As we approach the penultimate sleep before the 2016 World Championships we preview our picks for the winners of the races.
Other Preview Articles on Worlds:
- CyclingTips.com – Kaitlin Antonneu
- CyclingNews.com – Helen Wyman Course Preview
- Velonews.com – Worlds Preview
- Cyclocross Magazine – Junior and Women Elite & U23 Preview
I’ll just say the Men’s race for me will likely be the less exciting of the weekend. Simply put, Mattieu Van Der Pool is riding in a class above. Combine this with his late start to the season (flashes of de-ja-vu to Niels Alberts 2009 win after a hard crash in Gavere) he appears to be right back to his winning ways with plenty of ‘freshness’ to spare late in the season.
I’m still going to put Wout Van Aert as second; he’s just racing to well this season to have him in any other position. For third I’m going to put my money on Kevin Pauwels. He’s never been in the real winning move, but he’s just right there every World Cup this season.
Now let us deep dive into the real race, the Women’s Elite event on Saturday. I must say this is the most open we have seen a World Championships in several years. You have two dominate former champions missing the race with both Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Marianne Vos both out due to injuries this season. This leaves the race wide open to several riders. Let us examine (using UCI ranking to examine the list) of our top contenders for the win.
The dominant rider all season. Cant has reached a coming of age in her career and had her most consistent season to date. She really only had the odd off day (Namur World Cup comes to mind) but with the odd exception, he was on the podium or winning most every race. Her performance at Hoogerheide left her with a bit of a question of form, but some thing she rode just hard enough to win the World Cup overall but not to hard to push herself.
Harris is one of two British riders competing in the Women’s Elite race. 2015/16 saw her take her first World Cup win of her career in Namur, a second title at the National championships and a solid race season. Her form is very much in at the moment, confirmed by her 3rd place in Hoogerheide.
Ellen Van Loy
The Kevin Pauwels of the Women’s field (in that she is never in for the big win, but ALWAYS there) Van Loy is someone I will put money on for a top 5, but would be hard to say would be in the top 3. That said, she has brilliant days on the bike and if she’s on a magic day with some top girls faltering it could be very much a working class hero story. If you are looking for an underdog to root for it’s Van Loy.
The only girl to battle with Sanne Cant for the overall of the World Cup this year, Lechner has been on less competitive form this year than at the start of the season. I’m still conservative about dismissing her as there is something about the world championships and Italians ability to find really great form. She’s proven herself very good under World Championship pressure in past years with a second in 2014.
For a woman who decided to take the year “easy” and race mostly for “fun” Halikova has a funny definition of what “rest” is. It must be a Czech thing because her “fun” lead her to a top 5 in the UCI ranking and one of her best season in recent memory. A solid bet for a top 8 with a good chance at a top 6.
Wyman’s a multi-time national champion with a proven track record at the World Championships, 3rd in 2014 being her best result. Her season hasn’t been as dominate as previous years with just three wins this season. She’s still a force to recon with when the form is on, so a good wild card pick.
Probably the most expressive rider in all of the women’s peloton. Mani is France’s sole representative in the Elite Women’s race at Worlds. Mani is coming into the World Championships with perhaps the best form we have seen her in her career. A 2nd place finish at a World Cup and a fresh national championship jersey are indications of a rider on the rise. I’m expecting a top 5 ride from Mani.
Could this be Compton’s year? Katie’s had a very successful career in cyclo-cross, but the one race that seems to elude her has always been the World Championships. Her second place in the Zolder World Cup, just 8 seconds behind race favorite Sanne Cant shows she has what is likely the most on paper challenge to give to Cant. Her late start to the season due to injury hasn’t lead to the same stellar form Van Der Pool has seen, but I won’t count her out of any position. She’s been at the top level of cross, can handle the pressure and know’s how to perform.
The heir-apparent of US women’s cyclocross. In a strange parallel to the US men’s where the mentor-apprentice duo of Powers-Hyde, we have Compton-Antonneau. A powerful rider on punchy climbing courses, which Zolder is not, doesn’t lend favour to Kaitlin, but she’s proven herself on a variety of courses and rode a very consistent top placing in all the major World Cups. It’s hard to pin down where she will land in the results for me, but I do know in the future I’d be surprised if she doesn’t have a couple of worlds podiums.
Sophie De Boer
Maybe the most erratic rider on our list in terms of results. If you asked me at the start of the season that De Boer would be on this list, I’d be a little skeptical, but I have watched as she has clawed back her results higher and higher. A rider who goes through spurts of amazing riding, she might have found her form just in time for Worlds, but the questions begs, can she keep that form through Saturday.
Thalita De Jong
De Jong is a new rising star of Dutch cyclocross. Coming from well outside the top 50 at the start of December she has risen to 16th in the World in short order. It helps when you pull off a 2nd place in a World Cup the week before Worlds. The question now becomes how well can De Jong handle the pressure of the World Championships of Cyclocross? If you want the long-shot bet for the win, she’s your girl.
So who do I think will win? Truthfully I have no idea. We normally go into the past World Championships with a clear idea of a single or pair of women with a majority chance of winning the title. Of course Cant is the most likely to win, she’s just been to dominate to say otherwise, but the range of winners and constantly changing podiums of the Women’s races has made for a very dynamic season. But this is a race prediction post, so let’s make some choices.
- Sanne Cant
- Katie Compton
- Sophie De Boer
- Nikki Harris
- Caroline Mani
- Thalita De Jong
- Eva Lechner
- Pavla Halikova
- Kaitlin Antonneau
- Helen Wyman
- Ellen Van Loy
While I’ve made a prediction I feel anyone on this list is a potential winner, much less a podium contender. I’ll reiterate what I said at the start of the post, I’m looking forward to the battle that happens on Saturday!