The second round of the 2020-21 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup will take place at the Citadel de Namur on Sunday. This season?s first duel will be fought between the great tenors Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock in Wallonia's capital. The women's world top riders will also all appear at the start. Lucinda Brand is going for a hattrick.

Wout van Aert started his cyclo-cross season on 28th November winning third place in the CAPS Urban Cross in Kortrijk (X²O Badkamers Trofee) and one day later he finished third again in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Tabor in the Czech Republic. On 6th December, the winner of Milan-San Remo came fourth in the Telenet Superprestige in Boom. Last Saturday, Mathieu van der Poel went straight for the top spot on the stage after his first cyclo-cross race of the season, the Soudal Scheldecross Antwerp (X²O Badkamers Trofee). The following day, the winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the Telenet Superprestige in Gavere lost the top spot to Tom Pidcock, who was riding his fourth cyclo-cross race of the season in East-Flanders.

Last season, the 21-year-old British super talent came second to van der Poel grabbing silver at the World Cup in Dübendorf; by winning his first ever qualifying race in his career on Sunday, he has made a giant leap forwards. The Citadel de Namur, is a course tailor-made for Pidcock, who secured the win of the U-23 Giro d'Italia in September. The Brit is an excellent climber and has got a lot in the tank, but of course the same goes for Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel.

ALL TOP ATHLETES WILL ATTEND

"The UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup Namur is the first cross this season where van Aert, van der Poel and Pidcock will line up together at the start. It promises to become a fantastic battle", says course designer Erwin Vervecken of organiser Golazo Sports. "However, the circle of favourites will certainly not be limited to these three. Eli Iserbyt has already collected six victories this season and will be in the lead this Sunday too. As will Toon Aerts, who became second twice and third once before at the Citadel de Namur. And World Cup leader Michael Vanthourenhout ? the winner in Tabor ? will want to prove himself again on Sunday."

In the women's race, the full world top will appear at the start of the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup Namur. "Lucinda Brand is top favourite", according to Vervecken. "She was the best one at the Citadel de Namur over the previous two years and has won not only the opening round of the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup but also six other cyclo-cross races this season." The 31-year-old Dutchwoman's competition traditionally hail from her own country: World Champion Ceylin Alvarado, Denise Betsema, Annemarie Worst,... On the Belgian side, we are looking forward to eleven-times National Champion Sanne Cant.

NO STEPS, NEW LOOP

There has been a small change to the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup course in Namur in comparison with last year. "The steps have been removed from the course and have been replaced by a new loop with a slight climb", explains Vervecken. "This means that the stretch over cobblestones that we introduced last year is now 100 metres shorter, but there are still 250 metres remaining to make an impact. The UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup Namur is and remains a tough, but exceptionally attractive cyclo-cross competition that gives full expression to the heroism of cyclo-cross", says Vervecken, who has three world titles on his honours list just like van Aert and van der Poel.

Contrary to previous years, there will be no junior races at the Citadel de Namur on Sunday. "The corona measures issued by the various governments of our country, remain valid until at least 15th January", explains Vervecken. "We are only allowed to organise the Men and Women Elite competitions, all without spectators obviously. Both races will be broadcast live in their entirety on Sunday on RTBF (TIPIK), Telenet Play Sports and Proximus Open. We are very grateful that there is a UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Namur at all this year. This would not have been possible without the support and efforts of the City of Namur, the Walloon Region and the French Community of Belgium."