The focus of the cyclocross world is increasingly turning towards the UCI World Championships on February 3-4. However, with several major races either side of Tabor, including the final UCI World Cup round, there’s still a lot to fight for besides the rainbow jersey.
The World Cup draws to a conclusion in Hoogerheide on Sunday with men’s series leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) needing only seven points to regain the overall victory he took in 2021-22.
Two years ago, the Belgian scored seven wins en route to a dominant 128-point series win over Michael Vanthourenhout. This time around he lies on 317 points, 34 up on second-placed Joris Nieuwenhuis.
In order to grab the series win, the Baloise Trek Lions rider would have to win the race to secure 40 points with Iserbyt finishing in 21st (5 points) or worse. The scenario is unlikely but Iserbyt isn’t celebrating just yet.
“A good feeling is dangerous,” he told WielerFlits. “You certainly shouldn’t sit back. You’re not allowed to fall asleep. It’s important to stay alert.”
Another complication for Nieuwenhuis will be the presence of Mathieu van der Poel on the start line this Sunday. The defending world champion has won 10 of his 11 races this winter, three times by over a minute.
Nieuwenhuis finished runner-up to Van der Poel at World Cup rounds in Hulst and Zonhoven though it will take some doing to overhaul him – in addition to hoping Iserbyt finishes so low.
“For me, it is good that Mathieu is participating in Hoogerheide,” Iserbyt said. “Realistically, the first 40 points are then gone.
“Anyway, a crash can always happen quickly. But I have a good feeling, so I hope to do a good ‘cross next week and thus achieve my second World Cup classification victory.”
Iserbyt heads to Hoogerheide off the back of a fourth place in Benidorm, five seconds ahead of Van der Poel while Nieuwenhuis took 13th place.
While Van der Poel’s race – in addition to those of winner Wout van Aert and other ‘big three’ star Tom Pidcock – was disrupted by a crash, Iserbyt didn’t have it all his own way either, suffering several mechanical issues.
“I had a good training week. Things also went very well in Benidorm. I think I would have always been at the front if I hadn’t had a puncture. But I certainly can’t complain,” he said.
“I think I had lost 10 or 15 places due to that. The only thing that bothered me was that Joris was in the group in front of me and Pim Ronhaar was just a little further away.
“I got back into the…