The first cyclocross World Cup in Valkenburg last year had plenty of Ďfirstsí. It was the first World Cup race of the season, it was the first World Cup edition of a race that had been held as Caubergcross in previous years. It was the first World Cup win of Lars van der Haar, in his first, proper year among the elite men and it was the first big race in Europe, that was won on a disc-brake equipped bike.
It was my first visit there last year and I immediately liked the course. It resembles quite a lot to last weekís arena in Ronse, lots of ups and downs, fast and tricky descents alternate with short but steep uphill sections. On a dry day, the pace will be fast and furious.
Compton arrives in Europe after a string of wins in the US, and apart from Crossvegas, she has raced through the early part of the season unbeaten. While she will have to manage the effects of jet lag, she is the prime pick for the win.
Wyman has had a similarly successful start of the season, picking a number of wins and she arrived back last week from America, so she had more time to recover of that. She won in síHertogenbosch, finished second in Ronse, on a course that is rather similar to Valkenburg.
While we all know that it is pointless to ask what if this or that happened, but if Harrisí chain didnít snap mid-race in Ronse, things could have turned out differently for her. The course is similar, she is in good form, so I can see here easily at least matching last yearís third place, if not a better place.
Sophie de Boer
Lars van der Haar
Winning on home soil is always a huge motivation, and van der Haar will do everything he can to win here. His biggest threat in Superprestige and Bpost Bank Trofee, Mathieu van der Poel will race against the U23, Sven Nys had a funny stomach on Thursday – Iím not saying itís going to be an easy win for him, but these two guys have been his biggest rivals so far in the season. Add the motivation to win on home soil and it makes him the favourite in my eyes.
Powers had a similarly great season start in the States as Compton. A clean sweep so far and he was the only rider who was able to keep up with van der Haar and Nys in Crossvegas. The course should suit him, though the running might be a bit too much for him. If he has got a good day, he can finish high.
Warm, maybe even hot, and no rain. Not your normal Ďcross weather but it will definitely be a nice day out.
Where to watch
Donít forget that you can watch the World Cup races live on UCIís Youtube channel, so tune in for some great racing on Sunday.
Elite Women Ė LIVE from13:20-14:30 CET
Elite Men Ė LIVE from 14:50-16:20 CET
If you havenít seen it yet, check out my coffee table album about the 2013/2014 cyclocross season. It is an exclusive chronicle of the 13/14 season on 240 high-quality, colourful pages.