Tuesday 26 January 2010


Ooops, a couple of weeks turned into several. Writers block, losing my mojo? Or just not being in the mood....... Apologies, anyway.

The cross season for me has been a productive and engrossing one - more of which later. For now, it is only appropriate to indulge in that yearly pursuit of 'predict the Wereldkampion'.

As a (relatively) well informed watcher of the Euro scene via a constant stream of self generated DVDs, I've enjoyed this season more than previous ones. Racing has been on the whole tighter, less predicatable and not dominated by the patron Nys, more shared between some evenly matched protaganists. Nys at the top of his game is unbeatable. But his conditie hasn't been top all the time. Either deliberate, or age induced, others have been allowed in on a regular basis, so much so that he relinquished his World Cup crown to Stybar on Sunday at Hoogerheide and has not had the same crushing tally of victories as previously.

Albert was always going to thrust his prodigious talent to the fore after the Worlds triumph last January, and for a time, in the early season, I was in danger of losing interest as he looked likely to be running away with the season as a whole, courtesy of numerous definitive victories. However, the others, notably Nys and Stybar wised up or shaped up and he has not been able to ride away with impunity so often. Sure, his attacks are usually devastating, but not always conclusive of late. I have been amazed by his lack of mental strength at times - more than once a bit of bad luck or minor mechanical has had him losing the plot, most famously launching a bike at his pit crew in the middle of a tantrum. Compare that with Nys who has had some crucial crashes or mechanicals and made the best of the situation with great determination and fortitude.

Superb photos including this one can be found at www.cyclephotos.co.uk

Stybar for me, has been the most exciting rider. Sure he has not dominated in the way Albert has at times, nor Nys with his treademark late surge, but he has raced in a savvy and consistent way, picking up good placings and going for the wins when his confidence and condition came together. I love his style, all effort and commitment from gun to tape. The Belgians like him too, particularly now he speaks pretty good Flemish.......

Bart Wellens has been largely absent and hugely missed by me - some recent promising results still won't be enough to salvage a ruined season. Next year, Bart!

And to the Worlds? Here's my prediction:

Nys wins, only just, ahead of Stybar and de Knecht – dramatic last lap, Nys with one of his awesome do or die efforts gets in just ahead of a charging Stybar who has been aggressive all race.

De Knecht has been consistent all season and it pays off with a podium place. Well deserved.

Albert? Gets a bad start (again), chases up to leading group, bobbles or has minor mechanical, throws a tantrum and finishes off the podium.

There you have it.

And so to domestic matters........

A select dose of racing this season yielded some gratifying results in a couple of races and the following information, to be filed away for future seasons:

Green Michelin Mud on FMB casings rock - better grip, better handling in atrocious conditions than even a Rhino (which I still love). When, oh when, will someone bring back the Michelin tread of old. Simply the best mud tread ever.

Play with your pressure and learn to go as low as you dare. Though I dont know the true accuracy of my track pump, it was reading 20psi for the ice and 23/24psi for grassy and muddy conditions. I weigh 12 1/2 stone, but if I can go this low then you little 9 1/2 stoners definitely can. Try it. It's the future.

Cross is about skillsets - running, cornering, hurdles/obstacles and knowing when to do what and in what order. If you get my drift. Practice, practice, practice.

Run - short runs, hill runs, steady runs. Do what you fancy most, but above all do it. It works, and well.

Deep section carbon wheels are for pros or museums - braking, handling, reliability are all compromised over even an average alloy rim, let alone a good pair of alloys, particularly on the kind of rough and muddy courses we get in the NW. Maybe it is the fact that I have cheap carbon rims (not the high end wheels the pros have), but my Bontrager X Lites consistently felt better in deep mud despite what they say about carbons cutting through it. I love the bling of carbons as much as the next crossista, but my mud tires are going to be mounted on alloys next year with a sole pair of carbons for fast and dry courses. When we get them, which is like, never. Oh, and for ice which we may get more of now.......

Form your own team - I/we did it and it has been a blast from start to finish. On second thoughts, join us! We haven't graced the podium, nor won any team prizes but we've raced each other hard and done our best. We are road legal, licenced up and looking for a cross and cobble experience near you. Of course it helps if you have a talented designer type on board to design everything from team strip to stickers to beer mats to underwear. Well, not yet underwear but it is only a matter of time...

Happy Worlds watching but remember, the Classics are but a month round the corner.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Cross Junkie,

As a massive fan of your blog I had to have a late night post and comment on your Worlds predictions.

I am too a massive follower of the sport and regular visitor to cross races on the main land.

Having read much of the reports about the course and seen the juniors and the under 23s today I can only say that this year has to be a complete lottery so far. Tomorrow ...erm sorry well today and in about 10 hours time taking into account CET the ladies races will take place and a couple of hours later the Elite will kick off.

My personal "head" thoughts are that Stybar will win. The home advantage and experience of these conditions has to be another 5% in his favour.

As for Nys invariably he is on top form but his worlds track record is pretty flakey. I can see mechanicals and some unlucky falls on the ice will just mess with his mojo and see him finishing somewhere in the top ten.

As for Alberts he is the real deal. I would get used to Nys like domination over the next few years. Ignore all that pit bike dumping madness all the top riders are all guilty of that kind of stroppy madness surely it goes with the territory of being the worlds best.

I too am a massive fan of Wellens well I guess he is my cross hero a likable rouge and top rider with Chris Young like slow starts but massively impressive finishing. This years health problems won't see him win but if he did I would be in a 7th cross heaven.

My other "heart" talking rider to win would be Kevin Pauwells a young lad with immense talent but seems overwhelmed by the fame of being one of the worlds best riders. (I think he actually needs to get laid I'm sure he would be a differnet person at the post race interview) but he is anther guy that is at the top of his game. He rode well in Hoogerheide last week.

Lastly don't discount local guys I'm expecting Slovak and Polish riders as well as the Czechs to be much further up the field they are much more used to riding these condtions. Martin Bina is a chap that whilst not massive in Belgium seems to be pretty consistent in the World cup and could be a top 5 for the worlds.

Just a few Orval and Le Chouffe fueled thoughts... I will be watching with huge enthusiasm tomorrow and I am looking forward to your thoughts and comments over the next few weeks, months and lets hope years.

Hup! Hup! Hup!