A Fast And Open Course In Essen
The DVV Series returns for its fourth round in Essen, a Belgian town on the Dutch border. The undulating course is by and large a wide and fast affair. The open nature of the course has made it more difficult for individual riders to break free in years past.
Technical features are fairly limited, with the most crucial challenges arriving in the final 500 meters of the course. Riders must run up a small stair set, remount, then negotiate a series of small steps which are rideable, but which will trip riders up if they do not get the approach right.
The stairs proved decisive in the finish of the women’s race in 2016, which saw Sanne Cant arrive at the stairs first and power away after a smooth remount at the top.
There Will Be Mud
Conditions in Belgium this week have left little doubt as to why many of the riders opted for block of training in Spain leading up to this weekend’s races. While Saturday is predicted to be dry, a week’s worth of rain and snow will ensure a cold, muddy day out in Essen. Riders will have to take extra care to avoid mishaps and mechanicals in the hard conditions.
How Will Favorites Feel After Two Weeks Of Training?
Many of the sports headliners will return to racing following their absence in last weekend's GP Hasselt. Mathieu Van der Poel has a commanding lead of 1:44 in the time-based series over Lars Van der Haar. World Champion Wout Van Aert sits in third but is absent from the start list, which will see him fall out of contention for the overall prize.
Essen is the hometown of Tom Meeusen, so expect to see Van der Poel’s teammate put on a show for his fans.
Katie Compton leads the women’s standings by 2:38 over Helen Wyman, but the duo have been thwarted by Sanne Cant in the races leading up to this weekend. Will they return to racing with the form to topple the world champion?
At Overijse — All Natural, All Flemish, All Guts
From the gun, Overijse takes no prisoners. A long paved uphill awaits the riders straight off the start line. Once the riders reach the top, they are sent plunging down a twisting grass hill before entering a
Flemish forest with sharp, steep dirt rises and drops, which are barely rideable under the best conditions.
A unique feature of Overijse is the race’s complete lack of man-made obstacles. The course instead utilizes the natural terrain intermixed with cobblestones to create one of the most challenging, quintessentially Belgian races of the year.
Less-Than-Ideal Conditions Await
The Belgian winter weather is supposed to return in full force this Sunday. Snow is expected throughout the morning, which will turn to rain as the temperatures rise.
The hard climbs of Overijse result in equally hard descents, which often leave the riders half-unclipped, fighting to maintain control of their bikes.
The forecast for this weekend’s edition promises to make the course even more challenging for the riders. The likelihood of mud favors strong runners and those who are able to avoid mechanicals.
Will Van Der Poel Get the Big Check?
As a standalone event, Overijse is not part of an overall series. However, having won the previous two editions, Mathieu Van der Poel is in the very unique position to win a 12,500-Euro check on Sunday, a prize offered to any rider who manages to win three editions of the race within a five-year timespan.
Van der Poel has not shown too many weaknesses this year; however, mechanicals in tough muddy races have cost him on two occasions.
Sanne Cant and Wout Van Aert have proved to be two of the most formidable riders when the dirt turns to mud. Conditions this weekend look primed for the Belgian world champions.
By Michael Sheehan