The UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships kick off in Koksijde, Belgium this weekend. The coastal town boasts a spectacular course through the dunes which guarantees top level racing action throughout the weekend. Over 32’000 tickets have been sold which means huge crowds will line the sides of the twisting course in Koksijde. More than 230 cyclists from 24 nations will battle their way through the sand in their attempt to grab hold of the four rainbow jerseys and 12 medals at stake. The first race starts on Saturday at 11am for the youth categories and concludes with races for the Women and the Elite Men on Sunday.
This will be the second time the Cyclo-cross World Championships will be held in Koksijde. The first time was eighteen years ago and the win at the time of reigning Belgian champion Paul Herygers against Richard Groenendaal (The Netherlands) remains legendary.
The top favorites in the Men Elite category are defending world champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) from the Czech Republic and local riders Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) and Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus). These four riders, and in particularly Pauwels, have dominated the Cyclo-cross season; last weekend Pauwels clinched the overall win in the Patrick UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup. However he faces stiff competition from the others in particular Stybar who will be hoping to grab his third title in a row. Outsiders for the win on Sunday afternoon are French riders Francis Mourey (FDJ-Big Mat) and the rest of the Belgian selection.
In the Women’s category the favorite is Dutch rider Marianne Vos (Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team). 24 year-old Vos won the last four World Cup rounds and could become World Champion for the fourth year in a row. On the technical course in Koksijde there’s a good chance that she’ll face most opposition from her 33 year-old compatriot Daphny van den Brand (AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team). But the competition will be tough especially from Katherine Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team) from the USA and Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) from the Czech Republic.
On Saturday the Dutch riders are expected to excel in the youth categories. Both Lars van der Haar (The Netherlands) and Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands) convincingly won the World Cup in their category. In the Men Under 23 category Van der Haar will nonetheless have to contend with the strong Belgian champion Wietse Bosmans. In
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