Mathieu van der Poel was seen previewing the course for the UCI Cyclocross World Championships on Saturday morning in Tábor and admitted that he thought it was more challenging than he originally expected.
“I’m glad I did it because the course is completely different than I expected,” Van der Poel, who is aiming for his sixth elite men’s world title, told Sporza.
“This is real cyclocross, much harder than first thought and expected. But it is a fair course. The rider with the best legs will become world champion.”
Van der Poel will line up for the elite men’s race as the defending champion on Sunday. He’s been almost unstoppable in cyclocross this season and would have probably gone undefeated had he not run into a post during the Benidorm World Cup and crashed.
Following the course recon, Van der Poel said that he believes the rider with the best legs will become the new world champion. “I feel good and am already looking forward to tomorrow.”
He will line up with teammates Pim Rohnaar, Lars van der Haar, Joris Nieuwenhuis, Ryan Kamp, Corne van Kessel and Mees Hendrikx.
The Dutch team will face a strong Belgian team that includes Eli Iserbyt, Michael Vanthourenhout, Laurens Sweeck, Niels Vandeputte, Thibau Nys, Joran Wyseure, Toon Vandebosch, Jens Adams, and Witse Meeusen.
The coach of the Belgian national team, Sven Vanthourenhout, told HLN that the team is motivated.
“We know that Mathieu is the big favourite. But I’m not going to immediately start talking about second and third place. If we focus on that, we will run into a counterattack anyway. And I can only hope that the boys rise above themselves. The motivation is there.”
But he believes Van der Poel could win the elite men’s race by four minutes if he attacks early enough and there is no concerted effort to chase.
“I think Mathieu can drive away for four minutes. We don’t necessarily have to try to close that gap. Because the other Dutch people will – rightly – look at us. They will already be in a seat.”
Asked how he would feel if Belgium did not win a medal., Vanthourenhout said, “Failed is not the right word. Because it would not be new this season. In previous cross races, no Belgians were on the podium. So, that scenario is possible. But I would be disappointed. And as national coach I bear responsibility. ”