Let’s veer off the tarmac for a second and venture down the less-travelled dirt road. It’s time for the 2017 Cyclo-cross World Championship!
On January 29th in Bieles, Luxembourg, the Elite Men’s category will race to determine who will wear the rainbow jersey in 2017. It’s a pretty stacked field at the top, with current champion Wout Van Aert and 2015 champ Mathieu van der Poel leading the pack, along with some stiff competition from Lars van der Haar and Kevin Pauwels.
Here’s a look at the favorites coming into the race.
Odds to win the Men’s 2017 Cyclo-cross World Championship
Mathieu van der Poel: 3/2
Despite finishing a disappointing eighth overall at the UCI World Cup, van der Poel heads to Bieles as the favorite. At just 22 years old, the former world champion and current Dutch national champion has already established himself as a giant in the sport.
A serious crash late last year left him with some nasty injuries, but the young Dutchmen seems to have recovered nicely and is ready to take back the rainbow jersey.
Wout van Aert: 5/2
Current world champion Wout van Aert is struggling with some injuries as well. The Belgian national champion was forced to skip the final race of the 2016–17 Cyclo-cross World Cup due to some knee issues, but his performances in the earlier races ensured him the overall win.
According to his tweets, he’s back on the bike but we don’t know if he’s made a full recovery yet.
Lars van der Haar: 9/1
Van der Haar came in second last year and third the year before. In van Aert’s absence, he won the final World Cup round in Hoogerheide last week and seems in pretty good form at the moment.
2016 saw him come in second at the World Championships, National Championships, and World Cup. Maybe he can break the curse in 2017 with a World Championship win.
Kevin Pauwels: 14/1
Kevin Pauwels has finished third in four of the last six World Championships. The 32-year-old Belgian won the 2011-12 and 2014-15 World Cups, but has yet to clinch the elusive World Championship. He’s the most experienced rider out of the favorites and is one of the few riders able to break the current two-horse race between van der Poel and van Aert.
Tom Meeusen: 17/1
Tom Meeusen is a controversial figure in the sport and an outside favourite for the World Championship. Until recently, Meeusen’s eligibility for the race was unknown after he was linked to an ongoing doping investigation. It’s not a good look for Meeusen, who missed the 2013 Championship after he was found blood-doping.
But he was recently cleared by the UCI, and the World Cup bronze medalist will be allowed to compete.
Photo credit: “Cyclocross – Ecuelles, 07122013” by loicwood, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.