Here's the latest column and power rankings from Pavé's own cross-correspondent, Erik Mitchell. Be sure to check-out Erik's new site, The Run-Up, for all things 'cross!
Last week I made a bold statement saying that Niels Albert will dominate any race he enters. As many suspected, I was wrong. However, I did predict that Sven Nys would get out of his early season funk and remind us all why he's the greatest cross racer of all time. His victory at the Nacht van Woerden was predictable against a smaller, lackluster, field. However, the way he won Koppenberg Cross was remarkable. Albert put in a great performance considering his poor start and other issues, but eventually cracked and was saved only by the fact that no one else took advantage of it. The other usual suspects were at the front, the only surprise coming from Zdenk Stybar, who launched an attack that eventually failed. It was very interesting to see these younger guys start to go for the win rather than just ride in the shadows of Nys and Albert.
I terms of the rankings, Sven Nys is clearly back, which means the fun can now begin. The Albert/Nys show should continue to be the big story as the season progresses with an imminent head-to-head battle at the World Championships. I'm officially back on the Nys bandwagon and was happy to give him the Number One spot this week. The sub-plot comes from the riders battling for podium spots.
While neither Nys nor Albert is a shoe-in, they clearly are the most dominant riders right now. However, as we saw this past weekend, the other guys in the lead group are no longer afraid and will continue to attack and try to shake the two superstars. Stybar gave it his shot, and Klaas Vantornout and Kevin Pauwels weren't far behind. One of these guys will pick up a big win this year and it's nice to see that they haven't given up yet. It was good nice to see Francis Mourey pick-up a top-10. He's been sticking to the World Cups thus far and has proven he's a very strong rider; if he continues to ride well he'll be an outside candidate for a podium at future World Cup races. It should be noted that Jonathan Page dropped from the rankings this week. While Page is riding consistently, he's not one of the the top 10 riders in Europe. A good result here or there will change that, but a top-10 in a small mid-week race was not enough to keep him in the rankings.
Speaking of American riders, action at the USGP heated-up with Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson picking up victories. It would appear that Ryan Trebon may be the best rider in the US right now, but two nasty crashes on Sunday eliminated him from a second duel with Johnson. The big news of the weekend was Jamey Driscoll picking up the USGP leaders jersey after another weekend of consistent riding with two second places. Like Stybar in Europe, Driscoll has gone largely unnoticed as he continues to place on the podium every weekend. Davide Frattini put in a solid performance again as did Chris Jones and Geoff Kabush. Barry Wicks fell off the podium, but managed to stay inside the top-10 both days. Jesse Anthony continued his streakyness with a 4th and 8th place in Kentucky, proving that when he shows up he can hang with the best.
In Maine, Dan Timmerman picked up two more UCI victories. The "Bearded Wonder" stayed close to home and took a commanding lead of the NECCS series. While the field wasn't as stacked as in Kentucky, Timmerman's performances show that he's one of the best in the US right now. Katie Compton was noticeably absent this past weekend, but will return to action in Colorado this week before heading back to Europe.
Much like last week, the top-5 in both rankings remain largely intact, just in a different order. At this point in the season the surprises are coming from within the lead group and I don't expect many major changes to occur for the rest of the season. Behind the top-5 is where the real action is though. Most of these riders will continue to jump on and off the list due to their lack of consistency. Obviously, in the US there are more changes in the lower spots due to the fact that virtually every weekend, the main contenders are spread across the country. The only exception is Katie Compton, who decided to take these past two weekends off before embarking on a National and World Championship campaign.
Time to see where everybody is this week, here are the rankings:
North American Rankings:
1. Tim Johnson (1) - Johnson continues to be one of the strongest riders in the US. It's tough when his two other teammates are also super strong, but Johnson appears to be a bit better. The only rider that seems capable of preventing Johnson from picking up another National Championship—at least right now—is Ryan Trebon.
2. Jamey Driscoll (5) - Honestly, Driscoll was very close to becoming my #1. His lack of victories isn't surprising in the grand scheme of things, but his consistency is remarkable. Eventually he'll push through to the top, but it's nice to see him rewarded for his efforts with the USGP leader's jersey this weekend.
3. Ryan Trebon (2) - Trebon and Jonathan Page seem to be the only riders capable of surviving the three-pronged Cyclocrossworld.com attack. If Trebon had not crashed twice on Sunday, he probably would have won and would be #1. He'll get his chance this weekend in Colorado.
4. Dan Timmerman (6) - Timmerman is here to stay. He's proved that he can win and ride with the other heads of state. His come-from-behind effort on Sunday was remarkable and he appears to be all set for the NECCS title, but his real surprising result could come at Nationals.
5. Jeremy Powers (5) - Reportedly suffering from some sort of illness, Powers stumbled a bit this weekend. He was able to pick-up 3rd on Sunday and if he's able to recover, he should be back on the podium this weekend in Colorado.
6. Geoff Kabush (na) - Two top-5 finishes proved that the Canadian Champion has found his form. He took last weekend off, which may pay-off in the long run, but he still lacks a big US win this year.
7. Chris Jones (na) - It's time to stop referring to Jones as 'that roadie who decided to race cross'. He has shown remarkable consistency this year, but I don't expect him to pick-up a big win anytime soon. However, I expect him to consistently make the lead group as the season goes on.
8. Jesse Anthony (na) – 'Down, but not out' is the best way to describe Anthony's season. He hasn't shown consistency and appears to be one step behind the leaders, but a rider with Anthony's palmares can never be counted out.
9. Barry Wicks (4) - Wicks' streak of podium appearances came to an end this week. Everyone is going to have an off-week though and this may have been his. If it was, 9th and 6th aren't bad ways to finish.
10. Davide Frattini (7) - Frattini finally had some success outside of the Mid-Atlantic. I'm a bit surprised that he's heading out to Colorado this weekend rather than racing in New Jersey. Perhaps he's going to prove that he belongs with the big boys.
Dropped this week: Valentin Scherz (8), Derrick St. John (9) and Tristan Schouten (10).
1. Sven Nys (3) - It's a long season in Europe and Nys' no panic attitude appears to be paying off. He's still leading the Superprestige Series, is tied for the lead in the GVA Trophy, and is a few wins shy of the UCI overall and the lead in the World Cup. Nys is back.
2. Niels Albert (1) - Despite cracking this weekend, Albert is still in the driver's seat. His results are solid and one weekend of not dominating the competition is expected. There's still a big question mark surrounding the World Champ when it comes to a full season of racing though, something he missed out on last year.
3. Klaas Vantornout (5) - Vantornout picked-up a well-deserved 3rd place at Koppenberg cross. He's one of the riders who are a part of the lead group, but are lacking that knockout punch. It will be interesting to see if he can find it.
4. Kevin Pauwels (4) - Pauwels continues to show that he's the breakout star of this season. He's learning that it's a different world in the lead group, but has proved that he belongs there. I'm hopeful he'll pull-out a big victory this year, but even if he doesn't he's having a superb season.
5. Zdenk Stybar (2) - Stybar showed that he's not willing to settle for podium places behind Albert and Nys. While his attack was unsuccessful, he held on for 5th place. The scariest part? This is his worst result of the season.
6. Francis Mourey (6) - The 5th place World Cup race master finally showed his face and legs at a non-World Cup race. He ended up 6th (his worst result this season), but managed to stick with the lead group. It will be interesting to see how much racing he does before the next World Cup race in November.
7. Gerben de Knegt (na) - de Knegt gets this spot due to a solid 9th place at Koppenberg Cross and a 2nd place, behind Nys, at the midweek race in Woerden. He's one of the riders who will pop-off and on this list for the rest of the season.
8. Bart Aernouts (na) - Aernouts was the last man dropped from the lead group on Sunday, but held on for 7th. He has shown he's a solid rider with some good results this year, but needs to show more consistency to stay in the rankings.
9. Erwin Vervecken (8) - Vervecken will get very few gifts from me this season despite the fact that it's his last. This week was no exception. An 8th in Woerden and a 10th at Koppenberg proved the elder statesmen still has what it takes. And don't worry, he'll pick up a big win this year as well.
10. Katie Compton (10) - Compton didn't race for the second week in a row. However, she still remains the most dominant woman in cross this year. Thus, she retains her 10th place spot this week. She'll be back in action in Colorado, and I expect fireworks.
Dropped this week: Christian Heule (7) and Jonathan Page (9).
Racing this week begins Wednesday with another round of the TOI TOI cup. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the big Czechs like Stybar shows-up and wins. Stateside, the action is split (what else is new?) between Colorado and New Jersey. It would appear everyone who was in Kentucky is heading-out to Colorado for two rounds of the NACT. Those interested in picking up some UCI points and stayer closer to home will be in New Jersey for two rounds of the MAC. The biggest story in the US could be Katie Compton's return to racing in Colorado. The biggest international race of the weekend will be in Hoogstraten, Belgium on Sunday where Sven Nys will try to take another Superprestige victory against a star-studded field. The added bonus is that the Hoogstraten race is also the European Championship which means there's even more prestige (no pun intended) in winning. All in all, it's going to be another exciting weekend!
What about you? Questions, comments, wisecracks? Share them all below.