UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup: Third round in Belgian sand
Close to the North Sea, the cyclo-cross peloton will battle against each other in the sand dunes of Koksijde on what promises to be a chilly Sunday. The third round of the 2015-2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup kicks off in the morning with the Men Juniors followed by the Men Under 23 category. Racing for Women and Men Elite will take place in the afternoon.
Men Elite: return to racing for UCI World Champion
Men Elite World Champion Mathieu Van der Poel (BKCP-Corendon) returns to competition in Koksijde after surgery to his left knee at the beginning of October. The 20-year-old aims to capture a top-10 result in Koksijde where he won the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in the Men Juniors category in 2012. Van der Poel has great sand-riding skills but he’s not the only young rider with these capabilities. Last year Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) won the World Cup race with a massive lead over Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb –Napoleon Games) and Van der Poel. Van Aert stated he would be proud to wear the white jersey as leader of the World Cup on home soil. He’s been extremely dominant so far this season, winning the CrossVegas World Cup round and all but one race of the Superprestige and Bpost Bank Trophy cyclo-cross series. The only riders who’ve been able to beat Van Aert at the highest level are Dutchman Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) and Belgian Kevin Pauwels. The latter has never managed to win in Koksijde but twice finished runner-up. Van der Haar wasn’t fit enough to start in Koksijde in 2014, but the 24 year-old Dutchman definitely has sharp sand-riding skills: in 2012 he won the Men Under 23 World Championships in Koksijde.
Cyclo-cross veteran Sven Nys is third in the World Cup standings and is an outsider for the win during his final cyclo-cross season. The 39 year-old Belgian rider is in good form and has won the Koksijde World Cup round a total of five times (in 1999, 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2012). Nys and Van Aert are the only previous winners at the start line on Sunday.
Women: Lechner in leader’s jersey
Thanks to her second place in Las Vegas and victory in Valkenburg, Italian Champion Eva Lechner (Team Colnago-Sudtirol) currently leads the UCI World Cup in the Women’s category. Lechner took a short break after Valkenburg but the 30-year-old will line up in Koksijde to defend her white leader’s jersey. Lechner will have to fight Belgian sand specialist Sanne Cant (25) who captured a breakthrough victory in Koksijde last year. Cant currently lies in second place in the World Cup standings, trailing Lechner by 25 points. Also at the start line will be 36 year-old Katherine Compton (USA) who’s a five-time winner in the Koksijde sand. This season hasn’t started very well for Compton but the last few weeks she’s shown better form so she’s definitely a rider to take into account. Belgian rider Jolien Verschueren is a great runner and recently claimed several wins and podium results, becoming a threat to compatriot Sanne Cant. On the highest level she hasn’t shown the same abilities just yet but the Koksijde World Cup seems to be the perfect setting for her to turn that around. Last year Cant battled for the victory until the final lap with Dutch riders Sabrina Stultiens and Sophie de Boer (Parkhotel Valkenburg) but that will not be the case this year. Stultiens is absent and De Boer only restarted in competition on November 7 after struggling with illness since CrossVegas.
Second round for Men Under 23 and Juniors
Gioele Bertolini (Italy) defends his lead in the Men Under 23 category after winning the first race in this category in Valkenburg last month. He’ll be watching out for home rider Eli Iserbyt who finished runner-up in the Netherlands. In the Men Juniors category Jappe Jaspers (Belgium) is the first leader after a dominant win over Jens Dekker (Netherlands) and Seppe Rombouts (Belgium) on the Cauberg in Valkenburg.
The Elite races will be broadcast live on tv.uci.ch.