Friday 11 November, Jaarmarktcross Niel (standalone)
The race in Niel is a standalone one, but one that sees all the top guys (with the exception of Ian Field)* show up anyway. Why? Well, for the past 60-something editions they've had the World Champion at the start line, which is a tradition they plan to uphold. It's a pretty simple race, with long straight stretches and minimal cornering (so, about 30 per lap). There's one nasty hill which caused some Albert vs. Nys controversy (well, more like Albert vs. members of the public controversy), and that hill's the main obstacle to worry about.
Starttime: men elite and U23 15h
Last winner: Sven Nys (2010), Sven Nys (2009), Lars Boom (2008)
This year though, the organizers probably aren't very happy. Zdenek Stybar - you know, the reigning world champ - is in Mallorca and therefore won't be starting in Niel*, hereby breaking a tradition which has lived for six decades. Which I think is quite unfortunate.
Anyway. Who is there then? Well, everyone else. Nys and Albert will take on cross' new star Kevin 'Yoah' Pauwels. Walsleben is on the startlist, it would be nice to see him there but also quite surprising as he was supposed to be out with a virus for weeks. It's also only now occuring to me that Eddy van Ijzendoorn rides for the Orange Babies Cycling Team, which I find exceptionally hilarious.
In Niel the elite men and U23 boys race together, which is always cool if you want to spot who will be big in a few years. Unfortunately the biggest U23 talent by far - Holland and Rabo's Lars van der Haar - isn't there. Who should you keep an eye out for then? Well, I'd suggest Wietse Bosmans (BKCP), Mathieu Boulo (Roubaix Lille Metropole) and Arnaud Jouffroy (Telenet).
On the weather front, I'm afraid I have some bad news as IT STILL ISN'T RAINING. Which is fun and all since today is a day off, but damnit, I'm ready for some mud racing. GIVE US BACK OUR RAIN!
The race is live on Sporza, which means you'll probably have to go through the site formerly known as BVLS for links. Coverage starts at 14h45; the race itself 15 minutes later.