Changing of the guard? Sven Nys was not his dominant self in Koksijde. 2014 Koksijde UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Elite Men. © Bart Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

File Photo: Sven Nys, shown here at the 2014 Koksijde World Cup. © Bart Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Elite Men

In what will hopefully be one of many great showdowns of the year—reigning World Champion Matthieu van der Poel is returning from his knee injury to square off with Wout van Aert at the Koksijde World Cup this Sunday, November 22.

In the 2014 edition of the race, Wout van Aert took a page from his Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace team manager and multiple-time Koksijde winner Niels Albert’s book and made quick work of the sand, powering away in a solo victory that was nothing short of dominant.

Joining van Aert will be 16 Belgian starters, with the last-minute withdrawl of Wietse Bosmans due to lyme disease-related illness. While there are many formidable threats from the Belgian contingent, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) has also shown good form this season, winning Superprestige Ruudervoorde, distancing van Aert and Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink). Nys has enjoyed success on the dunes of Koksijde, and always is in contention for a big result.

Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin), along with van der Poel, leads the Netherlands’ starters. Van der Haar has proven to be a foil to van Aert’s otherwise unbeatable form, coming out victorious at the Valkenburg World Cup and the European Cyclocross Championships.

Recovering from a knee injury that has had him sidelined for all of this season, van der Poel is the wildcard in the dunes of Koksijde. He was the only one to match van Aert’s pace in the sand last year, and as his World Champion stripes will attest, had his own share of success last season. This will be his first race back, so his form is unknown.

Representing Canada, a four man contingent will be racing at Koksijde with Cyclocross Magazine contributor Michael van den Ham (Red Truck/Garneau p/b Easton) looking to improve on his bad luck at Superprestige Gavere.

Brits Ian Field and Jack Clarkson will take the start line, and Robert Marion will be the sole American Elite Men’s starter.

Elite Women

Often only the leader gets to ride the dunes on early laps. 2014 Koksijde UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Elite Women. © Bart Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Often only the leader gets to ride the dunes on early laps. 2014 Koksijde UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Elite Women. © Bart Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Winner of last years race, Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) looks to repeat her victory in the Elite Women’s race—her first-ever World Cup win. She will face a very competitive women’s field highlighted by four-time winner Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing) who has been gaining momentum and form with recent wins, including a dominating performance at the at the Pan American Championships.

Much like the Men’s race the Women’s field will be dominated in numbers by Belgian and Dutch racers. Both nations will have eight starters, with VZW Young Telenet Fidea racers Ellen van Loy and Jolien Verschueren being two strong Belgian contenders, and Sophie de Boer (Kalas-NNOF) and Sanne van Paassen (Boels Dolmans) from the Netherlands are consistent threats.

Unlike the men’s race, Great Britian and the United states are sending five women to the start.

From the U.S., Compton is a real threat for the win, and U23 phenoms Emma White ( and Ellen Noble (JAM /NCC/Vittoria) hope to continue their domestic success at the World Cup stage. Cyclocross Magazine is well represented in the race, Kathryn Cumming (Cyclocross Magazine Racing) taking the line in her first World Cup start, and European correspondent Christine Vardaros (STEVENS Cycling Team) toeing the line on Sunday.

Brits Helen Wyman (Kona) and Nikki Harris (VZW Young Telenet Fidea) come off a string of strong results, with Harris finishing in third at Superprestige Gavere.

U23 and Junior Men

Winner of the Valkeburg World Cup, Gioele Bertolini, will take to the line in the U23 Men’s race. He faces tough competition from Belgians Quinten Hermans, who finished third last year, and Eli Iserbyt, who was second behind Bertolini at Vaklenburg.

The United States is sending a group of three racers, with Logan Owen (Cal-Giant), fresh of two days of UCI wins in Washington State, and Curtis White (Cannondale p/b real threats to get on the podium.

American Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Co.-Vista Subaru) looks to repeat his 2014 Koksijde victory in the Junior Men’s race. He will square off with Valkenburg winner Jappe Jaspers in the fight for the top step of the podium. Hecht will be joined in the race by fellow Americans Eric Brunner and Evan Clouse.

Be sure to keep an eye on, as we’ll have full coverage of both the Elite Men’s and Women’s races at the Koksijde World Cup.