Sven Nys leads Niels Albert at the 2012 race at Zolder, courtesy Sven Nys.com
The races come thick and fast over the Christmas period in the Cyclocross, with FOUR races between now and New Years Day, two in the UCI World Cup and two in the BPost Bank Trofee. We’ll look at the first two today (GP Erik De Vlaemink at Zolder and Azencross at Loenhout), and the next two the day after tomorrow.
The first of those, the World Cup at Zolder takes place at a motor racing circuit which hosted Formula 1 from 1973 to 1984, and owing to this there’s a pretty long start finish straight with one bridge. It doesn’t have quite the history of some of the older races (8 editions in total, the first being raced in 2000) or the craziness of some of the newers like Namur, but 16,000 are expected for a day of races, frites and beer.
Last week’s round at Namur has given the World Cup a bit of a shake - Lars van der Haar extended his lead over 2nd place Philipp Walsleben, but the top 5 riders are separated by 30 points. Nonetheless, Van der Haar can be expected to do well on a fast, well kept course like this, and with just two rounds after this (and one of these is in Rome, and not known to be difficult terrain) he should have enough to keep his nose in front.
It might not be hard enough for Albert, Vantornout or Pauwels to distance Walsleben also, so he may well cling on to 2nd for now. He’ll also have his younger brother Max for company on the start line for the first time. Coverage kicks off from 13h20 CET on the UCI’s youtube channel.
image courtesy sport.be/azencross
Friday’s race is the Azencross at Loenhout. The last 3 editions have been won by Niels Albert and with a win today, he’ll equal Sven Nys’s record number of 5 wins, one of the few courses this may happen on. In the overall classification, he’s a mere 1m06 down. No-one has won a race by more than half a minute so far this season, but given Nys’s run of poor luck so far, Albert could well close the gap a touch with 4 races to go.
The last edition of the Azencross was incredibly muddy, and given the recent poor weather in northern Europe, we can expect more of the same slippy conditions this weekend. Nys will be the fresher of the bunch, with nothing great to race for in the World Cup, but Albert will have perhaps the greatest motivation of the rest.
While he may have got the better of Nys last time here, Nys had to deal with a crash on the 2nd lap, leaving him a good number of placings to catch up. Albert is my tip for the win, with Nys not far enough behind to lose the GC lead in the BPost Bank Trofee. Given the competition visits Nys’s home race in Baal later in the series, he has a very good chance of winning the overall.
Race coverage of the Azencross starts at 14h45 CET on 27th December