The big favourite for this Sunday's Elite Men's Cyclo-cross World Championships, Sven Nys (Belgium), has been training on the parcours in St. Wendel since Wednesday after fleeing his home in Belgium. Although Nys had planned to arrive just before the race, he chose to leave Belgium to avoid the fuss about his wife Isabel who is a model. In the lead-up to the World's, Isabel posed on the cover of P-Magazine, naked with a rainbow jersey painted on.
"Right away she was getting more questions from journalists than I was," said Nys. "I couldn't take all the fuss and escaped."
Nys is now living in the Olympic training centre in Saarbrücken, 45 km from the World Championship venue. "My room is quiet, I don't even have a television to distract me from preparations," said Nys, who is determined to become world champion on Sunday. He has won six World Cup races this winter and has a commanding lead in the cyclo-cross world rankings.
"It's my kind of course," was his delighted reaction after seeing it for the first time on Wednesday. There has been a lot of snow in St. Wendel in recent days and the course is covered with snow; it's frozen hard and is very fast. "I like fast and technically demanding courses. If I don't have some kind of mechanical problem in an awkward moment on Sunday, then I believe that, this time, I can do it," is the Belgian's confident prediction. "I feel as strong as I did in the 1999/2000 season when I had 21 wins. Now I hope that at last I can take the world title."
Nys has won two U23 world titles, and despite winning everything else on offer in elite cyclo-cross, the professionals' rainbow jersey has eluded him. One of his U23 titles was taken in Munich in 1997 and he also dominated the World Cup event in St. Wendel last year. "Germany is a happy hunting ground for me," said the 28 year-old.
In St.Wendel, Nys will aim to finish solo as doesn't want to risk being beaten in a sprint. His main rivals are from his own country: Erwin Vervecken, a World Cup winner in Koksijde, Sven Vanthourenhout, who won the World Cup event in Aigle and, of course, defending champion Bart Wellens.
After winning the World Championships in Monopoli and Pontchâteau, 26 year-old Wellens is going for a hat-trick. "That's my avowed aim, naturally," said Wellens, who has been hampered by a virus and an insect bite on the leg this season. "Even if I haven't been able to place high up in the World Cup, I hope to find top form by the end of January. The hat-trick is motivation enough but it’s going to be a really tough race."
Apart from the Belgians, the riders from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France and Italy also have hopes of winning the title. Italian Enrico Franzoi, Frenchmen John Gadret and national champion Francis Mourey, Czechs Zdenek Mlynár, Kamil Ausbuher and Zdenek Stybar and of course Dutch hope Richard Groenendaal. Germany's hopes will rest with Jens Schwedler (Stevens Cyclo-Cross), Steffen Weigold (Alpirsbach/Lamonta), Johannes Sickmueller (Hamburg/Harvestehuder RSV/Stevens Cyclo-Cross) and Fabian Brzezinski (Trebel/IGAS Wendland/Stevens Cyclo-Cross).
Weather: cold and snowy
The weather forecast for St. Wendel this weekend is for chilly temperatures with the possibility of more snow. Maximums for Saturday and Sunday are -5 and -3°C respectively.
Saturday, January 29
Race 1 - 11:00: Juniors (40 minutes)
Race 2 - 14:00: Men Under 23 (50 minutes)
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Race 3 - 11:00: Elite Women (40 minutes)
Race 4 - 14:00: Elite Men (60 minutes)
Official site: www.cyclocross-2005.de