Belgium and the Netherlands are sending somewhat reduced teams to the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayetteville, noting the expense and logistical difficulties of travelling from Europe to Arkansas along with trucks worth of equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Belgium and the Netherlands are prioritizing sending teams that can compete for the medals. The Dutch will send only two elite men of seven available entries but are fielding a full women's team of eight, having earned an extra entry for having the reigning world champion Lucinda Brand.
The Belgians will send eight elite men but without Belgian champion Wout van Aert, who has opted to skip the World Championships to prepare for the road season. There were few surprises on Belgium's roster except for the inclusion of unsponsored rider Jens Adams who was fourth at the Belgian Championships in Middelkerke this weekend. Sanne Cant and Alicia Franck were the only elite women selected for Belgium's team.
The Dutch, who swept the last Worlds in Ostend, winning both elite and U23 races (the junior events were cancelled) will send National and European Champion Lars van der Haar and Corné van Kessel in the absence of defending world champion Mathieu van der Poel, who is out with an injury. Pim Ronhaar and Fem van Empel will defend their titles in the U23s.
Neither nation announced riders for the test event of the team relay which is due to take place on January 28.
Teams expecting travel woes
Even with smaller teams than usual, everyone flying to Arkansas is facing a potentially stressful trip, with many airlines proactively cancelling flights because of staff shortages brought on by the rapid spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
Dutch coach Gerben de Knegt told Wielerflits.nl that the trip is "almost an impossible journey".
"Many flights we had arranged have been cancelled. We had to reschedule those. As it stands now, the riders will go there the Tuesday after the Hoogerheide World Cup, while we will travel with the staff and fifty bicycles the day before. We're flying to Houston and rented a truck for the 900 kilometres that we still have left to Fayetteville.”
The closest airport to Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas regional airport, has only an average of 50 flights per day, none of which are international.
Travel is made more difficult by the huge surge in COVID-19 cases and requirements for a negative test within 24 hours of departure to the US and further restrictions for re-entry in Europe.
The extra effort of trying to fend off a far more contagious variant of the virus is causing more stress on the riders.
Van der Haar is taking extra precautions, not seeing friends and family or going out shopping and taking at-home tests twice a week. "Everything around corona[virus] has been so exhausting. If I'm going to be very spastic about it for the next three weeks, then it's all lost energy. I'm focusing on the race and besides that, I'm not going to go crazy, or seek it out by going for a walk in the city."
Brand has also limited her social interactions. "It's tough, seeing as few people as possible. We have to travel a long way to America, where you involuntarily meet people and are involuntarily locked up with people for a long time in a fairly small space. The risk is always there. We have to continue to limit contact and be safe where we can.
“As annoying as it is, we all have to deal with being sick from time to time. Now we're just dealing with something more contagious. That has been the case all season, World Championships or not. Of course, it is very annoying, but I think we are all just as much at risk of getting infected with corona. Above all, let's hope that everyone has equal opportunities at Worlds, that everyone stays healthy, and that we can end the season in a nice way."
Belgium for 2022 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships
Elite Women: Sanne Cant, Alicia Franck
Elite Men: Jens Adams, Toon Aerts, Vincent Baestaens, Quinten Hermans, Eli Iserbyt, Daan Soete, Laurens Sweeck, Michael Vanthourenhout, Reserve: Toon Vandebosch
U23 Women: Kiona Crabbé
U23 Men: Gerben Kuypers, Jente Michels, Thibau Nys*, Niels Vandeputte, Emiel Verstrynge, Joran Wyseure *(Pending collarbone fracture, replacement Witse Meeussen).
Junior Women: Fleur Moors, Xaydee van Sinaey
Junior Men: Yordi Corsus, Kenay de Moyer, Aaron Dockx, Wies Nuyens, Ferre Urkens, Viktor Vandenberghe
The Netherlands for 2022 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships
Elite Women: Lucinda Brand*, Denise Betsema, Annemarie Worst, Marianne Vos, Yara Kastelijn, Inge van der Heijden, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Manon Bakker
Elite Men: Lars van de Haar, Corné van Kessel
U23 Men: Pim Ronhaar*, Ryan Kamp, Mees Hendrikx
U23 Women: Puck Pieterse, Fem van Empel*, Shirin van Anrooij
Junior Men: David Haverdings
Junior Women: Leonie Bentveld, Lauren Molengraaf
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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