By Gregor Brown
Sven Nys is back to defend his title in Koksijde, Belgium, as part of the fourth round of the UCI World Cup. The 31 year-old Belgian is nearly unstoppable, but there are a few men who have the legs to hold the "Cannibal" on this sandy parcours in Western Flanders.
The 2700-metre course near the air force base in Koksijde is noted by its five sectors of sand, which are likely to force many competitors off their machines and running as the sand bogs down their momentum. The second and fifth sectors will be crucial, the former comes right before the bridge/stairs where position will be important and the latter comes before a right-hander grassy U-turn onto the – rather long – finishing straight.
Clouds and temperatures maxing out at 9°C are expected for Saturday, with wind almost guaranteed being so close to the North Sea. Even if rain does come down, local experts, like Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé, note that the parcours will not become any more difficult as it will not turn to mud due to the sand and the lack of dirt. The course will suit a rider like World Champion Erwin Vervecken (Fidea Cycling Team), who can run well in the sand. Vervecken showed his form was by finishing sixth in the Super prestige in Gavere last weekend. Sunweb will want to bounce back after a week of bad media and last weekend's lackluster results. Look for Jonathan Page from the US or Sven Vanthourenhout from Belgium; the latter is flying in from Mallorca with King Nys for two races – Koksijde and Gieten – before returning to the Iberian Peninsula. The two will stay in the warmer climes leading to the World Cup in Igorre, December 2.
The winner of the last World Cup round in Pijnacker, Dutchman Lars Boom, will want to make a mark. The U23 Time Trial World Champion plans on skipping the Spanish round of the World Cup, and will therefore want to gain as many UCI points as he can in this important race.
Never count out Bart Wellens. The Belgian Champion riding for Fidea is known for his speed off the bike, and that could be crucial in winning this fourth round of the World Cup.
American Katie Compton is flying, as was evident with her recent wins in Pijnacker and Gavere. The Spike Shooter rider will face stiff competition from a familiar face, Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com). The gritty and likable Canadian has made a trip over to Euro-land to remind the competition of her talents. But the North Americans will be wise to take note of Holland's Daphny van den Brand (ZZPR.nl) and Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn and Germany's Birgit Hollmann (Getränke-Hoffmann).
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage of the World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium.