When will the "big three" return to cyclocross?

November 27, 2021

When will the "big three" return to cyclocross?

For some cyclocross fans, the absence of superstars like Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel (and more recently, Tom Pidcock) has been a GOOD thing - it's meant more parity in the field and fewer runaway races, leading to more exciting events for the spectators.

For other fans, however, they eagerly await the day that the "big guns" are present and accounted for. With these three top athletes crossing over into road and MTB, it makes sense they'd take a bit of a break to recover before starting their cyclocross programs, which explains their absence from the 2021-22 cyclocross season until now.

Strangely, this phenomenon only seems to affect the men's field in 2021; the women's field has all the heavy-hitters like Lucinda Brand, Denise Betsema, and others right from the start of the season.

Recently each of the "big three" have announced their returns to cyclocross racing, so let's take a look at their respective calendars:

Wout van Aert

"WVA", as he is known, is still only 27, yet already owns 3 World cyclocross jerseys, multiple Belgian national titles, as well as one-day classics like the Amstel Gold, Milan-San Remo, and multiple Tour de France stages.

As part of Jumbo-Visma, I expect him to ride the yet-unreleased Cervelo R5CX, which is probably getting closer to a final release (we saw it earlier this year under Marriane Vos).

van Aert has announced the following program: 

  • December 4: Boom (Superprestige Series)

  • December 5: Antwerp, NED (World Cup)

  • December 11: Essen, BEL (Ethias Cross)

  • December 12: Val di Sole, ITA (World Cup)

  • December 26: Dendermonde, BEL (World Cup)

  • December 27: Heusden-Zolder, BEL (Superprestige Series)

  • December 29: Diegem, BEL (Superprestige Series)

  • December 30: Loenhout, BEL (X20 Bakamers Trofee)

  • January 1: Baal, BEL (X20 Bakamers Trofee)

  • January 2: Hulst, NED (World Cup)

  • January 5: Herentals, BEL (X20 Bakamers Trofee)

  • January 9: Middelkerke, BEL (Belgian national championship)

Notably not listed - any info about the 2022 Cyclocross World Championship in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. Knowing that euro pro athletes generally don't like the long trip to the United States, perhaps he'll make a decision closer to the event, based on his results and form.

Mathieu van der Poel

MvdP, 26, has already won an amazing 4 World cyclocross titles. Along with Wout van Aert, he's part of the youth movement in cyclocross that has dominated the last decade. van der Poel has worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, and the prestigious tour of Flanders (de Ronde)

In 2020 MvdP focused substantial energy on the cross-country mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympics, only to be taken out by a severe crash which resulted in an injured back. Following rest and rehab, his back is stated to be healthy and recovered for a return to 'cross.

van der Poel has announced the following program: 

  • December 18: Rucphen (World Cup)

  • December 19: Namur (World Cup)

  • December 26: Dendermonde (World Cup)

  • December 29:  Diegem (Superprestige Series)

  • December 30: Loenhout, (X20 Badkamers Trofee)

  • January 2: Hulst (World Cup)

  • January 5: Herentals, (X20 Badkamers Trofee)

  • January 9: Dutch National Championships

  • January 22: Hamme (X20 Badkamers Trofee)

  • January 23 – Hoogerheide (World Cup)

  • January 30 – World Championships Fayetteville, Arkansas USA

Tom Pidcock

Pidcock derailed Mathieu van der Poel's plans for the Tokyo mountain bike race, snatching the gold medal in a dominating performance at the age of just 22. Like van Aert and van der Poel, Pidcock is part of a new generation of crossover riders who can excel in every discipline, taking the win in the Brabantse Pijl classic, and the U23 overall XCO mountain bike World Cup overall. Showing his versatility, he's even won the World Championship in the E-MTB Cross-country (electric bicycle) event.

Interesting fact - per Wikipedia, Pidcock clocks in at just 110 lbs (50 kg), which explains his performances on hilly courses. 

Pidcock has announced the following program: 

  • December 4: Boom (Superprestige)

  • December 5: Antwerp (World Cup)

  • December 12: Val di Sole (World Cup)

  • December 18: Rucphen (World Cup)

  • December 19: Namur (World Cup)

  • December 26: Dendermonde (World Cup)

  • December 27: Heusden-Zolder (Superprestige)

  • December 29: Diegem (Superprestige)

  • January 1: Baal (X2O Badkamers Trofee) 

  • January 2: Hulst (World Cup)

  • January 22: Hamme (X2O Badkamers Trofee)

  • January 23: Hoogerheide (World Cup)
  • January 30: World Championships Fayetteville, Arkansas USA

When will the Big Three race together?

As first pointed out by Velonews, there are just 3 races (thus far) that all three of these riders expect to attend. All three loosely fall into the Kerstperiode around Christmas and New Years, so we'll see them race head to head to head 3x in just about 1 week:

  • World Cup Dendermonde - Wout van Aert CRUSHED van der Poel at the last visit to Dendermonde, but it was a substitute course changed due to extreme weather, featuring very long lap times and as much running as riding - a little atypical. Nonetheless, van der Poel has to be looking for revenge here.
  • Diegem (Superprestige) - this is night race around a town center under the lights is already one of my favorites to watch, add in this kind of talent level and it should be amazing. Bonus - since it's at night, we can watch during normal hours in the USA, instead of waking up at 5am!
  • Finally, the Hulst (World Cup) just 3 days later is the last time all 3 riders will see each other before a potential World Championship showdown on USA soil.

I can't wait to see the truly elite riders in action!



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