No rider on the starting line at the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Tábor will attract more attention than Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and not just because he’s the defending world champion.
Van der Poel’s cyclocross season comes after an enormously successful year on the road that saw him rack up wins in Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and the rainbow jersey at the UCI Road World Championships in Glasgow.
He’s also been almost unstoppable in cyclocross this season. He would have probably gone undefeated had he not run into a post during the Benidorm World Cup and crashed.
Belgian champion Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) looks set to secure the UCI World Cup if he can hold off Joris Nieuwenhuis (Baloise Trek) in Hoogerheide this weekend and is a perennial podium contender, along with teammate Michael Vanthourenhout – the two main hopes for Belgium.
At Worlds, Nieuwenhuis and teammates Pim Ronhaar and Lars van der Haar will likely not be challenging their compatriot Van der Poel but, if he runs into a pole again, they’ll most certainly be strong back-up contenders.
Ronhaar was the only rider to hang with Van der Poel (for a while) at the X2O race in Koksijde and won the World Cup in Ireland, was second in Namur and third in Flamanville.
British champion Cameron Mason is the big outside hopeful who could profit from the team tactics between Belgium and the Netherlands. Mason has taken a huge leap forward this year, scoring podiums in the European championships and five other races.
With Van der Poel storming away to solo victories in many of the races this season, more excitement has been found in the women’s contests. While she’s had some ups and downs, Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike) is the main favourite as defending champion and the dominant rider this year with 15 wins.
Her most recent challenges have come from Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck), the runner-up to Van Empel last year. The winner in Tábor will undoubtedly come from within the Dutch team which is so packed with talent, they don’t have to worry about using team tactics.
Expect an inter-team battle between Van Empel, Pieterse and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who have been consistently at…