The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup stops over at the splendid citadel in Namur on Sunday, one of the few cyclo-cross races in the Walloon part of Belgium. The spectacular course at the now demilitarized fortification includes a lot climbing. The fourth round of the World Cup should provide for a tough but not too technical course. Since winter hasnâ€™t yet settled in Belgium and with little rain forecast in the upcoming days the course should be suited to the climbers of the cyclo-cross peloton.
In the deep sand of Koksijde young Dutchman Lars van der Haar (Rabobank Development Team) nearly lost his white leaderâ€™s jersey after finishing a distant tenth. German champion Philipp Walslseben (BKCP-Powerplus) on the World Cup podium in every round so far this season has moved to within two points of Van der Haar. Third-placed Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) won the event in Namur last year after impresivelly completing a long solo ride on the muddy course. Pauwels will be keen to make up some ground on Van der Haar and Walsleben in the overall standings, and his win in Kalmthout last weekend will surely have given him a mental boost. Last year Pauwels succesfully held off a frustrated Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), who was being passed by Sven Nys (Crelan-KDL) late in the race. Even though 2010 & 2011 Cyclo-cross World Champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) now focuses on the road discipline, the Czech rider returns to the off-road for the World Cup rounds in Namur and Zolder. Itâ€™ll be interesting to see how he fares on the challenging course up and around the citadel.
In the Womenâ€™s category USA champion Katherine Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) defends her overall lead. Compton leads by thirty points over British champion Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea). Most interesting news in the womenâ€™s category is that Marianne Vos (Rabo Women) will be present in Namur. The Dutch winner of the first World Cup round in Valkenburg took a short break from racing and missed the two following World Cup rounds in Tabor and Koksijde. Vos accelerates her comeback to racing and already starts in Namur instead of Zolder one week later. Last year Compton won ahead of the now absent Czech rider Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) and Vos. On a side note: thereâ€™ll be no less than nine female US-riders at the start in Namur which is a unique feat.
In the youth categories thereâ€™ll be two races on Sunday morning. Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) defends his comfortable lead over Gianni Vermeersch (Belgium) in the Men Under 23 category. In the Junior Men category Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) holds a narrow lead over compatriots Yannick Peeters and Kobe Goossens.
Photo : Lying third in this yearâ€™s rankings, Kevin Pauwels won in Namur last year