THE final three race weekends of the European cyclocross season will not feature the three biggest elite men in the sport - Van der Poel, Van Aert and Pidcock - as their focus now turns to the road season. For Pidcock that means a new road programme for INEOS Grenadiers before a Grand Tour debut at La Vuelta a España in August.
The Belgian press were referring to the trio as 'The Big Three' or 'The Three Tenors' this week as the Superprestige and Trofee series are decided without them - starting with the final round of the Superprestige in Middelkerke today (February 6th). This led to some debate among fans of the sport over whether British champion Pidcock quite warrants to be on the same level as his two lowlander rivals. Nevertheless they are the three 'cross champions who also have serious ambitions on the road.
Van der Poel will defend his World title
Newly re-crowned World champion Mathieu Van der Poel's first road race of 2021 will be the UAE Tour later this month (21-27th February) as his Alpecin-Fenix team continue to step up the levels ahead of a Tour de France debut.
The seven-day race will be followed by Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, with perhaps Tirreno-Adriatico (still to be confirmed) in between. After racing the Spring Classics, with a particular focus on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Van der Poel will start a period of mountain bike racing.
For the record, Van der Poel (below) fully intends to defend his 'cross World title and continue racing in the winter planning "a season of ten or fifteen races, each time with a focus on the World Championship," according to WielerFlits.
"If it is down to me, I'll definitely be traveling to Fayetteville next year," the Dutchman told WielerFlits.
Van Aert aims for Olympic Gold
As we reported earlier, Wout Van Aert announced his 2021 road racing programme last month and hinted at challenging for the green Points jersey in the Tour de France as well as the Olympic Time Trial title.
"The green jersey is not easy to get hold of, you have to work for it every day. We also have three GC riders at the Tour [two now after Tom Dumoulin put his career on hold, Ed] and, above all, the Olympics immediately after the Tour are also causing doubts so I will probably focus on stage wins. Taking yellow on the opening stage is a goal. The two time trials are a good preparation for the Olympics, where the TT gold is the main goal," Van Aert announced.
There was good news for British fans as the Belgian plans to race the Tour of Britain in September.
Van Aert's provisional road programme:
Tour of Flanders
Critérium du Dauphiné
Tour de France
Tour of Britain
World Cycling Championships.
Pidcock to debut at Omloop
British 'cross champion Tom Pidcock is expected to make his debut for INEOS on the 'Opening Weekend' at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (February 27 and 28), before taking on Strade Bianche in March and the Ardennes Classics of Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April. Pidcock will make his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España in August.
The end of the 'cross season is set to be closely fought out by those who dominated the early part of the season: Eli Iserbyt; World bronze medallist Toon Aerts; Michael Vanthourenhout; and Laurens Sweeck.
According to WielerFlits, "In contrast to the men, the best women riders in the world will still be present in the coming weeks. The new world champion Lucinda Brand defends a lead of only three points over Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado in the Superprestige. Annemarie Worst, Denise Betsema, Sanne Cant, Clara Honsinger and World Champion Under-23 Fem van Empel will also race at Middelkerke.
Middelkerke's Nordzeecross was first held in 1959 and is considered to be one of our 'Monuments of Cross' celebrated in our exclusive sweatshirt design (below).
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