We're 10 weeks into the season and one fact has remained true: cyclocross is unpredictable. Determining the best rider in Europe and North America is tough. Once again, Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson split victories in the US. In Europe, Sven Nys picked up another victory, as did Niels Albert. So what can we determine from this past week of racing? In the US, Ryan Trebon may be the best one-day rider with Tim Johnson a close second. In Europe, Nys can still win, but Albert always wins on the bigger stage. And it appears that neither of these trends will end anytime soon. Nys still seems to be one step behind Albert, for whatever reason he can come up with. Meanwhile, Ryan Trebon looks to be the odds-on favorite for a repeat at Nationals unless Johnson can make it a multi-day affair. Behind, there's a whole cast of characters chomping at the bit, but no one seems to be able to break through. Even Stybar struggled to move-off the third step of the podium this past week.
Niels Albert captured another marquee victory at the Superprestige race in Gavere, Belgium. He also quietly picked-up a victory on Saturday in the Wallone region, although both Nys and Stybar were absent. The week started well for Nys, who won a tough victory at Jaarmarktcross and is probably ruing the fact that it’s no longer a GVA Trophy race. To his credit, a bad start and an untimely multi-mechanical issue likely cost him his 50th career Superprestige win. It would appear that all the skill and good luck Nys has had over the last decade has caught up with him all at once. Even Albert acknowledged that Nys was the better rider on the day though. I have high hopes that Nys and Albert will engage in a long slugfest over the next few months and am gaining a sneaking suspicion that Nys may prevail in the end.
Speaking of a slugfest, the long awaited battle between Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon didn't disappoint in a messy pair of races in New Jersey. Saturday's race was a mud-fest thanks to a mid-November hurricane, while Sunday's race brought warm temperatures and a dryer, sticker, course. As I alluded to earlier, Ryan Trebon seems to be the best rider in the US right now--at least in one-day events. While he made big strides in expanding his USGP lead though, Trebon still seems unable to win two days in a row as he got the best of Johnson on Saturday, but was unable to back it up on Sunday. Luckily for Trebon, the National Championships are a one-day event.
Before I jump into this weeks ranking’s, I must admit that it was hard to keep Todd Wells off the North American list. I saw him ride on Sunday and it was simply phenomenal. I'm not sure if he'll ever return to the National Championship level he once had, but for the second year in a row, he's had a great ride in Jersey. Job well done, Todd! Here are the rankings:
North American Rankings
1. Ryan Trebon (8) - Trebon's assault on a muddy USGP course in New Jersey was very impressive. And his 2nd-place on Day Two was very well-earned. One thing's for sure: Trebon is the best single day cross rider in the country, and that's good enough for the top spot on the rankings this week.
2. Tim Johnson (7) - Johnson flip-flopped with Trebon this week and looked very impressive on Sunday. He'll have a chance to sew-up the NACT next weekend in Long Island and looks poised for a solid European campaign. The odds are against him come mid-December, but if anybody can storm into the Northwest and win, he can.
3. Jamey Driscoll (1) - Driscoll busted his ass to finish 3rd on Saturday and paid the price on Sunday with a 5th-place finish. He's still the most consistent rider in the US and is definitely worth a 3rd-place ranking. It's hard to believe that he's only 24.
4. Davide Frattini (na) - Frattini is golden—when he shows up. He continues to impress the cross community when he races, even though he hasn't won since September. He's still an Italian citizen so I expect him to head to Europe in December and represent his nation at Worlds. Then we’ll see if his “US cross plan” pays off.
5. Barry Wicks (na) - Wicks returned to the national spotlight with a pair of top-10’s in New Jersey. He's riding really well this season, but he rarely sticks with the lead group. Nationals are in his backyard though; perhaps he's planning a huge performance in December.
6. Chris Jones (na) – In my opinion, Jones has been a full-time cross rider for nearly a month now. He continues to impress, especially with his 4th-place in the slop on Saturday. His 10th on Sunday was a result of his efforts on Saturday. It would no surprise me to see Jones finish inside the top-5 of the rankings at the end of the year.
7. Geoff Kabush (na) - Kabush finished a solid 4th on Sunday after missing the top-10 Saturday. He raced a long and successful mountain bike season this year and I think he's paying the price a bit. It will be interesting to see what type of European campaign he mounts ahead of Worlds.
8. Valentin Scherz (9) - The "Swiss Sensation" continues to ride well. Honestly, I had higher expectations for him this weekend, but a pair of top-10 is nothing to be ashamed of. He's my outside pick for a medal at Worlds. It will be interesting to see if racing with the big boys pays-off when he heads back to Europe and races as a U23.
9. Dan Timmerman (3) - Timmerman slipped a bit this week due to his lack of results. He's still one of the best riders in the country though, and has had only one other lackluster weekend this year. I still expect a top-5 result from him at Nationals.
10. Jeremy Powers (2) - Powers was unexplainably absent this past weekend. He's not on the list for the Super Cross Cup races in New York this weekend either (but neither is Tim Johnson, and we know he'll be there). Another week as an MIA, and Powers will be off the ranking.
Dropped this week: Nicholas Weighall (4), Derrick St. John (5), Adam Craig (6) and Jesse Anthony (10).
1. Niels Albert (1) - Albert was one of the few riders to do three races this past week. He finished 2nd to Nys in Niel, but then won the next two. He continues to best Nys on the big stage and as a result, expanded his Superprestige lead. However, as Nys showed in Gavere, the gap between the two is closing.
2. Sven Nys (3) - Nys moves-up a spot as a result of his win and 2nd-place this past week. He neglected to race on Saturday and looked on-track for a big win on Sunday before a flat and mechanical spoiled his plans. His 50th victory will have to wait, but may come sooner than you think.
3. Zdenek Stybar (2) - Stybar picked-up a pair of 3rd’s behind Nys and Albert with two solid performances. He may have been able to pull of a huge upset, but was thwarted by an untimely crash at Jaarmarktcross. A big victory for the Czech is right around the corner.
4. Kevin Pauwels (4) - Pauwels remains inside the top-5 after another decent performance—this time in Gavere. While he narrowly lost the sprint for 3rd, he was still over a minute ahead of the rest of the competition.
5. Francis Mourey (5) - Mourey usually gets bounced from the Power Rankings after the World Cups because he doesn't race in other events. However, he picked-up a second place behind Albert on Saturday in Wallonia, and that's good enough to maintain a spot in the top-5.
6. Bart Aernouts (na) - Aernouts had a very consistent week with three top-10 results. He seems capable of some top-5’s, but podium spots will continue to elude him. I'm gaining more confidence that he'll finally crack the top-10 at a World Cup race this year as well.
7. Enrico Franzoi (10) - Like Aernouts, Franzoi picked-up three top-10 places this past week. He continues to be a chase group rider, but his dedication to cross (he left Liquigas to pursue a cyclocross career) gives me hope that he'll move-up to the lead group at some point.
8. Gerben de Knegt (8) - de Knegt skipped Saturday’s race, but took two top-10 finishes at the two races he entered. He continues to show improvement and is now a solid top-10 rider, however the top-5 is out of his reach.
9. Radomir Simunek (7) - Simunek had solid results all week, narrowly missing on a top-10 result at the Superprestige. He's still not a big-race rider, but his consistency is improving and thus remains in the rankings.
10. Klaas Vantornout (na) - Vantornout finally showed-up to race. He blamed over-training for his poor results over the past few weeks and backed it up with a 5th place on Sunday. Perhaps a new training plan has him back on track. Only time will tell.
Dropped this week: Martin Zlamalik (6) and Christian Heule (9).
In Europe, it will be another Albert/Nys/Stybar showdown as Belgium hosts both a Superprestige and GVA Trophy race. Nys is the odds-on favorite to win the Superprestige round on Sunday, but both Albert and Stybar will be looking to spoil his fun.
Domestically, the NACT returns to New York with two rounds on Long Island. Trebon looks ready to go, as does Johnson. Will it be a two-way split again; or will one of them be able to put back-to-back winning rides together? Your guess is as good as mine.
Enjoy the weekend ahead! Share your comments and feedback below.