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Cyclocross world championships preview: Who to watch in Dübendorf

Men's race is van der Poel's to lose, Cant will look to defend against dominant Dutch team. Americans Munro and Gunsalus go into first-ever women's junior race with strong chances.

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The UCI cyclocross world championships take place this weekend in Dubendorf, Switzerland.

The men’s race looks likely to come down to Mathieu van der Poel versus the Belgians, while the women’s will see defending champion Sanne Cant (Belgium) battling the numerical advantage of the Dutch team, which includes the likes of Lucinda Brand and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado.

The U.S. will be represented in all the races across the weekend, though it’s in the junior women’s race, Saturday, that the Americans have the best chance of hitting the podium, with Lizzy Gunsalus and Madigan Munro hot favorites.

The man-made course is set alongside the airport and is largely flat, save a handful of sets of stairs and flyovers. The heavy grass surface is dominated by long straight-aways that are likely to play into the hands of bigger, more powerful riders. The main technical features of the course are a number of tight 180-degree bends and some steep grassy climbs which could provide attack points.

Kerry Werner filmed a full ride-through recon of the lap on his Youtube channel here.

The race can be streamed on the UCI website, here.

Men’s Elite: Sunday 1430 CET

Mathieu Van Der Poel
The main action in the race could center on which Belgian places second behind defending champion van der Poel. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Defending champion Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) goes into the race as the absolute red-hot favorite. Van der Poel started his ‘cross season late after a heavy road season, but once he gathered momentum has proven absolutely unstoppable, attacking and riding to solo victories seemingly at will.

The Belgians pose the biggest threat to van der Poel defending his title, with Toon Aerts and Eli Iserbyt most commonly seen on the podium alongside the Dutchman through the season so far. The Belgian team packs a hefty strength in depth, with Laurens Sweeck, Michael Vanthorenhout, and Quinten Hermans consistently grabbing top-6 placings through the World Cup and Superprestige series.

Wout van Aert will also be racing for the Belgian team. The triple world champion only started racing six weeks ago after a six month injury lay-off. He’s nearly back to his best and with his depth of experience, shouldn’t be ruled out.

Others to keep tabs on through the race include 2019 U23 champion Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) and van der Poel’s teammate Lars van der Haar.

Kerry Werner, Curtis White, and Stephen Hyde will be representing USA.

Elite Women: Saturday 1500 CET

Brand (left) and Alvarado (right) are two of many strong riders in the Dutch senior team. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Triple world champion Sanne Cant (Belgium) will be in for a tough time against the pack of Dutch riders that have dominated the season so far.

Dutch champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and countrywoman Annemarie Worst were the top contenders for the women’s World Cup title through recent months. The impressive form of 21-year-old Alvarado contributed to her decision to race the world championships as an elite rather than in U23s, where she placed third in last year’s world championships.

Lucinda Brand will also be a hot favorite for the Dutch team, coming off the back of a win in Hoogerheide last weekend.

American champion Clara Honsinger and teammates Katie Compton and Rebecca Fahringer will also likely be up in the front pack and should be on the list of outside-favorites. Canadian champion Maghalie Rochette will also be going into the race with confidence following a series of confident performances in Europe.

Veterans Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot will both be sitting out the race having recently undergone arterial surgeries.

U23 Men: Saturday 1300 CET

With Eli Iserbyt and reigning U23 champion Tom Pidcock stepping up to race in the seniors, Kevin Kuhn (Switzerland), Antoine Benoist (France) and Ryan Kamp (Netherlands) will go into the race as favorites having dominated the U23 season so far.

They will be up against a strong British team that includes Thomas Mein, Ben Tulett and Cameron Mason, who could use their collective strength to their advantage.

National champion Gage Hecht and U23 Champion Eric Brunner will lead the charge for the U.S. team.

U23 Women: Sunday 1300 CET

With Alvarado making the decision to race with the seniors this weekend, all eyes will be on Dutchwoman Inge van der Heijden. The CCC-Liv rider has been mixing it up with the seniors in the Superprestige and World Cup series this season, finishing fourth overall in the World Cup.

Others to watch include American Katie Clouse and Brit Anna Kay, who have both been competitive through the senior race season.

Junior Men: Sunday 1100 CET

Thibau Nys (Belgium) is the outright favorite for the race having torn through the junior World Cup season and picked up the national title in January. Thibau, son of ‘cross legend Sven, will be challenged by countrymen Lennert Belmans and Emiel Verstrynge.

American junior champion Andrew Strohmeyer and Dario Lillo (Switzerland) will also be on the long list for the win.

Junior Women: Saturday 1100 CET

Munro has had a dominant season in the juniors so far and will be a favorite on Saturday. Photo: Dejan Smaic

This year will mark the first-ever running of a women’s junior world championships, and two Americans go into the race as hot favorites. Lizzy Gunsalus and Madigan Munro have been riding high in the Helen100 junior series and will carry a lot of confidence into the race Satuday.

The American pair will be battling Shirin van Anrooij (Netherlands), who has been racing against the likes of Alvarado and Worst at senior level this season. The Dutchwoman has netted a handful of top-1os in the senior ranks and will put up fierce competition.