The big three in the CX will meet this Sunday in Antwerp
The most awaited day of the cyclo-cross season has finally arrived. The World Cup race to be held on Sunday in Antwerp will finally have all the main riders in contention with the addition of Wout Van Aert who starts his mud season here. In front of him not only Tom Pidcock and Mathieu Van der Poel but all the specialists who will try to be competitive against the great dominators of cyclo-cross in recent years.
Pidcock, Van Aert and Van der Poel meet at the Antwerp CX World Cup
It has been a long wait, during which, on the other hand, we have experienced exciting races with Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout, Sweeck, Van der Haar and company fighting it out and making us enjoy a fantastic spectacle. More than enough for the cyclo-cross fan. However, we were already looking forward to seeing the big names, even if we knew that this might mean that the races were no longer so hotly contested and exciting.
Two weekends ago it was Tom Pidcock who started his season. Discreet start in the Superprestige race to, the next day, come close to victory, only surpassed by Michael Vanthourenhout who is having a great season, so far, already wears the European Championship jersey that he won with a great performance in Namur.
Last week it was the turn of the monster Mathieu Van der Poel to make his debut. Forgetting his back problems, the rider who two seasons ago did a brilliant performance on the cyclo-cross circuits was back. An overwhelming victory with the only resistance from Tom Pidcock who, despite having to abandon due to a breakdown in second place, had already lost his chances of overtaking the Dutchman.
Wout Van Aert won almost everything he raced last season, the only race he missed was the World Cup race in Hulst where he could only finish 4th, 9 out of 10 races. The show is served and we all want to see the great duels that Van Aert and Van der Poel offered us just a few years ago when they were dedicated exclusively to cyclo-cross. All this with a luxury guest like Tom Pidcock who, despite declaring himself a step below the two of them, has the legs and class to fight against them.
Van der Poel Territory
However, if we review the results of the Antwerp CX World Cup event, we can see that there is a clear favourite. Although last season had to be cancelled due to a spike in covid cases in Belgium at that time, the previous 4 editions have had a clear dominator: Mathieu Van der Poel.
After him, the second step of the podium was occupied by Wout Van Aert in three of them, except for the last one, during the 2020/2021 season, when he was seconded on the podium by Eli Iserbyt and Tom Pidcock.
A circuit without the wild slopes that the riders had to face last weekend in Hulst, with predominantly flat sections and sandy areas that provide the main technical difficulty to the route. There are no rain forecasts for the rest of the week so, unlike a few days ago, it is not the conditions of the course that will make the difference, but rather the strength of each of the riders.
The battle for the overall classification
Despite the participation of Van der Poel, Pidcock and Van Aert, with 7 of the 14 Cyclo-cross World Cup races already completed, none of the three of them count in the general classification, led by Laurens Sweeck who in the last race managed to take the lead from Eli Iserbyt who has dominated the beginning of the campaign although in the last races he has suffered more than usual with the arrival of the rains that have complicated the circuits to the maximum.
Not far behind in third and fourth place respectively are Michael Vanthourenhout and Lars Van der Haar, who are also having a remarkable season.
All four will try to be as close as possible to Van der Poel, Pidcock and Van Aert, and it wouldn't be surprising if they were able to surprise. In any case, the battle for the overall is between them and they will have to ride with a cool head that will allow them to score as many points as possible instead of trying to follow the big three at all costs. So there will probably be two races: one for the classification and one for the victory.
How to watch the Antwerp CX World Cup
As usual, Eurosport will broadcast live next weekend's CX World Cup races in Antwerp, but only through its Eurosport Player apps and GCN+ platform. The start of the women's race will be at 12:30, while the expected duel between the big three will be at 14:00.