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Weekend Cyclocross Results & Recap: Scheldecross, Vlaamse Druivenveldrit, and USGP

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Phew, that was a hectic weekend, wasn't it? Two cross races in Belgium, including Vlaamse Druivenveldrit, the "Mother of all cross races", paired with two exciting days of racing in the USGP series finale in Bend, Oregon. At least writing up the results is easy - Sven Nys and Katie Compton cleaned up both days in Belgium. Across the Atlantic, Jeremy Powers and Katarina Nash did the same. But, results aren't why you visited this site this morning. What were the other story lines, and what do we learn going into the final two months of the cyclocross season? Follow me below the jump!

Different race, same picture: Jeremy Powers wins USGP #4 in Fort Collins
Photo: Christopher See.

Scheldecross: Antwerp, Belgium, 10 December

SAND. Lots of sand. It's even muddy sand (I haven't seen muddy sand in person, but I can only assume it's awesome.) Scheldecross served up lots of said sand in multiple long sections, and the racing didn't disappoint one bit. Sven Nys and Katie Compton both won solo, but that's not the full story.

It should come as no surprise that Nys won on Saturday. This year's Euro cross season has become a virtual two horse race between Nys and Kevin Pauwels. Though Niels Albert and Zdenek Stybar have both won races here and there, they haven't found the form that led them to World Cup and Worlds titles in the past. Not that this would have mattered, as both were absent over the weekend - Albert due to a hand injury sustained when he was hit by a car in training last month, and Stybar because... the boy needs some R&R after possibly over-gunning his training this summer for the road season. He's in Mallorca recoverying and training for now. Even with Nys a step above most of the other riders on the circuit this year, he also excels in the sand. Really, if you haven't watched Nys in the sand, you haven't lived fully.

Pauwels was put out of contention with an early crash, though the fact that he fought back to fifth indicates he hasn't lost anything over the past two weeks when Nys has gotten the better of him multiple times. Watch out for Pauwels still, especially on anything resembling a fast course. Nys escaped with Tom Meeusen and Rob Peeters, both teammates on Telenet-Fidea. With two laps to go, Nys did what Nys does and blitzed the sand sections and the rest was history. Dieter Vanthourenhout managed to come around Peeters on the last lap to take the last step on the podium. I am predicting a three-man race at Worlds: Nys, Pauwels, Albert

In the women's race, Katie Compton did what Katie Compton does, namely turn on the afterburners early in the race, ride away from everyone else, and rub salt in the wounds by coming home with a full minute advantage. Of course, it helped that Marianne Vos and Daphny van den Brandt weren't playing in the sand with her... But still. If Compton doesn't get 2nd at Worlds, at a minimum, I'll race in a speedo in my first CX race next season. Especially after she blitzed the sand, which heavily features in the Worlds course (I know, I know... it's different sand...).

Elite Men Top 5:

  1. Sven Nys (Bel) Lanbouwkrediet
  2. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea (0:08)
  3. Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus (0:14)
  4. Rob Peeters (Bel) (Telenet-Fidea) (0:22)
  5. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor (0:37)

Elite Women Top 5:

  1. Katherine Compton (USA) Rabobank-Giant
  2. Sanne Cant (Bel) BOXX Veldritacademie (1:00)
  3. Sophie de Boer (Bel) Telenet-Fidea (1:16)
  4. Nikki Harris (GBr) Telenet-Fidea (1:32)
  5. Gabriella Day (GBr) Renner Custom CX Team (1:57)

Vlaamse Druivenveldrit: Overijse, Belgium, 11 December

The mother of all cross courses. That's all you need to know, right? If not, it had cobbled flats, cobbled false flats, cobbled climbs, and an insanely twisty descent that looked like a a kid scribbled on the side of a very large hill. It was awesome. Also, there was some mud. If you want to skip the niceties, Sven Nys and Katie Compton won again. But if you want more than just a byline, keep reading. Plus, there is video!

In the men's race, Tom Meeusen and Kevin Pauwels were the animators, pulling away early on the first lap. In his typical style, Nys let the lead group form, then jumped across to it with 6 laps to go. After some cat-and-mouse riding by Nys and Pauwels, Bart Aernouts joined, making a lead group of 4 riders. Then, a bit of a selection off the back happened, aided in part by just how slippery muddy cross tires are on wet cobbles. Meeusen found this out the hard way, as he crashed out of the lead with 3 laps to go. With Aernouts off the front alone, Nys attacked to bridge with 2 laps remaining and, upon catching Aernouts, quickly dispatched him. The twisty and slippery downhill on the backside of the course was in Nys' favor and he pushed hard on all but the last lap to gain time or pressure his rivals here. Aernouts was never able to get fully back to Nys again, and the Belgian rider came in solo for his second win in two days.

Compton's race was largely the same as Saturday, except she only won by 28 seconds. Simply put, the strongest rider prevailed on a day when strength was more important than technical skills and tactics. Nikki Harris and Sanne Cant rounded out the podium. Again, Vos and Van den Brandt weren't out to play. Sadface.

Not content with words? VIDEO Thanks, SPORZA!

Elite Men Top 5:

  1. Sven Nys (Bel) Lanbouwkrediet
  2. Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant (0:11)
  3. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor (0:38)
  4. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea (0:55)
  5. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor (1:22)

Elite Women Top 5:

  1. Katherine Compton (USA) Rabobank-Giant
  2. Nikki Harris (GBr) Telenet-Fidea (0:28)
  3. Sanne Cant (Bel) BOXX Veldritacademie (1:15)
  4. Sophie de Boer (Bel) Telenet-Fidea (2:03)
  5. Linda van Rijen (Ned) Skil (2:24)

    USGP #7 and #8: Bend, Oregon, 11-12 December

      Now follow me for a trip across the Atlantic for the finale of the US Grand Prix of Cyclocross series - our version of Belgium's Superprestige series. With Ryan Trebon out with injury, the favorite for both days was unquestionably Jeremy Powers, who won rounds 4, 5, and 6 of the series. The photo above has been a very common sight this year. Powers did not disappoint, taking the win both days. On Saturday, he escaped early in the race with former teammate Tim Johnson, who seems to have found his fast legs again. The two battled for most of the race - Johnson applied pressure in the technical sections on the dry, dusty, and rocky course while Powers frequently accelerated faster out of corners, making Johnson work to close gaps. Neither rider could ditch the other and the race was only decided when Powers led up the stairs near the end of the lap and Johnson decided not to dive on the inside of the last corner and put Powers into the barrier. BUT, Powers did risk getting Zabeled for the second time this season. He posted up 50 meters from the finish, looked back to see Johnson still sprinting, and had to gun it again to keep his lead over the line. Tsk tsk tsk, Jeremy. I like you, but dude... Also, DANNY SUMMERHILL got third, ya'all!!! The youngster rides for Garmin's U-23 team and doesn't have the opportunity to race a full cross season due to road commitments, but his performance made me seriously sad he can't keep racing through Nationals in January.

      In the women's race, Katarina Nash pulled a Compton on the field and just rode away from them. Not much more to report there... Unfortunately, Nicole Duke was with Nash for over half the race before crashing near the end and having to run her bike to the finish, where she ended up in 6th.

      Elite Men Top 5:
    1. Jeremy Powers (USA) Rapha-Focus
    2. Timothy Johnson (USA) Cannondale pb (s.t.)
    3. Daniel Summerhill (USA) Chipotle Development Team (0:35)
    4. James Driscoll (USA) Cannondale pb (0:37)
    5. Ben Berden (Bel) Ops Ale - Stoemper (0:45)

      Elite Women Top 5:
    1. Katarina Nash (Cze) Luna Pro Team
    2. Meredith Miller (USA) Cal Giant - Specialized (0:19)
    3. Teal Stetson-Lee (USA) Cal Giant - Specialized (0:20)
    4. Julie Krasniak (Fra) Rapha-Focus (0:53)
    5. Sue Butler (USA) Hudz Subaru (1:05)
      The second day sounded like a remix on both fronts. Geoff Kabush opened up a lead early on the first lap and rode solo for several laps with a chase group at 5-10 seconds. Eventually, Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers brought Kabush back with others in tow. Jamey Driscoll was the next to fire out of the lead group, to be joined 2 laps later by Powers. So, Jeremy Powers + assorted Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld rider, again. Same result too, though powers ditched Driscoll on the last lap instead of sprinting it out. For the women, Katarina Nash rode away earlier in the race than yesterday and was never seen again. Nicole Duke kept things upright and nabbed a second ahead of Teal Stetson-Lee. With her win, Nash not only easily wrapped up victory in the series but put a pretty bow on top as well. Duke's second place took her to second in the series ahead of Katie Compton, who only raced a few of the series' events.
    Elite Men Top 5:
    1. Jeremy Powers (USA) Rapha-Focus
    2. James Driscoll (USA) Cannondale pb (s.t.)
    3. Geoff Kabush (Can) Team Maxxis - Rocky Mountain (0:23)
    4. Christopher Jones (USA) Rapha-Focus (s.t.)
    5. Christian Heule (Sui) Cannondale pb (s.t.)
    Elite Women Top 5:
    1. Katarina Nash (Cze) Luna Pro Team
    2. Nicole Duke (USA) Cannondale pb (0:09)
    3. Teal Stetson-Lee (USA) Cal Giant Farms - Specialized (0:12)
    4. Julie Krasniak (Fra) Rapha-Focus (0:35)
    5. Kaitlin Antonneau (USA) Cannondale pb (0:54)

    VIDEO!!! - has full coverage up of the events, including archived race footage from both days and LOTS of fun rider interviews. Check them out!

    Season Winners: Jeremy Powers, Katarina Nash

    Aaaaand, lets wrap this up...

    Analysis? Yes, I can do that. For Cyclocross Worlds - held in Koksijde, Belgium, on some crazy sand - Sven Nys is becoming more and more of a favorite. Maybe he can take what will, surprisingly, only be his second Worlds title? Pauwels may or may not be slowing down, it's hard to tell right now. But, given that he's a younger rider, I'm less confident of his ability to ride this form for another two months. In fact, I'd expect Niels Albert to finish on the podium at Worlds again. On the women's side, it's hard to see past Katie Compton and Marianne Vos. But, Katarina Nash is also on a hot streak. It may not be as evident, as she's done a lot more racing in the United States for her team, but the only person who has consistently been able to beat her this season has been Compton. My money is on her to nab a 3rd at Worlds. Also, Tim Johnson is totally going top 10 in the men's race.

    Phew. Time for a beer. Even talking cross is exhausting!