By Brecht Decaluwé
Today, cyclocrossers will race the The Koppenberg-cross, officially the GP Willy Naessens. The Koppenberg is the first event of the "Gazet van Antwerpen-trofee," and has been won previously three times by Sven Nys (Rabobank).
A crowd of 15,000 is expected up and around the Koppenberg, a hill featured in the legendary Tour of Flanders. In April, it was the place where Tom Boonen (Quickstep) and some happy few were the only riders to actually ride up the hill.
Going into today's race, Sven Nys is confident. "I've won my races during the previous weeks, but still the Koppenberg-cross is something really special. The GvA-trophy is again a goal for me so I want to win immediately."
A real classic, riders who fail to perform well in this race often do poorly for the rest of the season. "It's the first race where you can't hide," said Nys.
The UCI points leader can expect opposition from Bart Wellens (Fidea), and John Gadret (AG2R), who finished third last year. Younger riders like Niels Albert (Palmans) and Zdenek Stybar (Fidea) will compete in the elite race, in contrast to most other races where they compete in the U23 races.
Rain has afflicted the region for most of the night which will create exciting conditions for the racers and fans.