If you haven’t listened to the PodCafSt where Conor and I give our predictions on the men’s elite CX World Championships race Sunday... well, do that. But if you don’t know for sure what we predicted, you can probably guess that it involves flipping a coin.
In the meantime, however, a lot of other things are about to happen, and we’d like to start rounding up some predictions about what those might be. Remember, fear is not an option when making predictions. Grip it and rip it, as some might say. [Obviously I’m not a golfer.]
- Lars van der Haar will do something that will make us fall in love with him all over again. Van der Haar is an aggressive and experienced rider, and while his miserable lack of a season probably leaves his tank a bit too empty on this very demanding course for him to grab a medal, he will at least remind us all that he hasn’t gone anywhere, and stands to be a legit contender — Big Two or no Big Two — for some prestigious wins later this year. And in the process, he’ll show us a thing or two about why handling matters.
- US Champ Stephen Hyde will be worth keeping an eye on. I admit to knowing very little about him, but he’s ranked 12th in the world, and won the US championship on a frozen course. American ‘crossers should be well accustomed to snow and ice by now. So if the Bieles track remains firm, Hyde might be among those to take advantage.
- Actually the American with the best chance at a medal, based on UCI rankings at least, would be Ellen Noble of the U23 women’s race. At 10th overall (including U23 and Elite), she’s ranked higher than anyone taking the start in the event. Her teammate Emma White is #21 overall, putting her the third-highest-ranked in the U23 race, just behind Belgium’s Laura Verdonschot. Katie Compton is ranked #3, but that’s with Marianne Vos slotted at 11th overall (due to small number of races), so realistically Compton comes in at #4. Denzel Stephenson is #4 among junior men, making him another to watch.
- Christine Marjerus will make her presence felt in some way. It's clichéd to mention the home favourite, but Marjerus has performed well in the world championships for the last couple of years, finishing ninth in both Tabor and Zolder. At home, on an unpredictable course with crashes likely, Marjerus, who is having her best cyclocross season to date with a victory in Otegem the highlight can challenge for a high placing, if not a podium finish. She's Luxembourg's best chance at these worlds.
- Laura Verdonschot will get Belgium's first gold medal of the worlds. Verdonschot, racing with the under-23 women, has shown up well in the pro races, and despite Ellen Noble beating her in the World Cup, my money would be on Verdonschot in one day of racing. In fact, I would call Evie Richards, defending champion and sixth place finisher in Hoogerheide, Verdonschot's main competitor.
- No titles will be defended. Jens Dekker and Thalita De Jong obviously can't defend theirs, but Wout Van Aert, Eli Iserbyt and Evie Richards all are. I don't think any of them will win their targeted races, despite podium finishes being likely for all three.
- Katerina Nash will fill the bottom step of the women's podium. She's not had the greatest season (understandable, as the person she finished on the same time as in Hoogerheide, Evie Richards, is exactly half her age), but she's used to tricky terrain and even snow as a former skier and mountain biker. A second place in Fiuggi and another decent placing in Hoogerheide show she's got the form, and while I don't think she'll be equal to Vos or Cant, she should beat out the rest of the field.
OK, who else has predictions to offer?