Albert favourite for second World Cup round

Can Czechs challenge on home gound?

Host for the second round of the UCI's World Cup presented by Safety Jogger is the Czech city of Plzen. Conditions will make a firm about-face from the balmy weather in Treviso, Italy, and there is a chance of snow on a slightly frozen course.

It's the first time Plzen is hosting a World Cup round, but a second Czech host was needed with the world championships being held in Tabor within a few months from now. During the early nineties (1990-1996) the organization in Plzen was part of the Superprestige Series, and more recently also the Budvar Cup.

In contrast to the first round of the World Cup no official race will be held for the Women, U23 Men or Junior Men in Plzen.

The Elite Men's race should make up for the fewer UCI-ranked races and show us an interesting battle between world champion Niels Albert, a rejuvenated Sven Nys, and local favorite Zdenek Stybar.

Former world champion Erwin Vervecken is one of the few riders who has ever raced in Plzen, finishing third in 1996 behind Mario De Clercq and Marc Janssens.

Looking back in the history books shows that outsider Radomir Simunek Jr. should talk tactics with his father, as Simunek Sr. won the event twice, in 1991 & 1994.

In-form Belgian Niels Albert excelled on the fast courses that dominated the calendar up until this weekend - he was won five out of six races - and he expressed his annoyance about the different conditions in Plzen after his win in the Kermiscross of Ardooie on Thursday.

"If there's a white snow carpet, then I'll have to do damage control. Sven [Nys] is the man with the best technical skills," Albert said to Belga, trying to keep the pressure away. "If there's snow then I'll have to try and capture as many points as possible. If it's just a frozen course then it should be an exciting duel, that might even include a sprint like last year in Kalmthout," Albert added.

Last week, during the Superprestige' first round in Ruddervoorde, Nys showed that he currently is the only rider capable of beating Albert. Then again, both Belgians should expect a lot of resistance from the local riders on this frozen terrain. The Czech riders placed four riders in the top-10 in Treviso - surprisingly not even featuring Simunek - and one might expect them to shine again on home soil.

Stybar undoubtly holds the technical skills to stay upright on the frozen course, as he showed in Loenhout last year and during nationals last year. He will lead the battle against the Belgians, joined by Simunek Jr, Petr Dlask, Martin Bina, Kamil Ausbuher and Martin Zlamalik.

Despite the World Cup officially being a race between countries, the reality is different. Similar to the Belgian in-fighting witnessed last year, Stybar informed Cyclingnews that the Czech riders weren't riding as a team either.

"My contact with a compatriot as Simunek is similar to the contact I have with a guy like Sven Nys. Not much else than hello, a small chat and goodbye," Stybar said. So if Stybar is attacking on Sunday, we shouldn't expect a counter-attack from his Belgian team-mate Kevin Pauwels.

Just like Simunek Jr. won't be chasing his Belgian teammate at BKCP, Niels Albert. We're not expecting too much from riders from other countries than the Czech Republic and Belgium, at least not for a podium spot.

The only American participant Jonathan Page flew in from the US just before last weekend and he enjoyed some tough jetlagged races. He informed us that his thirteenth spot in Ardooie didn't reflect his sensations on the bike. "I flatted but I'm back on form; that is important," Page said to Cyclingnews.

Check out the outcome of this rehearsal for the upcoming world championships on Cyclingnews. The race is on between 2 and 3PM, local time, on Sunday.

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