Betsema and Worst miss out on Cyclo-cross Worlds due to fever and COVID-19

Netherlands Annemarie Worst L Netherlands Denise Betsema C and Netherlands Inge van der Heijden R celebrate on the podium after the women elite race of the Cyclocross Ruddervoorde the second stage of the Superprestige cyclocross cycling competition in Ruddervoorde western Belgium on October 23 2021 Belgium OUT Photo by DAVID STOCKMAN BELGA AFP Belgium OUT Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGAAFP via Getty Images
Worst (left) and Betsema (centre) on the podium at the Superprestige Ruddevoorde last October (Image credit: David Stockman/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

The Dutch national team for the Cyclo-cross World Championships has suffered a blow as Denise Betsema and Annemarie Worst are both out of this weekend's competition in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Worst, who was runner-up at the last two Worlds, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is forced to miss the race, while Betsema is sick with a fever and has decided against making the trip despite testing negative for the virus.

Despite the absence of the two stars, the Dutch women's squad still contains many of the favourites for the rainbow bands on Saturday, including reigning world champion Lucinda Brand, who has won 12 races this season and leads the World Cup, Superprestige and X2O Trofee rankings.

Seven-time world champion Marianne Vos is also racing, as are Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Yara Kastelijn, Inge van der Heijden, and Manon Bakker. Puck Pieterse, Fem van Empel and Shirin van Anrooij will take part in the U23 women's race.

"We had and still have several irons in the fire with the elite women," said national coach Gerben de Knegt. "But I did count Annemarie and Denise among the contenders for a medal. It's a hard blow for us and them that they can't be there."

Betsema has four wins to her name this season, though she hasn't tasted success since October. The 29-year-old lies in second place behind Brand in the three major cyclo-cross competitions. Worst won the UCI World Cup round in Koksijde in November and is third in the Superprestige and X2O Trofee standings.

The losses of Betsema and Worst are the latest blows to the World Championships, which will see an inordinate number of riders missing for various reasons.

Reigning men's world champion Mathieu van der Poel is out due to a recurrence of his back injury, which saw him end his season after just two races. Indeed, the Dutch squad is only sending two men's riders – Lars van der Haar and Corné van Kessel – due to financial reasons.

Wout van Aert also opted against racing having ended his season at the Belgian Championships as his focus turns to the road season. His compatriot Quinten Hermans misses out after testing positive for COVID-19.

British rider Anna Kay won't race after suffering a concussion, while half of Italy's 12-rider selection is out after with a rider testing positive for COVID-19 and the resulting close contacts unable to travel. Switzerland, meanwhile, has sent a team with no women riders after Jolanda Neff and Monique Halter ended their seasons.

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