The legendary Cauberg hill, which stages the finish of the Amstel Gold Race and was a feature of the 2012 UCI Road World Championships, will welcome the worldâ€™s best cyclo-cross specialists on Sunday. Steep climbs await the riders in the Kuurpark, on the slopes of the Cauberg in the Limburg province of the Netherlands.
Elite Men: Bina looks strong
Fifty-five riders from 16 countries will line up for the start in the Elite Men category. Martin Bina (Kwadro-Stannah) won the final round of the last season in February of this year, and is looking strong after a second place behind World Champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) in Ronse (BEL) last weekend. He will also have to contend with Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) who is out to defend his overall World Cup title.
Elite Women: Vos in line-up
World Champion Marianne Vos (Rabo Women Cycling Team) is one of the undoubted favourites in the field of 42 Elite women. The Dutch athlete, also Road World Champion, will be looking for an early lead in the World Cup before taking a break from the second round for minor surgery. Her compatriot Sanne van Paassen is sidelined with a leg injury, but count on the presence of last yearâ€™s World Cup winner Katherine Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective).
Men Under-23: van der Poel moves up from Juniors
Unbeaten in the Juniors World Cup last season, the Netherlandsâ€™ Mathieu van der Poel starts as favourite.Â Despite being three years younger than his strongest rivals, the son of the courseâ€™s designer Adrie van der Poel has what it takes to win in Valkenburg. After claiming the Junior Men UCI Road World Championships title in Firenze a few weeks ago, he went on to beat all his older rivals at the first cyclo-cross clash of the season in Ronse last weekend. Another strong contender is van der Poelâ€™s compatriot and U-23 World Champion Mike Teunissen.
Last yearâ€™s overall World Cup winner Wietse Bosmans (BKCP-Powerplus) has moved up to the Elite category this year, but his runner-up Wout Van Aert (Belgium) will definitely challenge these two riders.
The Junior Menâ€™s race is wide open with the departure of van der Poel and it will be interesting to discover the names of the future.
The first round of the 2013-2014 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup will be broadcast live on the UCI YouTube Channel from 13h30 (CET).