We're just a week out from the 2018 UCI Cyclocross world championships in Valkenburg, Netherlands. The top-ranked cyclocross athletes from around the world will compete for the right to wear the coveted rainbow stripes.
Here is the RideCX preview and predictions for the athletes favored to win.
As of this writing, the forecast for Valkenburg says "MUD" with several likely days of rain in the week prior to the Elite Men and Women races, overnight lows in the 30's and daytime highs in the 40's, and rain in the forecast for race day. It could be cold, wet, and miserable, favoring athletes who thrive in those conditions.
Feb 3-4, 2018.
NBC Sports Gold (a streaming subscription service) has broadcast rights in the USA. The race will also be broadcast on the UCI YouTube channel, but will likely be region-locked to exclude USA viewers unless a VPN or proxy is used.
Given the weather conditions we're looking for riders who are comfortable in wet, mud, cold conditions.
Favorites: Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel is the overwhelming favorite. Generally, he has won most races he has entered this season, barring illness or mechanicals. His primary challenger is Wout van Aert (Belgium), the defending World Champion, an excellent runner in the mud.
Contenders: Laurens Sweeck has shown the watts to keep up with MvdP a few times this season and looked sharp at the Hoogerheide World Cup. Toon Aerts, Lars Van der Haar figure here, and French national champ Steve Chainel.
Also Watch: Tim Merlier, Quinten Hermans, Michael Vanthourenhout. Stephen Hyde (USA) is fresh off a win at the USA national championship. He's one of the few American Men committed to a European schedule and probably the best in bad conditions... can he crack the top 10? Crowd favorite Kevin Pauwels was not named to the national team and won't appear.
Favorites: Belgian Sanne Cant will attempt to defend her title and had a strong second-half of the season in the run up to Worlds, including a convincing win at the Hoogerheide World Cup. American Katie Compton is fresh off a win at the Nommay World Cup and has put together her strongest Euro campaign in years. Former rainbow jersey Pauline Ferrand Prevot suffered a nasty crash at Hoogerheide 1 week prior, but says she'll take the start anyway.
Contenders: Eva Lechner looked strong at Hoogerheide. Helen Wyman has shown she can excel, and run well, in mud. Maude Kapthiejns, Ellen Van Loy, Lucinda Brand figure here, and Ellen Noble too, based on her close race with Compton at the USA nats and comfort in mud.
Also Watch: Marianne Vos was a late entry to the 2017/18 season, only racing a few times with an eye on being ready for Worlds. We haven't seen her at the front, but with multiple world championships in multiple disciplines including cyclocross in an illustrious career, she has to be considered in any race she chooses to start. Katie Keough looks to be seen at the front also.