UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships
Hoogerheide first hosted the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in 2009, the year that Niels Albert stunned the sporting world by taking out the rainbow jersey in his first attempt in the elite ranks.
Albert is also in no shape to repeat his exploits of five years ago, however. Having suffered a bout of the flu after winning in Rome on January 5, he finished an anonymous 12th in the Nommay World Cup. In contrast, defending champion Sven Nys has racked up a series of victories this year: in Baal on New Year's Day, the Belgian championships (by a mile), Zonnebeke and Leuven. He chose to sit out Nommay to keep his powder dry and will be tough to beat on Sunday.
For the 2009 world championships, the course was fast and mostly dry. Although there are relatively warm temperatures and sunshine are in the forecast for Sunday and only a small amount of rain on tap for Saturday, the course is not expected to be hard packed as recent rains have created mud bogs that will stay sloppy for race day.
The mud, sand and steep run-up will make the Hoogerheide course heavy, forcing riders off the bike for longer periods than usual. This could eliminate former world champion Zdenek Stybar from the start list: he is focusing on his preparation for the road season and has said he would only race if the course was dry.