The UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup circus rolls into Namur, Belgium tomorrow for the fifth round of the 2012-13 series.
Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-KDL) and Katherine Compton (Trek) will attempt to defend leads accrued over the opening four rounds.
Belgian national champion, Nys, would love to win on home soil, as would his closest challengers and countrymen, World Cup holder, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), and world champion, Neils Albert (BKCP-Powerplus).
Nys will be looking to make it three World Cup wins in a row after chalking up victories in the last two rounds at Koksijde and Roubaix. He leads the series despite a slow start to his World Cup campaign in the Czech Republic, where he finished fifth in the opening round in Tabor and sixth at the second round in Plzen.
Pauwels will hope to improve on his fifth place the last time the World Cup came to Namur, just over a year ago. His title defence got off to the best possible start with victory in Tabor, but he has not won since, despite gaining podium positions in Plzen and Roubaix. He struggled in the infamous sand of Koksijde and finished twelfth.
Albert has been on the podium at each of the first four rounds of this year’s World Cup, and won the second round in Plzen, Czech Republic. His consistency contrasts with the uneven nature of his results in 2011/12 which culminated in his unexpected victory in the world championships.
By contrast, Katy Compton (Trek) has been a model of consistency, winning at Plzen, Koksijde, and Roubaix, after finishing second in the opening round at Tabor. She has looked more fallible in the Superprestige series, where she lost out to British champion, Helen Wyman (Kona), on the infamous Koppenberg and Zonhoven courses.
Wyman has yet to record a victory in the World Cup, however. Second behind Compton in the second round at Plzen has been her best result in the competition to date. Fifth place in Koksijde and thirteenth place in Roubaix will give her plenty of motivation to get her season back on track at Namur tomorrow.
Fellow Brit, Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea), lies third in the series in a campaign that has put her on the podium in half of the four rounds held so far. Like Wyman, second is her best result to date, an impressive achievement given the demands of the Koksijde course on which it was achieved.
Dutch rider, Sanne Van Passen, made the perfect start to her campaign with victory in Tabor, and regained the podium with second in Roubaix, but fourth in Plzen and sixth in Koksidje has blunted her challenge.
Check back soon for our race report and a photo gallery from photographer, Balint Hamvas.