The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup series concludes this weekend in Hoogerheide, on the Netherlands/Belgium border, with awards for the overall being given in all four categories. While the elite women, under 23 men and junior competitions are virtually wrapped up, the margin of elite men's leader Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) over Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) is too slim to call.
Pauwels currently tops Nys by 20 points in the overall standings, and Pauwels needs to finish at least fourth if Nys wins to claim his first ever overall win in a major series. This isn't an impossible mission for Pauwels, who has not finished outside of the top four in a World Cup round this season.
Equally important as the World Cup overall, Hoogerheide also features as the final rehearsal for the world championships in Koksijde which follow one week later. The circumstances at both events are completely different, but a rider who doesn't show good form in muddy Hoogerheide is unlikely to go smoothly through the sand in Koksijde. Except for the honor of performing well there are also valuable UCI points and a bag of money at stake in Hoogerheide.
Riders want to boost their confidence ahead of the world championships with strong performances, but many are still seeking UCI points, which yield better positions in the starting grid at Koksijde. For example, American Timothy Johnson is currently looking at a third row start, but with a good result in Hoogerheide he might still sneak past Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) and Mathieu Boulo (Roubaix-Lille Métropolle) and join compatriots Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt) and US champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) in second row at the world championships.
In the women's category, Daphny Van den Brand only needs to crack the top 15 on home soil to hold off her compatriot Marianne Vos (Stichting Rabo Women) for the World Cup title. The latter is world champion and convincingly won the last three rounds of the World Cup, but since she skipped the first two rounds she stands no chance to grab the overall win. "If that would've been a goal, I should've started my cyclo-cross season a bit earlier," Vos said after her win in Liévin last Sunday.
American Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team) should keep an eye on French champion Lucie Chainel-Lefevre. Only one point separates the two in the battle for a third place in the overall World Cup rankings.
In just three of four World Cup races for the under 23s, Lars Van Der Haar has earned an unassailable 45-point lead over compatriot Mike Teunissen in the series, while another Dutch rider, Mathieu Van Der Poel has an even larger 65-point advantage over Frenchman Romain Seigel in the juniors.
Racing starts at 10 o'clock local time on Sunday morning with the junior men event, followed little later by the under 23s. At 1:30pm the women kick off their final round of the World Cup. The racing action in Hoogerheide concludes with the elite men's race at 3pm.