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Van Aert tips Van der Poel as 'cross Worlds favourite

Belgian Wout Van Aert pictured during the mens elite race of the Druivencross cyclocross cycling event last stage of the UCI World Cup competition in Overijse Belgium Sunday 24 January 2021BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Belgium cyclo-cross national champion Wout van Aert says that rival and reigning world champion Mathieu Van der Poel will be favourite when the pair battle for the rainbow jersey at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Oostende next weekend.

Van Aert inflicted a rare defeat on his Dutchman in the final World Cup round in Overijse on Sunday – only the third time he has done so this season.

However, Van der Poel had battled back 20 seconds from a puncture before crashes late in the race allowed Van Aert to ride away.

The previous day Van der Poel took his ninth win of the season at the Flandriencross in Hamme beating Van Aert by just seven seconds – the fifth time he has beaten Van Aert in cyclo-cross this season.

Despite beating his rival on a technical course in Overijse on their final meeting before the world championships Van Aert said his rival is favourite to take a fourth rainbow jersey and third crown in a row.

When asked if Mathieu van der Poel was a bigger favourite than himself for the world championship title? Van Aert replied, "I think so.

"It doesn't change after my victory today (at Overijse). For me it's really good to have this victory in the bag and gives me mentally something extra for next week I guess.

"He (Mathieu) has shown in previous weeks that he's the favourite."

The course in Oostende consists of a mixture of a tough sand section along the beach with a large flyover connecting to an undulating grass section.

"It's a completely different course but it's still one-hour of racing," added Van Aert, speaking to the television cameras.

"Me and Mathieu have been the favourites on every track and that will be the same next week."

Meanwhile, Van der Poel is expecting a tough battle between him and the Jumbo – Visma rider for the rainbow jersey.

When asked who the favourite for the world championships is? Van der Poel replied: "It's difficult to say of course.

"I think we have two big favourites Wout and me. I think today (at Overijse) we saw again that we are both good and in shape.

"I suspect that it will be a very nice race next week."