Unlike the Elite races, which look like they will be contested by many riders from around the world, the U23 and Junior races come with a few heavy favorites in each race. While snow is likely, our photographers set foot on the ground and captured shots of the Friday course, which includes loads of mud and ruts already covering the course.
Interestingly enough, the first two rows of the U23 and Junior races are not designated to the UCI ranking, but the overall World Cup standing, which is counter to what one finds in the Elite races. As Logan Owen told us earlier today by tweet, "If anything the World Cup points should only matter for the elites because of all the travel that the World Cup requires... Some of the younger juniors and U23's don't have the resources to make those expensive trips."
Losing Matheiu van der Poel to the Elites will have a large impact on the Dutch squad, who might not have an answer for the top 1-2 duo of Belgium’s Vanthourenhout and Sweeck. Much of their hopes rests on the shoulders of their U23 National Champion Stan Godrie, who will have a sixth overall call-up. Godrie has a respectable amount of top ten placings, and his January looked strong, but although he’s a consistent rider at the U23 World Cup level, he usually lingers between sixth and ninth place.
Joris Nieuwenhuis will join the pack in the second row, although his UCI World Ranking is well beyond the top 100. Perhaps one of the advantages of consistently riding in most World Cup events as a U23 rider.
The Dutch Junior squad, on the other hand, looks strong with four riders in the first two rows and a fifth in the third row.
Max Gulickx and Jens Dekker will be the two biggest faces for the Dutch come Saturday morning. Gulickx is the current Dutch Junior National Champion, and he’s typically found on the podium, five times right below Iserbyt. Could tomorrow be the exception to the rule? Dekker has been building up towards the end of the season, taking second in the World Cup at Zolder. He also had an impressive win at Zilvermeercross last December, and will be in the hunt tomorrow.