For the first time in a decade, Klaas Vantornout (Marlux-Napoleon Games) will not be racing at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Luxembourg at the end of this month, having failed to make the Belgian selection for the event.
The national coach Rudy De Bie chose Team Steylaerts' Gianni Vermeersch to fill the final slot over Vantornout and ride alongside defending World Champion Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Charles). Jens Adams (Pauwels-Vastgoedservice) and Telenet-Fidea's Jim Aernouts and Daan Soete were others who missed out on selection.
Van Aert will be joined by Kevin Pauwels and Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Napoleon Games), Laurens Sweeck (Era-Circus), Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea), and Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles).
As European Champion, Toon Aerts would have created an additional position for Belgium in the men's elite race, but he suffered a broken collarbone in the Fiuggi World Cup, and can not be replaced for Worlds.
De Bie told Sporza that he hopes Merlier and Meeusen will take on the role that would have been Aerts' - attacking and making the race difficult. He justified the choice of Vermeersch, saying that he, Aernouts, Adams and Vantornout were all very close to the same level.
"I chose Gianni because his form has been increasing over the past few weeks," De Bie said. "Other pluses are that he can start very quickly and that he is not the most agreeable rider in the race. The latter is a minus for the foreigners."
Vantornout has twice been on the podium at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, coming second to Zdenek Stybar in Tabor in 2010 and to Sven Nys in Louisville in 2013.
A distant 36th in the UCI rankings from a country that has six riders in the top 10, Vantornout had already given up on being selected before the Fiuggi World Cup.
"To be honest, I was no longer thinking of a World Championship selection before the race in Fiuggi. That was completely out of my head," Vantornout said to Sporza.
"After the race next Sunday in Hoogerheide I will stay in Calpe, where I can properly train for the last races. I would like to make something of them."
"I can look back on my ten World Championship participations in the pros, and whatever results there were, and the fact that I can qualify for the Worlds again. That was not the case at all last year."
Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon) will lead the women's team alongside Ellen Van Loy and Jolien Verscheuren (Telenet Fidea), Loes Sels and Alicia Franck. Laura Verdonschot will represent Belgium in the Women's U23 category.
Belgium's U23 men's team is: Thijs Aerts, Nicolas Cleppe, Jonas Degroote, Kobe Goossens, Quinten Hermans, Eli Iserbyt and Yannick Peeters.
The Junior Men are: Yentl Bekaert, Jelle Camps, Timo Kielich, Toon Vandebosch and Florian Vermeersch. If Belgium wins the UCI World Cup in the junior category, it will earn one more rider to be chosen from Andreas Goeman, Arno Van den Broeck and Arne Vrachten.