By Brecht Decaluwé
This weekend marks the final weekend of the cyclo-cross season. Saturday, racers competed in Vorselaar, which doubled as the final in the Superprestige Series. On Sunday, 'crossers will have their last race, to determined the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy, in Oostmalle.
On Saturday Bart Wellens, team-mate Zdenek Stybar, and perhaps young Niels Albert will battle it out of the second place in the GC of the Superprestige Series behind Sven Nys who has built an unassailable lead in the competition and is assured his eighth series win. They can expect tough competition from new world champion, Lars Boom as well as Nys who will be both keen to cap off a tough season before heading off for a deserved break.
Sunday sees the usual cast of characters lining up for the traditional season finale and final round of the Gazet van Antwerpen series in Oostmalle. With Nys also having wrapped up this series, his fifth, Stybar and team-mate Wellens will have to fight it out for the runner-up position, with only five points are separating the two. Dutchmen Richard Groenendaal and Boom have an outside chance of upsetting things, but they will have their work cut out for them.
U23 world champion Niels Albert dominated the big races two weeks ago and may again be showing his competitors only a view of him from behind. Fans will have to wait and see whether he can recover from his win Saturday.
Last weekend, neither the race in Eeklo nor Heerlen counted toward the regularity competitions, but that didn't stop Klaas Vantornout, who was in a row with the organizers of the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy, from winning. Organizers accused the Belgian of faking illness and injuries to avoid participating in their events, after not being granted a contract for the complete series at the beginning of the season. In the end, both parties came to an agreement and with no injury or illness the blond Belgian should line up in Oostmalle.
Vantornout wasn't the only one who had a row with the organizers. American Jonathan Page, who finished on the podium last year, wasn't granted a contract for Oostmalle.
"I'm pissed off that Oostmalle doesn't give me a contract despite finishing on the podium last year," said Page. "Everybody's talking about making this an international sport and it's true that this season wasn't my best - but these Series virtually didn't do anything for me this year."
Last weekend Page had no contract to start Eeklo, but in Heerlen, he showed his late season form with a strong fourth place. "Next year, I hope to do the Superprestige Series and that's all for this country," Page said to Cyclingnews.
Race organizer Louis Van Den Eynde said that budget and Page's form were the reasons for his non-selection. "Page didn't have a contract for the Series and had to negotiate for every race. We made a budget at the beginning of the season and we noticed that he wasn't going well, so we didn't plan to get him in our race. We don't look at last year's results," the said the organizer. "If you know how much the top riders ask to start and how expensive foreigners are, then this is the logical result," Van Den Eynde said to Cyclingnews.
Prior to the event, Page had told Cyclingnews that he was keen on showing organizers from Oostmalle what he's made off with a strong performance in the Superprestige race at Vorselaar on Saturday. Last year Page finished ninth in the Belgian cyclo-cross race, but after a rough start, Page finished only 15th.
On the other hand, UCI leader Sven Nys got an expensive contract to line up in Oostmalle. The Belgian took a break last weekend and warned his rivals that he saved his energy to shine one last time in the cyclo-cross field this season. The 'Cannibal' won both races in Vorselaar and Oostmalle last year. After seventh place in Vorselaar, he has one more shot to close the season with a win Sunday.
See full coverage of the Superprestige finale in Vorselaar.