Cyclocross is officially in full swing now over in Europe, and we've got two major competitions on tap for this weekend.
Saturday: Tabor (World Cup #2)
What tgsgirl said:
All the way to Czech Republic for this. With Stybs gone we're down to one world cup leg in the east of Europe, which isn't too bad really. The races over there are never incredibly interesting. Well, the race courses aren't. Tabor has a few hills, but nothing crazy. Maybe if this climate change thing really kicks in in the next 6 days, we can have ice and snow. That'd be cool.
No dice. The weather has been horrible lately -- nothing but sunshine. Which is a shame. Check out the video from last year:
It's an amusing enough course, which is what you say when they don't just have long flat straightaways. Kevin Pauwels is saying this is a perfect course for him (he's won the last two Tabor events), but that's not a compliment. When Nys says a course is perfect for him, then you should get excited.
I guess we should be grateful that they've cut the Czech events down to one, dropping Plz(zzz)en from the October World Cup slate. But this is not a great day for Cross. It's a light hors'doeuvre.
Apart from Pauwels, Lars van der Haar is bound to be excited, having won the opening event last week in the Netherlands and relishing a fast course like this one. The 22-year-old is living up to his "next big (ahem) thing" status with the early win and should very much like at least three more WC tracks, making this the one seasonal competition where he has a good chance at winning.
FYI... last year's top ten was pretty tight. Grassy crit, yo:
|2||Lars VAN DER HAAR||NED||21||1:05:12||160||160|
|9||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED||23||1:05:44||70||70|
Make of it what you will. I can't find a startlist to save my life (I'd link to the official site but I don't want you to get angry), but from hunting around it appears Pauwels and Nys are definitely in, and I would expect all the other usual suspects. Powers' best result of last year was here, so we might see him as a protagonist tomorrow. On the women's side, same as last week, with a hat-tip to Katerina Nash, racing at home against the world's best (and without Marianne Vos to steal the spotlight).
Sunday: Ruddervoorde (SuperPrestige #1)
Speaking of hors d'oeuvres, it's the opening of the SuperPrestige challenge, a/k/a the Belgian competition without the stupid time-based rankings! We start in Ruddervoorde, just south of Bruges off the road to Kortrijk.
What tgsgirl said:
Is it just me, or does it not seem to be the best planning to have a race in Czech Rep on Saturday and then back in Belgium on Sunday? I mean, surely they could've found another date for this one? Either way, the race is still the same as last year and the year before that which means that no, they still haven't moved that house that pretty much stops everyone from taking that first corner in a semi-decent fashion. And yes, they still have that odd inverted bridge over the stream, where the bridge is actually lower than the road.
Inverted bridge! [I think I spotted it in the background.] Also, the house is right after the start. Keep to the right if you don't want to doodsmak it. Easier said than done, however, in the madness of a CX start. In any event, this course lacks for major distinguishing features, but there's hardly a dull moment: up, down, dismount, back on, off-camber, tight turns, rollers, sand! It's kind of an encapsulation of the entire sport of Cross, without going too heavy on any single element. That plus some rain should make for a good day. Forecast? Rain!
The official site is full of info. Map:
All the heads of state are expected to be here, flying 1000km back from Tabor in time for the start. Thankfully the SuperPrestige series includes women, U23 and juniors, so we can watch those competitions take shape. Compton and Nash aren't on the list, so with Vos sidelined the women's race will likely feature the Belgians (Cant, Van Loy) versus the Brits (Harris, Wyman).
On the men's side, Nys and Albert went tete-a-tete last year, with De Sven taking the sprint, and Pauwels half a minute back. The crappier weather should make this more of a slog, tipping it further still in the direction of Nys (and away from van der Haar) but we shall see.