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Cyclo-Cross World Cup #2 - CDM

Tabor, Czech Republic, October 26, 2008

World Cup battle expands in Tabor

By Laura Weislo

Nys was undone by the Fidea team in Tabor in 2006
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The second round of the Cyclo-cross World Cup in the Czech Republic will see a couple firsts: the race will add three categories to its previously elite men only format: juniors, U23 men and women, and for the first time in years the leader in the series, rather than the UCI rankings leader, will be recognized with a special jersey now that the UCI has reinstituted the separate series leader board. And who better to take the #1 spot in the elite men's ranks than Sven Nys?

Nys assumed his normal position at the top of the ladder, but looked a bit more vulnerable in the opening round at Kalmthout than normal, perhaps due to the fact that he bashed his face in a crash the day before. Yet Nys, ever the fierce competitor, glued himself to the wheel of Niels Albert, who is making his elite category debut, and came around him on the line to take the win and the white World Cup jersey.

Albert will be looking for revenge in Tabor, but will have to keep an eye not only on the defending champion, Nys, but also on the local hero, Radomir Simunek Jr. who won this race two years ago. They all could fear the oncoming form of world champion Lars Boom (Rabobank), who for the first year is on a separate team from Nys, who now rides for Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner. The fast course could well suit the Dutch rider, who is coming into the 'cross season late after a successful road season.

But what of the previously dominant Fidea team? Former world champions Bart Wellens and Erwin Vervecken have yet to hit their stride, and neither one has tasted victory this season. Instead, the team's glory has come from Kevin Pauwels, who took third in Kalmthout and Petr Dlask, who took the team's sole elite 2008-2009 season win in one of the Czech TOI TOI cup rounds.

Belgian U23 cyclocross champion Tom Meeusen of the Fidea team
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In lieu of impressive results from its senior members, the Fidea team has seen great promise from its young rider, Tom Meussen, the Belgian champion who has taken two of the four U23 UCI races this season - in Zonhoven and Neerpelt. With the graduation of Albert into the elite ranks, Meussen has poised himself for a run at the espoir World Cup, which opens in Tabor, but will be challenged by Sunweb-Projob's Czech hopeful, Lukas Kloucek, who is second in the UCI rankings.

The women's series sees its second race on Sunday, making its first appearance in the Czech Republic. The Netherlands' Daphny Van den Brand is in the familiar position as number one. She's encountering the unusually early surge from world champion Hanka Kupfernagel, who normally comes into the season slower after a full road calendar. Kupfernagel challenged for the win in Kalmthout, much to her own surprise, and will be a threat.

The Czechs also have a contender in the women's race, thanks to Pavla Havlikova, the 25-year-old who surprised everyone with her third place in Kalmthout. She's at the right age for a break-through season, and will be a rider to watch. Former world champion Maryline Salvetat and her countrywomen Christel Ferrier-Bruneau and Nadia Triquet-Claude were also formidable in the opening World Cup round, and could well use their strength in numbers to overpower the competition.

Finally, the Junior men open their World Cup in the expanded proceedings in Tabor. There are only four races for U23 and Junior men in the World Cup: Tabor, Pijnacker, Hofstade and Roubaix, so the riders will have to make every race count. Current UCI leader, Evan Guthrie of Canada, obtained his lead through his country's earlier than normal championship title and a win in the Jim Horner GP, while second placed Karel Hnik (Czech Republic) took two wins in Lebbeke and Louny.

The rolling, technical course which features a stepped flyover, sand pit and earthen berm as its main obstacles should be fairly fast after a week of dry weather and a forecast of sun and light winds on Sunday.