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Cyclo-Cross World Cup #8 - CDM

Roubaix, France, January 18, 2009

Hell of the North, 'cross-style

By Peter Hymas

World Cup leader Sven Nys
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The eighth round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup takes place this Sunday in Roubaix, France, on the grounds of the legendary Roubaix velodrome, a locale synonymous with professional cyclists battling the elements and crossing the finish line covered in mud.

While the legendary Paris-Roubaix classic doles out the suffering over expanses of pavé in northern France, the cyclo-cross edition of Roubaix concentrates all of the mud and adverse terrain on the grounds of the Roubaix velodrome, albeit with the same velodrome finish line.

The Roubaix World Cup will be the penultimate event for the Elite men and Elite women, while the U23 and Junior men conclude their abbreviated four-race World Cup season.

Sven Nys comfortably leads the men's World Cup and will wear the white leader's skinsuit at next weekend's final event in Milan, Italy even if he fails to score a single point in Roubaix. Only six other elite men have a mathematical chance of dethroning Nys for the series title and Nys only needs to accumulate 78 points in the final two rounds to clinch the World Cup. Nys has finished on the podium in five of the first seven World Cup races and has never finished worse than sixth place, so barring catastrophe Nys should wrap up the World Cup in first place.

The battle for the remaining two podium positions in the World Cup is still up for grabs with three Fidea Cycling Team riders, Kevin Pauwels, Bart Wellens and Zdenek Stybar occupying second through fourth in the standings, separated by only 32 points. Pauwels achieved his best World Cup finish of the season, a second place finish, at the previous round in Zolder, Belgium as part of a surprising break with eventual winner Thijs Al and Sven Vanthourenhout. Pauwel's finish moved him into second place overall ahead of teammate Bart Wellens by a single point margin. Zdenek Stybar's fifth place finish in Zolder allowed him to maintain his fourth place overall in the World Cup.

Thijs Al vaulted from tenth to fifth overall in the World Cup standings with his win in Zolder and looks to continue his momentum into Roubaix, although he will likely not be granted as much leeway by the favorites in this edition. World champion and recently crowned Dutch national champion Lars Boom finished fourth in Zolder, the first of the chase group ahead of Stybar, Nys and Wellens, and looked extremely comfortable in separating himself from his chase group companions on the final lap.

Prior to this year's World Cup at Roubaix, the Grand Prix Lille Métropole cyclo-cross race took place at the Roubaix velodrome parcours from 2006 to 2008 and was dominated by Erwin Vervecken, twice a winner and once a second place finisher. Although the competition wasn't as deep as a World Cup, Vervecken seemingly knows how to win in Roubaix and will look to his experience and savvy to perhaps return to the podium for a fourth consecutive year in Roubaix.

Frenchman Francis Mourey was also a member of the winning break in the Zolder, Belgium World Cup until a crash late in the race forced him to retire. Look for Mourey to once again be a factor in the final World Cup race of the season on French soil.

Women's trio fights out World Cup

Hanka Kupfernagel (Itera)
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On the women's side, Hanka Kupfernagel continues to lead the women's World Cup ahead of the Netherlands' Daphny Van Den Brand and American Katie Compton, second and third respectively. Katie Compton had won two straight World Cups before succumbing to the Netherlands' Marianne Vos, winner of the most recent World Cup at Zolder, Belgium.

Vos is a latecomer to the World Cup season, having skipped the first four rounds, and the extremely fast Zolder circuit played into her strengths, allowing her to uncork a devastating sprint to finish ahead of breakaway companions Kupfernagel, Van Den Brand and Compton in the final meters. The weather forecast for this weekend calls for rain, which should create a muddy, slippery venue in Roubaix, conditions which favor the abilities of Compton.

The German Kupfernagel and Dutch Van Ben Brand each won national championships last weekend, as did France's Maryline Salvetat, fifth overall in the World Cup, confirming they're on form as the world championships loom in two week's time. Fellow American Rachel Lloyd will also line up in Roubaix, France alongside Compton, and her seventh place finish in the Zolder World Cup confirms solid form as well.

Philipp Walsleben wins the World Cup round in Zolder
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The Under 23 men's World Cup's fourth and final race takes place in Roubaix and the series has been dominated by German Philipp Walsleben, winner of all three World Cup races this season in Tabor, Pijnacker and Zolder. In fact, Walsleben has already clinched the series and doesn't need to score a point in Roubaix to win overall.

Frenchman Aurelien Duval, second overall in the World Cup standings, and Arnaud Jouffroy, recently crowned French U23 champion and fourth in the World Cup, will try to rev up the partisan Roubaix crowd as they race the sole U23 World Cup on French soil. Belgian Kenneth Van Compernolle, Czech Ondrej Bambula and Italian Cristian Cominelli, third, fifth and sixth in the World Cup, all finished in the same time as Walsleben in Zolder and will look to put a new face on the U23 winner's podium in Roubaix.

Similar to the Under 23 men, the Junior men's World Cup also concludes in Roubaix with the series' fourth and final round. Unlike the Under 23 men, however, the overall series is still up for grabs among the top four. Dutchman Tijmen Eising leads with 165 points, having won two of the three rounds to date, fellow Dutchman and recently crowned Junior national champion Lars Van Der Haar lies in second while Belgians Wietse Bosmans, the new national champion, and Sean De Bie reside in third and fourth overall. Each could potentially win the World Cup and just as importantly ensure a front row start at the upcoming world championships.

The World Cups are particularly important for the U23 and Junior men since the front of the starting grid at the world championships is determined by World Cup ranking alone. The top 16 U23 men and top eight Junior men in the World Cup standings going into the world championships will line up first on the start line. The Elite men's and women's start grid positions are determined by UCI ranking, although the World Cups are heavily weighted in the UCI rankings encouraging those wishing to start at the front of the field to participate in as many World Cups as possible.