Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) will clash just three times during the cyclo-cross season, with the ‘big three’ set for their first showdown at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Dendermonde on Boxing Day, December 26.
The other big clashes so far confirmed are for December 30 at the Azencross in Loenhout and on January 5 at the Herentals Crosst, which is considered Van Aert’s home race.
Van der Poel announced his provisional race programme today, confirming he will race for the first time on December 18 in the Rucphen World Cup race in the Netherlands, and travel a month later to the US to defend his world championships title in Fayetteville, Arkansas on January 30.
Van der Poel’s programme is focused on scoring ranking points at World Cup races so he has a best possible position on the start line in Fayetteville. However, he has also added the X20 race rounds in Loenhout on December 30 and Herentals on January 5 to his calendar.
Pidcock is also expected to travel to the US for Worlds. Van Aert now under growing pressure to accept the rainbow jersey challenge, delay his road racing debut to head across the Atlantic to race against his big rivals.
Van Aert and Pidcock are due to kick off their cyclo-cross seasons on December 4 at the Superprestige race in Boom. They will both race the Antwerp and Val di Sole World Cups in Belgium and Italy, respectively, before a dozen or so races in Europe during the holidays and January.
None of the big three will challenge in the overall rankings of the World Cup and the Superprestige, giving the likes of Eli Iserbyt, Toon Aerts, Lars van der Haar, Laurens Sweeck and Michael Vanthourenhout the chance to shine.
Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pidcock have to carefully balance their cyclo-cross racing and training with their respective team training camps and future goals on the road during 2022.
Ineos Grenadiers will be in Mallorca between December 7-17, Jumbo-Visma will head to Girona between December 13-21 and Alpecin-Fenix will gather in Spain between December 1-10. They also join their teams for spells at camps in January too.
“Everyone has put together their own competition program, taking into account the team camps,” Alpecin-Fenix Team Manager Christoph Roodhooft told Nieuwsblad.
“Mathieu will not ride in the Val di Sole race because it comes too soon after the first training camp that we will be holding from December 1 to 10 in Benicassim in Spain.”
Tom Pidcock travelled to Miami for a charity ride at the weekend but is now back in Europe and training hard for the cyclo-cross season.
“Tom is now set to ride 13 cyclocross races. That's the program we have in mind at the moment. It's always a matter of finding a balance with the road,” his directeur sportif and mentor Kurt Bogaerts said.
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