At a glance at a results sheet of this year's CX races, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Sanne Cant was the dominant force in the sport this season, and...you wouldn't be entirely wrong. However, she is by no means a nailed-on worlds winner. (like somebody I could mention, but won't. All I'll say is that his father is named Adrie.) Last year I wrote a piece about Cant's strategy for the season. She won eight races in November, and dominated for a few months before Vos, Ferrand-Prevot and Nash came on the scene in December, but still came second in the worlds. However, she's not necessarily going to win on Saturday.
Why She Won't Win:
1. Recent Resurgence: Sophie de Boer has really got into a bit of form recently, winning Hoogerheide by a street, and beating Cant to the victory in Leuven. She hasn't been on top form all season, nor have Stultiens, Wyman, Harris, Lechner or a host of other riders. If a single one of them does ride to 100% of their capabilities, as they all have in at least one race this season, Cant could be in trouble.
2. Form Failing? While the field has been sparse, Cant has been on top form since mid-November, and how long can that continue? She hasn't won by huge margins in January, her wins usually coming in small denominations of seconds, and in recent history, November wins haven't boded well for wins in January.
3. Muddy Madness (Maybe): There is a very good chance of rain in Zolder this week, and Cant is better in dry conditions, not winning races on muddier tracks like Hamme (where she lost to Wyman), Namur (where Harris took the spoils) and Hoogerheide on Sunday. There's an inverse relationship between the height of a Zolder rain gauge and Can't chances of pulling on rainbow stripes.
4. Compton Competence: Katie Compton, despite having a very poor season this year, had one good race - in Zolder, where she finished second. She beat Cant in 2013 as well in Zolder. Form is temporary, class is permanent. And Compton hasn't even shown her form since that moment, citing illness or mechanical problems. The second place on December 26th proves Compton has it in her to challenge, and wouldn't that be an epic battle?
5. Hoogerheide Hindrances: Cant was nowhere near top form in Hoogerheide. Yes, she might have been sandbagging, but is there a point to sandbagging when you know whatever happens you will be standing on the podium at the end of the race? Also, she seemed to fall back somehow, from third to fourth to fifth. Could she be flagging at the end of the season?
Why She Will Win:
1. Season Success: You simply cannot deny that Cant has been the best rider of the season. While she has had off-days, on form, no one can stick on her wheel, at least no one who's going to be in Zolder at the weekend.
2. Zolder, er, Zenith? Cant won in Zolder on December 26th, excelling on the power sections of the course. While it was one of her narrowest wins of the season, it's difficult to say she's unsuited to the course. If the weather gods frown on cyclocross this weekend especially, the course will only lack sand to make it an ideal race for her.
3. Sparse Startlist: Cant was one of the top four favourites to win last year. Those were Marianne Vos, Katerina Nash and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, the eventual champion. Not one of those three are competing on Saturday, citing a variety of reasons, which - as it has done all season - leaves the door open for Cant.
4. Collective Conclusion: Even Helen Wyman and Thalita De Jong, riders who will be against Cant in the worlds have said that she is the big favourite to win.
5. Form Focused: Cant says she has been focussing on the worlds all season.
Will Cant win the world championships against the competition of Lechner, De Boer and other talents? Let us know in the comments!