Best rider of the year wants to become champion of the day
By Brecht Decaluwé
Cyclo-cross is alive and kicking ... in Belgium. A quick glance at the country rankings shows that Belgium has almost double the points of the number two, neighbouring country The Netherlands. Knowing this, it isn't difficult for Belgians to believe that the world championships are coming home. The organizers in Hooglede-Gits expect massive crowds all weekend long; two weeks before the championships, almost 10,000 tickets were sold.
The race organizer works with a budget of 1.2 million euro. "There's a gap left of 250,000 euro in our budget, this means we need to sell 20,000 tickets to reach a break even," Rik Debeaussart said. Prices for the elite races on Sunday are 25 euro, a realistic price according to Debeaussart. The organizers did everything to comfort the visitors, their biggest effort was ensuring a railway station was right next to the course.
The men's UCI-rankings makes it clear who's the big favourite for the elite men's win on Sunday. Sven 'cannibal' Nys (Rabobank) missed out on victory only eight times this season, finishing always in the top five and is – on paper – the man to beat. However, the UCI-leader drags along a miserable history at (world) championships. Despite being undoubtedly the best cyclo-cross rider around, he has repeatedly failed to show that at championships.
With three Belgian titles and only one title at the worlds in 2005, he appears vulnerable. "I'm looking forward to the champ's. I feel that I am the champion of the year, now I only need to become the champion of one day," Nys said to Cyclingnews last weekend after his win at this season's last World Cup race in Hoogerheide.
There's no Nys-like dominance in women's cyclo-cross, since there are more than five women who have a realistic chance on gold. Under normal tough conditions the big favourite will be German champion and UCI-leader Hanka Kupfernagel (Worlds sport star). She won the most recent World Cup race in Hoogerheide and has shown consistency in her results this season. "Hopefully it won't be too muddy, because that's not what I like about cyclo-cross," the 32 year-old said to Cyclingnews.
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