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Cyclo-Cross World Cup #5 - CDM
Igorre, Spain, December 2, 2007
By Laura Weislo
Round five of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup heads south from the cold, rainy heart of 'cross to the slightly less cold but equally wet Igorre, Spain. Located outside Bilbao near Spain's Atlantic coast, which is due to see steady rain all weekend, the course should make for a suitably sloppy affair.
The Spanish round only offers a World Cup event for Elite Men, which will be headed up by all the usual suspects: UCI leader Sven Nys, who is coming off a win in the Koksijde World Cup, where he played a conservative card, waiting until the last lap to ride away from the front group to take the win. Nys won last year's race in Igorre by a large margin over compatriot Bart Wellens (Fidea), but this year Nys' wins have been a tad less dominant.
In the mud, Nys will get strong competition from Wellens, who won the extraordinarily muddy Jaarmarktcross Niel. When the mud gets thick and derailleurs get gummed up, riders with strong running abilities have an edge, and Wellens is one of the best runners on the circuit.
One can not discount the World Champion Erwin Vervecken, who is also strong on the run, and whose diesel seems to be back firing on all cylinders. Vervecken scored his first World Cup podium in Koksijde, putting in a huge effort on the last lap to catch and pass his Fidea team-mate Klaas Vantornout.
Vantornout, who will leave Fidea for the Sunweb Pro Job team next season, will be looking to impress his new employers, while future team-mate Sven Vanthourenhout will also be on the hunt for the good results which have eluded him this season.
Another rider to watch out for is Nys' young team-mate Lars Boom. The Dutch champion rode a spectacular race to capture the World Cup round three in the goopy muck of Pijnacker, so if Nys suffers a mechanical or has an off day, the Rabobank squad has a solid backup plan.
Wildcards could come in the form of the experienced Richard Groenendaal and Fidea's Czech riders Petr Dlask and Zdenek Stybar, all of whom are strong in the mud. Groenendaal, a former World Champion (2000) left Rabobank this year to forge ahead on his own after living in Nys' shadow. While he's been lacking a bit in the final laps, he shouldl be building his form toward the World Championships and could surprise.
Regardless of form, technical skills and running abilities, all the riders will have to have one thing on their side in Igorre, and that is luck. Last year a crash held up many of the top favourites on the first lap, and mud is never friendly to drive trains. With a course as twisty as the one in Igorre, chases will be difficult until the last third of the circuit where there is more room to move up.