clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Last Chance to Win - Azencross Loenhout!

New, 119 comments

It's the last chance for a victory in 2014 and on a great washboarded course, anything can happen.

Loenhout's washboards are the race's defining image.
Loenhout's washboards are the race's defining image.
Balint Hamvas

A Happy 2015 to everyone. I'm usually not much for new years, but that can change! And it is - Tuesday CX!!!

Loenhout is situated right in the North of Belgium, not a place known for it's great weather. It is also the last chance for a CX victory in 2014, and many will be gunning for victory.

The Parcours:

There is a bit of everything in the Azencross course. There's a bridge, which at the moment is very icy, and a section through the woods, but also the unique washboards. However, there are also a lot of long straights which should certainly play to the strengths of riders with a strong finish if the weather is dry. Icy and snowy conditions are prevailing at the minute however! 

Icy Azencross!

(Gary McCaffery)

Like Zolder last week, the weather can play a huge part, turning difficult sections into hellish sections, a sprint into a solo victory. Last year, for example, Sven Nys broke away with some time left to win by 21 seconds to Rob Peeters, and Marianne Vos also soloed to the finish ahead of Katie Compton.

Map here

The Riders:

We still aren't seeing those rainbow bands of Zdenek Stybar, unfortunately. Lars Van der Haar, the winner in Zolder who looks in fantastic form at the moment, has pulled out with a cold. A real shame, as he would certainly be a favourite. Curiously enough, his Giant-Shimano (as they will just about be on December 30) team mate Ramon Sinkeldam, will be riding too, as he tweeted on Sunday. He has some CX history, coming second to Corné Van Kessel in the 2010 Dutch Under-23 National Championships. Klaas Vantornout has also pulled out with the same illness that has tormented him all month."Yesterday evening in Diegem, the cold had a bad influence on my airways. I did not sleep and today I felt that I had barely recovered. The race in Diegem went well but I was there to go deep," says the former Belgian champion. Also, Jens Adams, who placed a very good 6th in Diegem, is out with a bad cold.

The Favourites:

Kevin Pauwels: The World Cup winner is within shouting distance of all three trophies, and will certainly try his best for a victory here, as he is third, at 1'56" from Wout Van Aert. After a terrible start in Diegem, he came back to finish third, just behind Tom Meeusen. He has more series victories than any other rider, one of which was BPost race Hasselt.

Pauwels suffering

(Patrick Verhoest)

Stars: :Stars::Stars::Stars::Stars:

Wout Van Aert: Our favourite under-23 rider seems to be targeting the BPost Bank Trofee, as he has ridden every single round, winning 3 out of 5 and with a worst position of 7th. He leads the standings by 1'50" from Sven Nys after his dominant Essen victory. Essen was, however, his last elite race, but he had U23 success in Namur. He has only ridden 6 elite series races this year, and has won an outstanding 4. He took a day off in Diegem, resting up? Or could he be sick? His team announced that he'd be riding though, so will likely be on good form. The course will also suit his strong sprint.

Van Aert chases

(Patrick Verhoest)

Stars: :Stars::Stars::Stars::Stars:

Mathieu Van der Poel: Our other favourite under-23 rider is seemingly on excellent form coming into this race, after winning in Diegem on Sunday. He was very strong in going through the snow and ice, taking home a big victory, and the lead of the Superprestige classification. He also won in het Waasland a few weeks ago, and led the Namur U23 race, before crashing and losing to Van Aert.

Mathieu van der Poel

(Patrick Verhoest)

Stars: :Stars::Stars::Stars::Stars:

Tom Meeusen: Fidea's Tom Meeusen came second in Diegem, but had very poor form in its preceding World Cups, blowing up badly, especially in Zolder, where he came seventeenth. It's hard to tell if he has recovered, but if he has, he will provide a big challenge, his strong sprint is one of his major weapons. 

(Balint Hamvas)

Stars: :Stars::Stars::Stars:

Sven Nys: It's been a frustrating season for the legend Sven Nys. It started off so well, with victories in CrossVegas and Ronse, but then it went downhill. His last victory was on Armistice Day, in Niel, but after that he he has hardly finished on the podium. He finished 16th in Diegem, behind people who Sven Nys SIMPLY DOES NOT FINISH BEHIND. I feel sorry for him, but not enough to give him more than one star. 

Sven Nys in tunnel

Sven is going into the dark tunnel. (Patrick Verhoest)

Stars: :Stars:

Philipp Walsleben: If there was a rider who I would bet on to finish in the top ten of every single race, it would be Walsleben, who consistently manages good results, with the odd podium. He is never a big favourite for race wins, but he could change that. 

Philip Walsleben at Milton Keynes

(Bryn Lennon/Getty)

Stars: :Stars:

As for the women's race, there is a full startlist. Vos, Ferrand-Prevot, Nash, and a partridge in a pear tree are riding, so the race should certainly be entertaining.

The Favourites:

Marianne Vos: When isn't Marianne Vos a favourite? She has had an exemplary last three races, second in Namur, to get warmed up, followed by a brilliant win in Zolder, and another victory in Diegem. She should get her third win in 5 days on Tuesday.

Vos ahead of team-mate Prevot.

Stars: :Stars::Stars::Stars::Stars:

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot: The French champion started her season over a month ago and is still winless, despite countless second places, for example Diegem. She certainly deserves a victory, her rides have been excellent, but has she lost her chance? Vos has been very difficult to beat, and is here to stay until road season.

Prevot in Diegem

Stars: :Stars::Stars::Stars:

Katerina Nash: The Czech started her season at the same time as Vos and has been almost as successful, winning in Namur, second in Zolder and third in Diegem after a hard crash. While, in the dry this course may not suit her, she could be a factor, especially if the heavens open.

Nash chases

(Patrick Verhoest)

Stars: :Stars::Stars::Stars:

Sanne Cant: After the Belgian champion's barnstorming November, she is beginning to fade, as only can be expected. She came 7th in Zolder, after a problem with her brakes cost her two places. She is suffering from the after-effects of an illness, which prevented her from starting Diegem.

(Balint Hamvas)

Stars: :Stars::Stars:

Sophie De Boer: Sophie De Boer is riding well, 8th place in Zolder. While she may be unable to challenge Vos, a top 5 is on the cards.

Sophie de Boer

(Patrick Verhoest)

Stars: :Stars:

Both races are sure to be close - I can't choose between Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pauwels for the men's one! Tune in on Sporza, Tuesday at 3 o'clock CET, 2 o'clock GMT.