Friday 30 January 2009
I could go on for ages in a Sun/News of the World vein but won't. It is hard to tell whether this years World Cross Champs are wide open or whether they are actually a 2 horse race.
Certainly the 2 protaganists that occupy more column inches than most of the others put together are clearly on form - last weekends WC race in Milan turned into a sprint between Lars Boom and Sven Nys with the latter taking a perhaps surprising though deserved win. The fast race though had a large lead group in its closing stages and no one rider was able to break away from this group - more on this later.
Sven has had a history of croaking at the Worlds - either self-induced or with bad luck, as well as accusations that he is overtired by a hectic racing schedule by the time the end of Jan comes round. He is clearly hungry for another Worlds title and stung by the reticence of the Belgian public to class him with the greats at the moment because of his lack of rainbow success.
Lars Boom always set his sights on a World title, but he acheived it 1 year early in Treviso. This year (the year he originally wanted a title) is home turf year for extra motivation and he has not been quite as visible as Nys on the racing circuit, preferring to peak for certain races (Pijnacker, Niel etc). When doing so he has been untouchable and Hoggerheide will be no different.
Prince Niels Albert nearly took himself out of the game (for good) with a serious crash at Gavere and has been easing his way back in. He will be fresh for sure and has either been hiding in the pack just behind the front, getting the race training in, or simply struggling. He above all is the unknown quantity - good enough to win one dayfor sure, but good enough this year?
Bart Wellens has picked some good wins this year and lost some races that he perhaps should have won too - who knows how he will do?
Vervecken looked like he was doing his usual Xmas form finding exercise and won on his style of course at Roubaix but has not been consistent since Xmas - dont discount the old timer, though he may struggle when others are at the top of their game too.
Other possibles - Kevin Pauwels looks like the poor kid that got bullied at school but rides so elegantly (sehr elegant in Flemish!) and packs a mean sprint. He is also a superb bike handler - one of the best? Stybar has a riding style remiscent of an amphetamine enhanced 17 yr old at a hard house rave, but could do the business too? He was looking good at Milan. Vanthourenhout was also very active at Milan and clearly on form - would the other Belgians ride for him as he is Nys mate (a long involved stor for another post)? Klaas Vantornout has been sort of there all season, but not quite. Groenendaal is too old surely but on home turf and up there till the final selection recently in other races. His teammate Thys Al is getting better and better this season - he would have some national teammates to ride for him too.
Official Crossjunkie spies (Dave and Eric from the club) tell me the course was waterlogged last week and they were not allowed to ride on it by order of Adrie van der Poel himself so a muddy race is almost guaranteed. That will benefit Nys, Boom, Vervecken and Wellens in particular judging by the results from the earlier season mudbaths.
So, enough prevarication, what is the prediction that you've all been waiting for? No pressure here considering the 100% record of predictions so far from this source........
1 Ben Berden
2 Petr Dlask! ...............just kidding!
Bart will go out fighting but Boom looks like he will do the business, Pauwels is under-rated and threatening to break through big time (therefore my wild card result) and Vervecken can always get up there. Nys will be marked closely and may lose heart if he can't get away with Boom. He does not seem to have the power this season to ride away from the field like he used to, get a gap and keep it. Boom does though. The Belgians may not ride for him (Nys) like they would for Pauwels or Wellens due to past shenanigans with Groenendaal and Albert simply hasn't recovered enough (I think...).
The oracle has spoken. Whether it bears any relation to reality will remain to be seen.
Live coverage on Eurosport 2pm Sunday - I shall be there with a Duvel or 3 in hand to watch the showdown.
Update: Course conditions appear to be dry with minimal mud on the surface - forecast for frost but no heavy rain.
If conditions are faster then perhaps that throws it wider open??
Tuesday 27 January 2009
Oh and my club, Horwich retained the Team title for the 8th year running - my dream of being in the winning 3 counters is still some way off, but I'm working on it..............
Thursday 22 January 2009
Not quite in the same league as the PC vs Mac debate, or even Shimano vs Campag, this little teaser nonetheless has many similarities. Dugast are the industry leader in cyclocross tubulars, having been around in pole market position for years, but FMB offers a truly artisan, even quirky alternative for those who eschew the mainstream and wish to make a statement about their own taste and style.
Actually that's crap because though produced in larger quantities, Dugast could hardly be described as mainstream in the cluttered world of cross tires, but you get my drift?
Having used or tried both types (in different specs), I feel I am vaguely qualified to comment on their relative merits and qualities and the following may make interesting reading for anyone thinking of splashing out their last credit crunch spends on some cotton, latex and rubber. Any comments on the performance of the tubs come with a health warning - I am not an elite rider, nor amongst the most technically gifted BUT I am an enthusiast and have been riding cross competitively at one level or another for a good few years now so hopefully my opinion is worth something.
Dugast used to reflect it's founder - Monsieur Andre Dugast's little company in a shed, known amongst the pro cogniscienti and not many others. Famous (amongst those in the knowat least)in Europe on both the road and the cross scene, the best riders would beat a path to his door for their handmade weapons of choice, a situation which remains unchanged even in todays sponsor obligated pro circuit. Brother Nys and his adversaries still pay for their own tubs, though probably at a discount as long as they do not upset 'Old Man' Richard Groenendaal who part owns the company now!
FMB have grown much bigger now but Francois has positioned the brand as artisan made, the only truly artisan tub manufacturer left. His tubs, though of superb quality have yet to seriously challenge Dugast in terms of volume sales.
Typhoon - the classic tread pattern also used by Grifos. Suitable for most mixed courses.
Pipistrello - white diamond pattern for sandy, frozen or very dry courses. Old model had side knobs, new does without.
Rhino - knkown as a specialist mud tire primarily, though they work well on most other surfaces. Reduced clogging and great grip due to aggressive side knobs.
Flying Doctor - in Typhoon or Pipistrello versions. Softer white tread (than a normal Typhoon) but with a stiffer casing to allow lower pressures but higher speeds. Best on faster courses with less mud.
SSC - all purpose tub. The tread is a combination of Typhoon centre and Rhino side lugs, more aggressive than a Typhoon but less so than a Rhino.
SSC Sprint - diamond tread with aggressive side knobs.
SuperPrestige - orange latex side wall, puncture resistent band under tread. In SSC or Sprint tread.
SSC Pro - thin super supple latex wall. Like the old Pink Dugasts from yesteryear.
World Cup - Limited Edition silk walled tub.
Special editions - send your tread to Francois. I did this with a green Michelin mud tread and the result is striking!
How do they compare?
I have ridden Dugast Typhoons and Rhinos, FMB SSC, FMB Superprestige Sprint and Superprestige SSC. I started my journey through the tub world with Tufos - the coloured Prestige and then Flexus (now Cubus). The Flexus was a revelation compared to clinchers and the other Tufos, in terms of its suppleness. On getting Typhoons, I realised there was a whole new world out there of low pressure and grip to be had as they were a quantum leap above in terms of suppleness.
Rhinos certainly set the benchmark in terms of mud tubs - they grip in anything and at any angle. Even with an average rider such as myself, I can tell a big difference in the grip levels compared to normal tubs let alone clinchers, as long as the pressure is low enough. The FMB carcasses are definitely as supple as a Dugast, the benchmark for such criteria and they are straight and well glued/sown together.
On balance I feel the FMBs are the better tubs. They are more durable (ie better made) than the Dugast, the standard SSC version is almost as grippy as a Rhino and the Sprints grip like the proverbial to a blanket even in quite slippy mud. In the orange latex SP version, they are simply superb as the walls are proofed against rotting and punctures and operate like a Dugast Flying Doctor Typhoon or Pipistrello allowing lower pressures without folding over.
So why this season did I use Rhinos for the bulk of the races I did? Simply because the Rhino tread is the best out there for NW mud (and probably any other mud come to think of it). This season has to have been the muddiest for a good few years(?). The ultimate tub then? It would have to be an FMB SP casing, 32mm with Rhino tread - special order from Francois.
I actually had a pair of these made up by Francois in green SP 34mm using the treads off my first pair of Dugast Rhinos. They are superb, though I messed up ordering them in 34 rather than the more appropriate 32 - the 34 front can feel a bit cumbersome in the mud, though better when it is rougher. They are still fantastic though and will see many years of service.
FMBs (and Dugasts) are best ordered through John Holmes of Cyclocross Imports who usually has stock in and is in regular contact with FMB. He also carries a delectable range of specialist cross gear from frames to zipped legwarmers - contact details on http://www.empella.co.uk/
Tuesday 20 January 2009
He didn't wipe out, just - for comparison Boom and Stybar are not far behind on the right, and Nys is further down the field in the all white of the World Cup Leader jersey. Boom and Stybar, 2 of the finest cross riders in the world, simply look slow in contrast. Enjoy the chaos in the pits afterwards.
Apologies for the watermark - having issues with the licence for the software.........
2nd lap, Bart is still out there giving it some.....
Monday 19 January 2009
Friday 16 January 2009
and now the Belgian Championships from Ruddervoorde.
Thursday 15 January 2009
It was E's first cross race and she was impatient for the off. Lining up at the back of the grid, barriers stretching ahead down the road and the PA blaring it might have been a bit intimidating for a 4 yr old but she wasn't fazed and had a look of steely determination. After the gun, there were the usual near misses you get with a bunch of u10s riding in close proximity, but then she was into a rhythm with a steady hand in the back as 12 inch wheels, a fixed gear and stabilisers were not much help into the fierce wind down the home straight. She made it round the lap in style, being lapped close to the finish and thereby avoiding subjecting her puffing Dad to a second lap. It was a great kids course and there was a real atmosphere because of all the people, course furniture and PA - she loved it and is keen to go back for more. J rode well after being a little overawed by it all at the start and finished in the top 20.
Unfortunately we missed most of the women's race and left for home before the men's - those races are well documented on the British Cycling website. However, Carolyn Wright from Horwich got 5th Ladies Vet and I suspect at least a silver in the V50 category, and Dave Haygarth http://3pcx.blogspot.com from here in Lancs rode a great race to finish 24th, backing up a Wheelbase Team win with Lewis C and Jebby. Paul Oldham, another of Lancashire's favourites also showed real class to get a silver but overall honours went to a Southerner that a certain blog writer had tipped the week before for a win.
There was indeed an air of smugness in the crossjunkie household that evening, though we shall see if the promising tipster can get it right for the Worlds in a few weeks...................
Wednesday 14 January 2009
Wednesday 7 January 2009
Tuesday 6 January 2009
Photo: Jonathon Watson
However, this is an exciting time of year for cross with National Champs everywhere this weekend and the build up to the Worlds weekend straddling Jan and Feb so I couldnt stay away for too long.
I even managed a return to racing after not riding a race competitively since the end of Oct! Crikey where did all my plans for a good season go?
As for our own National Champs, I am going to get into the prediction game briefly and go with Helen Wyman for the Womens (not too much risk there as she podiumed recently in Belgium over Christmas) and stick my neck out for the following Mens result:
Jody Crawforth has been racking up some very good results on the quiet over in Euroland during the Christmas break - if he can do that there with all the faffing it entails then he can produce it back here. He is a class act who can break through I suspect and besides, I have bought a Race X Lite tub wheel off him in the past which was a bargain - nice guy.
Hammond is always a threat but has, as ever done very little except in recent weeks. You can't rule him out for another win though.
I watched Bibby walk the race at Todmorden and he was going well at Macc I hear over Christmas - apparently he looked significantly fresher than some big names last Sunday as he won the Revolution Cross. Food for thought?
I'll probably be hopelessly wrong but will be there in Bradford to see how wrong I really am.