With current 'cross world champion Wout Van Aert and last year's world champion Mathieu van der Poel missing from the November 11 Jaarmarktcross start list, the race organisers have added a striking 'spider web' to the Niel parcours for 2016. The duo also missed the race last year, with Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) taking the win, but have been the stand out riders of the 2016-17' cross season thus far.
The 'spider web' is the only change to the parcours from 2015 with the organisers hoping the new feature can separate the wheat from the chaff and bring in the crowds. The riders ride into the middle from the outside, and then go out again in the opposite direction.
A new 'spider web' feature for the Soudal Classic is described as "unique" by the organisers.It was introduced by Camiel Van den Bergh to last year's Nederlandse Rucphen, won by Tom Meeusen, with the Jaarmarktcross organisers keen to add it to their race. The Telenet Fidea Lions rider Meeusen explained the secret to riding the 'spider web', stating "you have to stay focused on your own line, if you look to one side, you're crazy."
One of Meeusen's challengers for the win will be Pauwels who is hoping he can repeat his good sensations from last year and open his season account.
"It's always nice to come back somewhere where you've already won. Last year I was in a good period, and the last few weeks I am riding again better. I'm back with a better feeling on the bike," said Pauwels, who at 32 laughed off suggestions he too old to still be racing. "The criticism that the older riders find it more difficult to race? The beginning of the season for me is never really good, I always need some time before the engine really starts up."
Having recently finished second at Koppenberg, and fourth in Ruddervoorde, Pauwels is hoping he can breakthrough and finish the race atop the he podium.
"It would be annoying to experience a season without a victory, but with Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel it is just very difficult," he said. "In Niel is there is a good opportunity for the other riders. If I have good legs, I should definitely be able to follow."
The race is one of ten that Trek Bicycles is live streaming for free on its website. For further details and streaming times, click here.