Cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) has confirmed that he is recovering from a back problem and will face big rival Sven Nys in the mud at the Superprestige Hamme-Zogge on Sunday.
Heavy rain has been hammering Belgium this week and the conditions are expected to create one of the toughest races of the season. That will not help Stybar but he cannot miss the third round of the Superprestige series after winning the first two.
The Czech rider did not ride Thursday's Fidea Jaarmarktcross in Niel but is undergoing intense treatment to be ready for Sunday.
"The blockage is in my back and I've had treatment and done a series of special exercises to help it," Stybar said.
"The problem will not be completely resolved, that's impossible, but I will start Sunday. Not starting the race in Niel was the right decision because I would certainly have aggravated my injury. Now I can do the necessary exercises and rest up."
We'll do our best to be ready for Sunday, so I can be as strong as possible. It remains to be seen how good I can be. I can just do my best."
Muddy conditions expected
The weather is expected to produce an extremely muddy course, much like in Niel, where Nys and Britain's Helen Wyman (Kona) won. Tyre pressure and selection will be vital, as will bike changes and rider's ability to run in the mud.
"Last night the track was still 70% passable," race director Eddy Van Bunder told Het Laatste Nieuws.
"We'll do our best so it's as good as possible. We have a sandbox of eighty meters built and we have a number of sections that will make it more difficult. However I don't expect riders will have to walk a 100m more than two times."
"We have already had a championship over a course that was an issue and we've already had one in the snow. It's going to be a fantastic new and legendary cross course."
There will be a full report, rider reactions and photo galleries from the races here on Cyclingnews.