Greg and Paul couldn’t agree on a likely outcome for this weekends racing. Here is a brief summary of each of our thoughts. Enjoy the racing.
Greg’s Tips - Elite Women:
While Katie Compton has had a great season, and has beaten Marianne Vos twice in world cups this year, the Dutch 6 time world champion has been recovering from back surgery. Her form last weekend was devastating, and I doubt that anyone can match her power in the mud. The last time the race was held in Hoogerheide in 2009, Vos took the race ahead of Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) and Compton, while Kupfernagel is a 3 time world champion, she is 39, and probably no longer in the hunt. Compton is clearly the second best racer in the world, and assuming she has not asthma problems will take second. Third place is most interesting, with Sanne Cant (Belgium), Nikki Harris (UK) and Helen Wyman (UK) all showing great form. My tip is for Sanne Cant, who has been more consistent this year than either Brit.
Top 3: Vos, Compton, Cant
Greg’s Tips - Elite Men:
The most open elite men’s race in years. There are probably seven riders who are a realistic chance of taking this years title, Zdenek Stybar, Lars van der Haar, Philip Walsleben, Francis Mourey, Niels Albert, Sven Nys and an outside pick for Tom Meeusen. In 2009 the podium was Albert, Stybar, and Nys, with hometown hero Lars Boom just missing out. I think Stybar faces the same fate, he will be super strong all race, but wont be able to convert it to a win or even a podium. By the end of April he will have forgotten about it anyway as I think he will win Paris-Roubaix. For me the most likely victory is van der Haar, the track is technical, and he has the form, riding within himself last week to clinch the world cup title. Mourey also has been showing great form in the mud, and I think he will do well, but he likes to show his strength a bit too early, and will lose to the more tactically astute Dutchman. Walsleben hasn’t been far away from the front of the race all season, but he has another year to wait I feel. The final podium place will go to any of the three Belgians, with Nys being the most likely, but the Cannibal of Baal can often get swamped in the first half of a lap, and from there mechanicals can happen, from which it is impossible to recover.
Top 3: van der Haar, Mourey, Nys
Paul’s Tips - Elite Women
The women’s race will be a battle between Marianne Vos and Katie Compton. The riders are so closely matched it is nearly a flip a coin decision. I have named Compton as my favourite as she has had her most successful season head-to-head against Vos in recent history. If Compton takes victory, I predict Vos to be on the second step. In the event that the race is as muddy as predicted, I hope to see mud specialist Helen Wyman on the third step of the podium.
Top 3: Compton, Vos, Wyman
Paul’s Tips – Elite Men
By virtue of starting the race we know that Zdenek Stybar means business and he believes he can take victory. That is enough justification for me to name him as the one to beat. The races Stybar contested over the Christmas period demonstrated he still has what it takes to feature in the biggest cross races. His display at the Zolder World Cup was simply impressive, even if didn’t take victory. If Stybar had not have made the last minute call to race, I would have been naming local hero Lars van der Haar as the man to beat. If you look back past Lars standout year, you will see van der Haar stood on the second step of the podium at Hoogerheide last year. After a quieter season, I would not be surprised to see Nys featuring in the finale.
Top 3: Stybar, van der Haar and Nys
Read more great Hoogerheide previews at Podiumcafe