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GP Rouwmoer Essen Preview: Mud! And Niels!

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It's Saturday in Belgium already, and you know what that means... There's a cross race to watch on TV in less than 12 hours! This time it's the GP Rouwmoer Essen, the fourth stop of the 8-race GVA series. And it's going to be great because Niels Albert and Zdenek Stybar are back in the game after some time away from racing (Albert coming back from an injury sustained in training last month, Stybar from recovery and some training on Mallorca). Want to get caught up on the course, the weather conditions, and more? Click the button, jump to the story!

First, lets talk course. As our venerable and always insightful GS said:

Essen. In Belgium, but so close to the border that if you lean just a little to the left (or the right, depending on which way you're facing), you'll see windmills and clogs everywhere. Essen, home of Aernouts, Stybar, and Meeusen, so you'll see cross fans everywhere. It's partly a forest race with small stairs (right around a u-corner, haha), and some good steep climbs; and partly a field race with a bridge.

Sounds like fun, right? Well wait til you hear about the weather. It's been raining this week.And there is a 90% chance of rain tonight. Could this get any better? Yes, as there is an 80% chance of rain tomorrow with a high of 5deg Celsius (41 degrees Farenheit) and winds around 40kph. Not a day for the weak of heart, that's for certain.

For the riders, we should see Nys, Albert, Pauwels, and Stybar on the start, joined by home rider Tom Meeusen. Meeusen was riding very well last weekend, particularly on Sunday, so look for him to be up at the front tomorrow. In the GVA series overall, Kevin Pauwels starts the race with a 12-point lead in over Zdeneck Stybar and 21 points on Sven Nys. For the women, Marianne Vos is back to racing and should join the usual set of characters. The women's series leader is Sanne van Paassen, followed by Helen Wyman at 3 points and Nikki Harris another 3 points down.

Race times:

Elite Women: 1315 CET
Elite Men: 1500 CET

Now, before you head off to whatever comes next, here is viddy of the last two laps of last year's race. It was muddy last year too, and Nys won (after Albert flatted out of the lead...). Which means you get to watch Nys in the mud, which is amazing. Enjoy!