Cross Worlds start tomorrow! If you can't tell, I am just a little excited. And no, it's not just the doppio I just tossed back. We've previewed the Elite Men and their U-23 counterparts, but we have said nothing of the glamorous ladies who race every bit as hard and put on a spectacle every weekend. I'm on break before I do some "real" work, so join me as I talk through the favorites for this weekend.
I'm going to walk through the favorites to take home the win this weekend - Marianne Vos, Daphny Van den Brand, Katie Compton, and Katarina Nash - and tell you who is going to win, and why. For some espresso-aided speculation, follow me below the jump!
Marianne Vos. There, I said it, and we can move on to real words now. She's obviously the first thing everyone is thinking of when their thoughts turn to the Women's race on Sunday. But, let us not be so hasty! Here at the Cafe, we have methods of doing these things. We don't jump to conclusions immediately - we ruminate, then jump to conclusions. So, let us embark on this little journey through Power Poll land and see where we get. For simplicity's sake (and because I have "real" work waiting on me...), I'm going to adopt Chris' mode of analysis.
1. Run of Form:
Marianne Vos: The defending world champion has been on a tear recently. She won the last 4 rounds of the World Cup, after all. In the third round at Koksijde, she placed second. She has won 15 cross races this year, and I don't believe she has raced more than 20. Once you factor in the confidence that comes from crushing the field so thoroughly, her form is clearly on a different level from everyone else. Also? She won the World Cup round at Hoogerheide by 1:28, on a fast course where drafting had a big effect.
Daphny van den Brand: If you want season-long form, Daphny's got it for you. No big wins in the world cups, but she has won in the GVA series. In fact, she's placed second at five of the seven World Cup races, including the last three. Plus, she's one of the only people to have beaten Vos this year.
Katarina Nash: Nash raced primarily in the US this year, so it's hard to gauge her form against the three others, who raced full seasons in the homeland of cross. Nash did take the USGP series by storm, but the level of competition is just not the same stateside (Sadly. But we're working on it!). Here's what we know about her performances against her European-based peers: Katarina raced four world cups (the first two and the last two) and got the following placings: 3, 1, 15, and 3. For the first two, Vos wasn't there, and Compton wasn't around for the second round in Tabor, which Nash won. But, those were aeons ago, so lets look at the last two. 15th is uncharacteristically bad for our Czech lady, but she was in the thick of the action in Hoogerheide, finishing 1:35 in arrears of a flying Vos but only losing contact with van den Brand when she dabbed on the last lap. She's obviously going pretty well and timed her peak right.
Katie Compton: It's not a question of whether Compton will take home a gold medal at Worlds, it's a question of when. She's been at the top of the sport for years now. In the World Cup races she started, she only finished off the podium once - in fourth. Unfortunately, this doesn't quite look like the year Compton will step one higher on the podium. Her sole World Cup win came at the first race of the season in Plzen and she had a string of 3rd places afterwards. Last weekend was her poorest result of the year and she simply didn't look like the powerful Compton we are used to (for example, Katie finished third at Koksijde this year, but she also had bike problems which likely prevented her from finishing higher).
- Van den Brand
Katarina Nash won the second round of the World Cup in Tabor but has been off the radar since. Can she pull off the upset this year?
2. Koksijde! Sand!!!
Marianne Vos: Vos has a decent history at the Duinencross, having won here in 2009 and finished second this year. Just goes to prove there is little Vos can't ride well in.
Daphny Van den Brand: If there is one place Daphny shines, it's the sand. She's won here in 2007 and 2011, which makes her one of the only people to beat Vos this year.
Katarina Nash: I got nada for you here. Didn't race at Koksijde this year and not a former winner. I could probably dig bag and find past results... but it's obvious she's the weakest here among three former winners.
Katie Compton: Another double winner at the Duinencross (2008, 2010) and a third place finisher this year after a mechanical. Katie certainly loves the sand, but I'm giving van den Brand the edge here because her history goes back a little further and she has also won more recently. Totally arbitrary, I know. But that's what these Power Polls are really about, right? Just hiding that behind the veneer of sciency-analysis?
- Van den Brand
Daphny van den Brand giving it the business in the Koksijde sand earlier this year. She won then - can she do the same this Sunday?
3. Other Factors
Marianne Vos: Vos and van den Brand are in an interesting situation. Vos is the favorite for the weekend, but Daphny is not far behind, especially after beating Vos on the same course earlier this year. Who will be the leader? Or will we see the situation that happened in Zolder where the two rode away from the field in the first half of the race and then duked it out? Also, Vos has an incredible capacity to hit top form at Worlds. She has won the title four times, including the last three years in a row. That's some kind of inertia.
Daphny van den Brand: In addition to the ambiguous team situation, Daphny has a poor history of pulling things together for a good performance at Worlds. She won in 2003 and has bronze titles from 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, and 2010. In recent years, she just hasn't been able to make it happen on the one day that counts most.
Katarina Nash: Nash missed most of the world cups, but when she was there she generally podiumed. In the first two rounds, she went 3rd and then won in Tabor. After a sub-par 15th at Lievin, she nabbed 3rd again. So we're simply constrained by a lack of data. She won a lot stateside in the USGP series, but comparative data is scant. She managed a bronze last year and this year is better in terms of results, so I'm predicting an upward trajectory.
Katie Compton: Compton's confidence must have been high after a dominating win at US nationals - her 8th in a row (really, does Rabobank ever bother making non-champs skinsuits for her?). I could cite travel as a potential reason she hasn't been as sharp recently, but it's been 3 weeks since she traveled back to Europe so that's no excuse for this weekend. The biggest problem Katie has is pulling it together for a Worlds win. Like Van den Brand, her worlds results don't give full credit to her accomplishments through the rest of the seasons. But I'm giving Compton the edge because she's been on the podium more consistently. And she was second last year.
- Van den Brand
Compton leading the chase group at Hoogerheide last weekend.
Okay, so after tallying up the rankings, we have... Drumroll please...
- Vos (5)
- Van den Brand (7)
- Compton (8)
- Nash (10)
But! There is more!
I only went over who I consider to be the top four women going into this weekend. But there are many more excellent female cross stars who have been putting up a good fight this season. So, pick your favorite(s) and tell us about them! Who do you think will be in the top 10? Or, who should we expect to put in a better ride than we would have otherwise? Tell us in the comments! Please, words are encouraged!
**All pictures courtesy of Balint Hamvas, cyclephotos.co.uk **