The Dutch squad head into the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships filled with confidence after the season-long domination of Mathieu van der Poel in the elite men's races. The World Cup winner heads up the country's five-man team for the race.
Gerben de Knegt, the national team coach, was pleased with the team's outing in Hoogerheide this weekend. "Mathieu van der Poel has once again demonstrated in Hoogerheide that he is ready for the World Cup and his brother David also shows that his form is excellent," De Knegt said.
In a UCI profile of the Dutch programme, De Knegt expounded on the importance of having a rider like Van der Poel in the team.
"With Mathieu van der Poel, we've got the ultimate billboard," de Knegt said. "Everybody wants to be Mathieu van der Poel. That's great. If only a few Dutch teams would be founded. We've got some, but not with the big money like the Belgian teams."
The men's squad is completed by Lars van der Haar, Corne van Kessel, Stan Godrie and David van der Poel.
On the women's side, Marianne Vos showed that her form is on the rise with a fourth-place finish in Hoogerheide. She will be part of the country's five-rider team for the women's race along with Lucinda Brand, Maud Kaptheijns and Annemarie Worst. De Knegt also found room for former world champion Thalita de Jong, who is still completing a comeback from a knee injury.
"Marianne Vos showed her class [in Hoogerheide] and will put the finishing touches this week. I am happy that Thalita de Jong is fit again and as a former world champion definitely strengthens the selection. With the elite women, we can certainly shoot for the podium next week."
Joris Nieuwenhuis heads the U23 men's squad, while Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado is a major contender for the women's U23 race.
Heavy rain has turned the hilly course in Valkenburg into a slip-n-slide, so the teams have not yet been able to fully preview the course, De Knegt says. "It's still messy out there. Right now some sections are blocked off because otherwise there would be no grass left. We'll have to wait and see if it's still wet during the first free training. If that's the case then there will be no grass left after an hour. That's good for Mathieu. Both physically and especially technically he's good enough."
Elite men: Mathieu van der Poel, Lars van der Haar, Corné van Kessel, David van der Poel, Stan Godrie
Elite Women: Maud Kaptheijns, Lucinda Brand, Annemarie Worst, Thalita de Jong, Marianne Vos
U23 Men: Joris Nieuwenhuis, Jens Dekker, Sieben Wouters, Maik van der Heijden, Kelvin Bakx, Thymen Arensman
U23 Women: Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Inge van der Heijden, Fleur Nagengast, Manon Bakker, Yara Kastelijn
Junior Men: Ryan Kamp, Pim Ronhaar, Luke Verburg, Bart Artz