Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony, Belgium)
Considered by many to be the Eddy Merckx of cyclocross, Belgium’s Sven Nys
has won just about every title the sport has to offer (in many cases, more than once). He’s also a generous, outspoken ambassador of the sport who very much appreciated the warm welcome he received from American fans while winning the world championships in Louisville last February—and this year’s CrossVegas
. And there will be more Americans in the Belgian’s future: He announced this week that he will begin riding Trek bikes on January 1.
Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv/giant, the Netherlands)
If Nys is the Eddy Merckx of the cyclocross discipline, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands is well on her way to becoming the Eddy Merckx of all of women’s cycling
. After winning an Olympic gold medal and the World Road Race Championship
in 2012, Vos took a short break before returning to the mud to win her fifth world cyclocross championship in a row—and sixth overall. Vos raced a full road schedule this season, but look for her to be at her best for her home fans at worlds in the Netherlands this February. If she wins, calling her the next Eddy Merckx might not be enough of a superlative.
Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective, USA)
Despite failing to defeat Vos at the world championships in Louisville last February, American Katie Compton
won the UCI’s season-long world cup competition and ended the year ranked number one in the world. In addition to defending her national and world cup titles this year, Compton will again spend the season in preparation for another showdown with Vos at worlds. A victory would be the crowning achievement of an already spectacular career.
Jonathan Page (Fuji-Spy-Competitive Cyclist, USA)
Aside from a trip home to compete at nationals, Jonathan Page spends the majority of his cyclocross season in Belgium
. Last year, the New Hampshire native made his homecoming count by winning his fourth national title in Madison, Wisconsin. This year, he started his season in Vegas before heading back to Flanders, where he’ll wear his stars and stripes skin suit proudly in Europe this fall and winter.
|Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus, Belgium)
After winning the first race of the Belgian season in Erpe-Mere last Sunday, Belgium’s Niels Albert has started his season off on the right foot. Only 27 years old, Albert has already won two world championships, including a stunning win in front of his home fans in Koksijde in 2012. Albert's inconsistency is his Achilles’ heel, though: When he's in form, he's unstoppable; but when he's not, he's well out of contention. He’ll need to improve in this area if he wants to contend in several of the sport’s season-long series.
Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus, USA)
After spending the summer racing with the Jelly Belly p/b Kenda road cycling team, Jeremy Powers went straight to the mud with Team Rapha-Focus—and immediately won his first race at the StarCrossed event in Seattle this past weekend. Powers ended last season as the world’s top-ranked American, but failed to score the season’s biggest domestic prize: a national championship. With a renewed focus and perhaps a different approach to the long season, Powers hopes to be back on top this coming January for nationals in Boulder, Colorado
Kaitie Antonneau (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com, USA)
A full-time student who balances her academic pursuits with an intense schedule of road and cyclocross
racing, Antonneau is considered by many to be the next big force in women’s cyclocross. Only 21 years old, Antonneau was forced to race with the elites at worlds last year because there’s no U23 event for women. She finished 10th, a fabulous result that served noticed to the rest of world: Look out, another Kaitie’s on the way!
Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games, Belgium)
Belgian Klaas Vantornout gets to wear the second-most important jersey in the cyclocross world: that of the Belgian national champion. This season he’ll certainly have his sights set on winning a rainbow jersey at worlds in the Netherlands. Vantornout came close at last year’s world championships in Louisville. He won a silver medal after a tense back and forth battle with his compatriot, Sven Nys. Don’t expect him to settle for second place again.
Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com, USA)
One of only three American men to ever win a medal at the world championships, Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com’s Tim Johnson
is already considered to be one of the legends of United States cyclocross. But don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon. Johnson has won six national championships throughout his career, including two elite titles, a number he’d certainly like to add to at nationals this January in Boulder
Ryan Trebon (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com, USA)
It’s hard to miss the 6-foot-6 Ryan Trebon
. Last year, the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com rider won a handful of important races, but missed out on winning his third national championship. A mountain biker in the summertime, Trebon tweaked his back this summer and was forced to skip mountain bike nationals. But the involuntary rest might have left him with fresher legs for the long cyclocross season.
Lars Van der Haar (Rabobank, the Netherlands)
The only non-Belgian to make the elite men’s podium at last year’s world championships, Van der Haar leads a generation of young Dutchmen who look ready to unlock the Belgian stranglehold on the sport’s biggest races. Although he’s a two-time U23 world champion, last season was Van der Haar's first with the elites. He'll be a force to be reckoned with in front of his home fans at worlds in the Netherlands this February.
Mathieu Van der Poel (Entertherm-BKCP, the Netherlands)
The son of cycling legend Adri Van der Poel, young Mathieu
won just about every race he entered as a junior, including back-to-back world championships. This year will be his first riding with the U23s, but don’t expect any growing pains: In some races last year, Van der Poel recorded faster lap times than all the U23s and even some of the Elites.