Chris Case examines the field at this weekend's cyclocross worlds and outlines the top 10 favorites for gold.
The UCI Cyclocross World Championships take place in Valkenburg, Netherlands, Feb. 3-4. The elite women will race Saturday at 3 p.m. local time, which is 9 a.m. ET.
Here are the top contenders for the elite women’s race. Check out our list of 10 favorites for the men’s race, which will close out the weekend on Sunday >>
Sanne Cant (Belgium)
If there’s an outright favorite in the women’s field, it has to be the defending champion Sanne Cant. With five World Cup wins this season and a commanding lead in the overall UCI rankings, the Belgian has the biggest target on her back. That said, she has had several hiccups in the past month. At January’s Nommay World Cup, for example, she suffered an early mechanical and finished 12th. The women’s field has seen incredibly tight racing all season long, so a win for Cant is by no means a foregone conclusion. Still, in a deep field, Cant stands out as the woman to beat.
Eva Lechner (Italy)
Though she hasn’t won a World Cup this season, Lechner has consistency on her side, with three podiums and seven top-10 World Cup results. The Italian national champion was second in the Hoogerheide World Cup last weekend, suggesting her form is right where it needs to be for a run at the worlds podium. Ranked fourth in the world, the Italian mountain biker does best on technical courses where her handling skills and risk-taking pay off. She was sixth at last year’s worlds in Bieles, Luxembourg.
Katie Compton (United States)
Could it finally be the year? Katie Compton has come excruciatingly close to a world title in the past, with three silver medals and one bronze in her career. Compton spent the 2017-18 season racing in Europe full-time, and it resulted in a stellar year that included the overall title in the DVV Trofee series. Her form of late has been mixed: she picked up her 14th consecutive U.S. national cyclocross championship in Reno, returned to Europe and won the Nommay World Cup round, but most recently had a poor performance at the Hoogerheide round just before worlds, finishing a distant 22nd.
Kaitie Keough (United States)
Keough is no longer just a domestic threat. (Though she won the overall title of the inaugural US Cup-CX series.) Against international competition, she began her season with a bang, finishing second at both the U.S. World Cup rounds. The results weren’t a fluke. She carried that form into the heart of the European season, showcasing her technical skills on her way to a sixth-place finish at the muddy Namur World Cup in mid-December. She is currently ranked second in the UCI standings and second in the World Cup series. Her form of late continues to impress: she was fifth in Hoogerheide last weekend. She finished 10th at last year’s worlds in Bieles.
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (France)
Despite starting at the back of the field due to her poor UCI ranking, Ferrand-Prévot has not finished outside the top five at the World Cup or first-tier races she’s contested this season. In the past month, she has charged through the field to take third in Nommay, fourth in Zolder, and fifth in Namur. All that said, her lead-up to worlds has not gone smoothly. She crashed heavily at the Hoogerheide World Cup while battling for the podium with mountain bike world champion Jolanda Neff. She abandoned the race but will make the start at worlds.
Marianne Vos (The Netherlands)
No longer the dominant cyclocrosser she once was (Vos has won seven world ’cross titles), the Dutchwoman also can never be discounted. She still has the talent to upset any race. She finished fourth in Hoogerheide last weekend, suggesting her form is where it needs to be. Racing in her home country, she’ll have added motivation to make her way to the podium. She grabbed a silver medal last year in Bieles.
Ellen Van Loy (Belgium)
At 38, Van Loy has the experience to pull off a great race. And with four top-10 finishes in the World Cup this season, she shows no signs of slowing down. She was eighth in Bieles last year, her best worlds finish.
Lucinda Brand (The Netherlands)
Known more as a road racer for Team Sunweb, Brand has had a stellar season, taking the Dutch national title in early January. She’s also grabbed three top-10 finishes in World Cups this season. She knows how to peak for the big races: she finished fourth in Bieles.
Nikki Brammeier (Great Britain)
Brammeier has had an up-and-down season, finishing as high as second at the Namur World Cup, and as low as 19th in Waterloo. Most often she has placed near 10th position in the World Cup rounds, while grabbing second at several Superprestige rounds. She was ninth in Bieles last year.
Helen Wyman (Great Britain)
Like Brammeier, Wyman has struggled with consistency this season. While she took yet another British title (her 10th), won the prestigious Koppenbergcross, and finished second at two rounds of the World Cup, lately she has finished well back from the leaders, including a 27th in Hoogerheide.