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Van der Poel, Van Empel lead powerful Dutch team at home Cyclocross Worlds

By Kirsten Frattini,


The Dutch national team are in a prime position to sweep up the rainbow jerseys offered at the upcoming UCI Cyclocross World Championships held on home soil in Hoogerheide from February 3-5.

The obvious favourites include Mathieu van der Poel in the elite men's race and Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse in the elite women's race, but the 37-rider national team is expected to dominate across all seven categories.

National team coach Gerben de Knegt believes that Van der Poel will be the big trump card for the team that also includes Lars van der Haar, Pim Ronhaar, Joris Nieuwenhuis, Ryan Kamp, Mees Hendrikx and Corné van Kessel.

Van der Poel has already stated that he fancies his chances for the world title win in Hoogerheide over his Belgian rival. Van der Poel won four elite cyclocross world titles in 2015 and 2019-2021, while Van Aert won three elite cyclocross world titles in 2016-2018.

"Everyone is looking forward to a nice duel between Mathieu and Wout van Aert [Belgium] on a course that is expected to be a bit muddy and, therefore, not too fast. I especially hope for a fair fight without bad luck. If it becomes a tactical joust, there may be more hijackers on the coast. Mathieu will go for nothing less than the win," De Knegt said.

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Fem van Empel and Pieterse will lead a powerful elite women's team that includes her former world champions Lucinda Brand and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado , along with Denise Betsema, Inge van der Heijden, Annemarie Worst and Aniek van Alphen.

Even in the absence of eight-time cyclocross world champion Marianne Vos, who was sidelined from defending her title due to pelvic artery constriction that has prevented her from competing at her best this season, the elite women's team could feasably sweep the podium.

The cycling world was treated to fierce competition between 20-year-old talents Van Empel and Pieterse, who have raced for their respective (and rival) trade teams during the World Cup series.

Van Empel took top honours in the series, winning seven rounds in Waterloo, Fayetteville, Tabor, Maasmechelen, Antwerpen, Dublin, and Benidorm. Pieterse was her nearest rival, runner-up in the series with wins at Overijse, Hulst, Val di Sole and Besançon.

"It was still difficult to select for the women in the end because we are so strong there in terms of depth," said de Knegt. "For the last place, I still had to choose between Aniek van Alphen and Manon Bakker. Although Manon has certainly also shown good things this season, the form of the past few weeks has been decisive in favor of Aniek. I think we have two riders in the women's category with Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse, who have stood out in form in recent times and start as favorites for the world title."

Shirin van Anrooij is also 20 years old and finished third overall in the elite women's World Cup after winning three rounds Beekse Bergen, Gavere and Zonhoven.

Although she would undoubtedly be a contender for the elite women's world title, she has chosen to compete in the under-23 women's race . Van Anrooij will lead a young team that also includes Leonie Bentveld, Mirre Knaven, Iris Offerein and Larissa Hartog.

"With the U23 women, we certainly have the favorite for the title with Shirin van Anrooij. While there is certainly a lot of international competition in this category, Shirin really stands out this season," said de Knegt."I think it's brave that she followed her heart and chose the under-23 category. A choice in which I deliberately did not interfere."

Tibor del Grosso and David Haverdings will lead the under-23 men's team, including Luke Verburg, Danny van Lierop, Lucas Janssen and Bailey Groenendaal. "They can certainly ride top 5 and actually participate for every position in those rankings," de Knegt said.

De Knegt is also confident that junior rider Guus van den Eijnden can compete for a medal in the junior men's race, while Lauren Molengraaf is favourite to win the junior women's title after winning four rounds of and the overall series standings at the World Cup.

"Lauren is also the favorite for the title. She can certainly handle that pressure. But for both Shirin and Lauren, they have to do it on that day as well."

Elite men

  • Lars van der Haar
  • Mathieu van der Poel
  • Pim Ronhaar
  • Joris Nieuwenhuis
  • Ryan Kamp
  • Mees Hendrikx
  • Corné van Kessel

Elite women

  • Fem van Empel
  • Puck Pieterse
  • Lucinda Brand
  • Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado
  • Denise Betsema
  • Inge van der Heijden
  • Annemarie Worst
  • Aniek van Alphen

Under-23 men

  • David Haverdings
  • Tibor del Grosso
  • Luke Verburg
  • Danny van Lierop
  • Lucas Janssen
  • Bailey Groenendaal

Under-23 women

  • Shirin van Anrooij
  • Leonie Bentveld
  • Mirre Knaven
  • Iris Offerein
  • Larissa Hartog

Junior men

  • Guus van den Eijnden
  • Senna Remijn
  • Floris Haverdings
  • Jelte Jochems
  • Mika Vijfvinkel
  • Keije Solen

Junior women

  • Lauren Molengraaf
  • Puck Langenbarg
  • Sara Sonnemans
  • Roxanne Takken
  • Bloeme Kalis

Team relay

  • Tibor del Grosso
  • Guus van den Eijnden
  • Lauren Molengraaf
  • Leonie Bentveld
  • Fem van Empel
  • Ryan Kamp
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