In one hour one of the men on this grid will be champion of the world; entitled to wear those hallowed rainbow stripes; they’ll join the immortals – Renato Longo, Eric De Vlaeminck, Roland Liboton and will be able to command 10,000 Euros per week salary.
That’s what Zdenek Stybar the reigning champion will be paid when he joins QuickStep on March1st.
But what do I know?
I’m just a journalist – PEZ decided the man to ask would be current 14th ranked in the world and on that second row of the grid I mentioned above when that flag drops in St. Wendel, Germany for the start of the UCI Elite World Cyclo Cross Championships on Sunday afternoon; Jeremy Powers (United States & Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com)
PEZ: Did you ride the St. Wendel course when the Worlds were there in ’05, Jeremy?
Jeremy Powers: Yes, I did, I was 18th in the U23 race so I know the course.
A big set of stairs awaits riders on each lap of the course in St. Wendel.
PEZ: The course in a sentence, please.
JP: Very fast, technical, but not too technical – it starts on a running track, there’s a big climb, three really steep descents, a big flight of stairs, and it finishes back on the running track.
And the strongest guy wins!
JP: Official training is tomorrow so we’ll get a better idea, then.
I’ll be on 32 mm Dugast Rhinos if it’s wet and 32 mm Dugast Typhoons if it freezes – we’ll make final tyre and pressure choices at the last ‘on course’ training session before the race on Sunday.
Mud or ice, ice or mud? It looks like riders will be spared a mudfest on Sunday.
PEZ: The UCI 33 mm width limit isn’t a factor?
JP: No, those are the tyres we’d be riding, irrespective.
PEZ: What gear ratios will the Cannondale be running?
JP: 38/44 or 46 x 11 – 25, that covers pretty much all situations, it’s what we ride all the time.
PEZ: What’s the weather forecast for Sunday?
JP: Cold, so the course will be hard. I’d like it like that, if it’s muddy it’s going to very hard with a lot of running – I like to ride rather than run.
PEZ: How has final preparation been going?
JP: We were based in Ypres and got in a lot of nice rides – we did some of four hour duration and we did interval work as well.
And we did some training races on the Kemmel.
But I had bad luck in my last big race – the World Cup at Hoogerheide; I rode into a hitherto unnoticed big hole and went right over the bars – that’s why I finished in 36th place!
PEZ: How does your taper go into the Worlds?
JP: Sunday at Hoogerheide was my last race, Monday is an easy day, Tuesday a moderate ride of a couple of hours duration, Wednesday is intervals, Thursday is usually a long ride but here it was more intense, Friday is rest and Saturday is an ‘opening up’ ride.
PEZ: How do you decide on short/long sleeves, leg warmers, gloves etc?
JP: It’s an individual thing that you get a sense of through your experience.
I’ll start with gloves on; you can always take them off and that’s really the way to look at it, best to be a little too hot than a little too cold – like you can take gloves off, you can open up a skinsuit to cool down.
But if you’re too cold then you’ve messed up.
Sven Nys took his one and only Elite World Championship win on the same course in St. Wendel in 2005.
Reigning Elite World Champion, Zdenek Stybar, took the U23 World Championship in St. Wendel in 2005.
PEZ: Final ‘official training’ is on Sunday afternoon before the race – that must be hectic?
JP: There are a lot of people watching and a lot of riders on the course – it’s pretty intense.
It’s important because that’s when you make your final tyre and pressure selection – that’s very much an individual thing based on experience but it’s so important.
If I gave you two bikes to ride, one with 20 psi in the tyres and one with 25 psi in the tyres, even as a non-specialist you’d be amazed at the difference it would make to how the bike handles.
You have to be aware of rocks on the parcours or potential bunny hop situations because both mean you can’t ride the tyres too soft.
If you’re an experienced rider, one pound of pressure in your tyres makes a heck of a difference.
Once we’ve you’ve decided what pressure you want, the mechanic will make sure that’s what’s in all of your tyres.
The #1 rider to watch, no questions: Zdenek Stybar.
PEZ: Zdenek Stybar – will all the contract negotiations have taken a toll?
JP: He has good form and if he took it easy this week then he’s the man to beat.
He’s trained very well and for me he’s the guy – odds on.
He’s won here before, he’s always in the running, but always seems to come up short at Worlds…save for that win at St. Wendel in 2005.
PEZ: Sven Nys, ‘Mr. Consistency’ but he rarely gets his Worlds peaking right?
JP: I think that Sven has a very good shot at the title this year; he really wants to win.
He stays good all season and doesn’t have a big peak for the Worlds – that’s no bad thing, it means he’s always good and wins a lot of races.
He must be happy with his season, albeit he missed out at his Nationals – but I think he was a good shot at the Worlds this year.
The recently crowned Belgian national champion, Niels Albert, is a good possibility.
PEZ: Neils Albert – he’s just won the World Cup.
JP: He’ll be there but I think it would take a lot for him to win the Worlds, he said he was tired at Hoogerheide; I don’t know but I don’t think he can beat Stybar.
Pauwels took a recent win at the World Cup round in Pont Chateau, but Jeremy doesn’t think this is the year for him.
PEZ: Kevin Pauwels; that was a good win at Pont Chateau?
JP: That course really suits him, there’s a big hill on it – and for Sunday he could be a dark horse, yes.
Tom Meeusen has had a breakout year, but, like Pauwels, will have a hard furrow to plow if he’s to win.
PEZ: Tom Meeusen, he won the Kalmthout World Cup.
JP: I don’t think so, he’s not strong enough – a better bet for me would be Francis Mourey of France, he’s another dark horse.
Powers picks Frenchman Francis Mourey as his dark horse.
PEZ: The podium?
JP: Stybar to win, Mourey second and Sven third.
PEZ: And Jeremy Powers?
JP: Somewhere around 15th would be great; I’d love to go top ten but everything would have to go absolutely perfectly for me.
I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t make the top 20.
With thanks to Jeremy for his time and expertise, we wish him well for Sunday.