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Cyclo-Cross World Cup #9 - CDM

Milan, Italy, January 25, 2009

It's a wrap

By Peter Hymas

Sven Nys sewed up his lead in the World Cup.
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The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup concludes this Sunday with its ninth and final round taking place in Milan, Italy. The overall World Cup champions have already been decided at the previous event in Roubaix, France where Sven Nys and Hanka Kupfernagel each accumulated enough points to create an insurmountable lead in their respective Elite men's and women's series. On Sunday, Nys and Kupfernagel will make their final appearance of the season resplendent in the white World Cup leader's skinsuit, a kit reserved for World Cup events only.

The Under 23 men and Junior men have already concluded their abbreviated, four-race World Cup series in Roubaix, France. The German Philipp Walsleben dominated the U23 World Cup with victories at each venue, Tabor, Pijnacker, Zolder and Roubaix, while the Netherlands' Tijmen Eising nearly duplicated the feat, winning three of four Junior men's events.

While the overall series champions are not in doubt, the Milan World Cup still provides an opportunity to earn a prestigious win, fine-tune the form one last time prior to the world championships and solidify, or perhaps better, one's position on the world championship starting grid by earning valuable UCI points. Additionally, there's the overall World Cup purse to finalize with the top-25 men and top-10 women in the series taking home prize money.

Sven Nys took control of the World Cup at the fourth round in Koksijde, benefiting from the absence of previous leader Niels Albert due to injury, and has consistently built his lead during the reminder of the World Cup season. Nys won twice, in Kalmthout and Igorre, finished on the podium four other times and never crossed the finish line lower than sixth place, amassing 540 points in the process.

The pressure is now on Nys, the leader of all major 'cross rankings (UCI, World Cup, Superprestige and Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy), to emerge from Milan free of injury or health issues in preparation for the world championships, a race he's won on only one occasion in the Elite men's category.

While Nys's familiar position atop the World Cup standings went unchanged after Roubaix, the remainder of the top-25 shuffled positions. A trio of Fidea Cycling Team riders, Bart Wellens, Zdenek Stybar and Kevin Pauwels, still hold second through fourth overall. Wellens and Stybar each moved up one position to second and third respectively while Pauwels dropped from second to fourth on account of his 20th place finish in Roubaix. All three Fidea riders have finished on World Cup podiums this season and the Milan finale will provide a last opportunity to attain the victory which has eluded them thus far.

Erwin Vervecken was the big upwards mover in the overall standings, jumping from 10th to fifth position on account of his victory in the recent Roubaix World Cup. Vervecken has won two World Cup races in a single season for the first time in his career and will be looking to potentially win a third in Milan, prior to the possibility of adding a fourth world championship to his palmares in one week's time.

World champion Lars Boom experienced some mechanical difficulties in the sloppy conditions at Roubaix while riding with eventual winner Vervecken and will look to confirm his fitness and equipment one week prior to defending his world title.

Italian champion Enrico Franzoi enters the Milan World Cup at 31st place overall in the standings, having competed in only four of the eight World Cups to date, but can't be discounted as a dark horse contender at the only Italian venue of the series.

Kupfernagel's consistency reigns supreme

Hanka Kupfernagel defended her lead
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On the women's side, Hanka Kupfernagel, too, wrapped up the season's World Cup title the previous weekend in Roubaix, France with her second place finish to Katie Compton. Kupfernagel never finished worse than second place throughout the entire World Cup campaign, amassing 370 points by winning twice and finishing in second place five times. The current world and German champion will be looking to contest the Milan World Cup without incident in preparation to defend her world title in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands the next weekend.

Daphny Van Dan Brand has locked up second place overall, having won the first round in Kalmthout and finishing on the podium in Koksijde, Zolder and Roubaix. Van Den Brand will be striving to bookend her World Cup season with victories, perhaps gaining a confidence boost prior to the world championships on her home soil in the Netherlands.

The one notable absence from the women's Milan start list is Katie Compton, who will finish the World Cup series in third place overall. Compton, winner of three World Cups, has decided to skip the final round in Milan in order to better prepare for the following weekend's world championship. Speaking to the press in Roubaix, Compton said, "With my leg injury in mind, flying there [Milan] would take away five training days and with the world championships coming up I can't do that."

The remainder of the top ten in the World Cup standings remained largely unchanged following the Roubaix, France round. The Czech Pavla Havlikova remains in fourth overall ahead of two Frenchwomen Maryline Salvetat and Christel Ferrier-Bruneau. British 'cross champion Helen Wyman moved up to seventh overall with a sixth place finish in Roubaix, leaping over the Netherlands' Sanne van Paassen and Saskia Elemans.

Marianne Vos moved up to 11th place overall with her fourth place finish in Roubaix and will be a threat for victory in Milan. Vos is a late-comer to the World Cups, having skipped the first four events, but the former 'cross world champion won in Zolder and can't be discounted in Milan or the upcoming world championship.