The Podium Cafe is primarily a site for
geologists road cycling fans, but a good number of us are happy to wander over into cyclocross this time of year, if only because it's there awesome! Doing so while not Belgian comes with a certain amount of risk, of saying things like "who's the World Champion?" and "Didn't Nys have a green helmet before?" Let's face it, as much as we want to correlate the two cycling disciplines so that Lars Boom can win everything, they really don't overlap much at all.
So, for you road fans, here is a guide to the cream of the Cross crop, put in terms you might understand. To start with, feel free to review tgsgirl's Who's Who post, complete with visuals and background info. For each rider, let's come up with his road equivalent. I'll get it started, but your expertise will be needed, and anyway there is probably more than one correct/fun answer.
Sven Nys: I'd say he's Marianne Vos-meets-Tom Boonen. Nys is past the point where he is guaranteed to win every time he takes a race seriously, but he did pretty much that for several years, and like Marianne someday or Tommeke now, even past his best-if-used-by date he still wins rather a lot. Except when the rainbow jersey is on the line: Nys has seven medals, including four in the last four years, but only one win, back in 2005.
Niels Albert: Very talented, former world champion, current Belgian champion, called soft by Roger De Vlaeminck and had Nys question his program. His standing in the peloton is definitely reminiscent of Filippo Pozzato. Only God can judge him, although that memo hasn't apparently been circulated widely yet. On the bike, it's happier times, however. He scores a decent number of wins, including quality ones, each season, against quality fields... though preferably on one of those middlin' days where the hardest men (Nys) find things too easy and the softer riders -- well, who cares. One rainbow, good number of wins, some trouble with his biggest goals... let's call him Cross's answer to Thor Hushovd.
Kevin Pauwels: K-Pow is about five years into his senior career and just hitting his prime, in time to become the flavor of the month. Pauwels has convincingly slain the field in the past few weeks, wrapping up back-to-back wins in Ronse and the Koppenbergcross to go with a world cup win in Pilzen and an early win in Erpe-Mer. Apparently he can sprint a bit and likes to climb. I can't help myself and go with Edvald Boasson Hagen here, or maybe an EBH/Haussler hybrid. Like Edvald, he's making the leap right to the front. And if you ask him about his success, chances are it won't be hard to write down his full answer. But Edvald's ceiling may be higher, and he's younger than K-Pow, so in the long run he may be a bit more Haussler: not the biggest star, but when he's hot, watch out.
Zdenek Stybar: This is an easy one. Two rainbow jerseys, likable guy, pretty versatile, doesn't win as much as the world titles would suggest... Oscar Freire! Well, a younger Freire. Or Giorgia Bronzini. Actually I like that better.
OK, who's got more?