a challenge?

US-based Czech champion Katerina Nash proved to be the fastest in the sloppy mud of the Roubaix velodrome and could find the predicted tough conditions, plus the home crowd, work in her favour. Nash’s compatriot Pavla Havlikova will also enjoy the home-field advantage and could make a challenge.

Best of the Brits

British champion Helen Wyman has found her results tailing off slightly in recent weeks, but will be super-motivated to erase memories of last year’s World Championship race, where she was brought down in the first corner and spent the rest of the race trying to catch up. Nikki Harris gets better year on year and has begun to threaten Wyman’s long-standing position as British number-one. The 24-year-old broke her shoulder in a first lap crash in the World Championships road race back in September, and she may find that the enforced late start to her season leaves her fresher than others. Other British interest takes the form of Gabby Day and Annie Last, either of whom could do well if they have a good day.

Italian champion Eva Lechner has been plugging away all season and achieved some good results. She should make the top ten; she might do better.

What seems almost certain though is that there will be at least one Dutchwoman on the podium on Sunday: either Vos or Van Den Brand; or both.

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