Preview Cyclocross World Championships 2024 Tabor
The Cyclocross World Championships are taking place in Tabor, Czech Republic, next weekend. The championships have been held here three times before: in 2001, 2010, and 2015.
It will be a competition of the world champions from 2010 and 2015, each with very different prospects. Zdeněk Štybar, the winner from 2010, will be making his farewell appearance. Mathieu van der Poel, who claimed his first elite world champion title in 2015 and was the youngest rider ever to don the rainbow jersey in this discipline, aims to secure his sixth title.
Mathieu is No 1 favorite!
“The top favorite has never been so clear,” wrote the Dutch cycling portal Wielerflits in its preview of the men’s championship. Cross expert Jens Schwedler agrees, “It’s a very fast course in Tabor that clearly favors the pros with big engines – and of course, Mathieu van der Poel is the first to be mentioned.” “The course is laid out in a round manner and thus takes away as little speed from the riders as possible,” Schwedler continued.
“In the Netherlands and especially in Belgium, the courses are much more technical and demand greater riding skills. In Tabor, the physical component is much larger,” says Schwedler, who won countless German cyclocross championships in both elite and masters categories and became a four-time world champion in the masters. “In that respect, the Czechs are similar to us Germans. We also prefer the power courses,” he says with a smile.
During his active career, Schwedler’s best result in Tabor was 24th place in the World Cup. However, he did witness Mathieu van der Poel’s very first elite world championship title there in 2015, as the Dutchman was riding on the Stevens bike brand, Schwedler’s employer at the time.
“The decisive factor between van der Poel and van Aert back then was the riding over the hurdles,” says Schwedler. They are technically more difficult to ride or jump here than elsewhere because they are set on a slight incline and the course continues uphill afterwards.
“You have to carry the momentum. That naturally suits a rider with technical skills like Mathieu. But Michael Vanthourenhout can do it too,” Schwedler adds.
Fast parcours in Tabor
“Due to the many long straights, Tabor is a course that favors road riders who can produce a lot of power,” says Schwedler. But apart from Mathieu, only Joris Nieuwenhuis, who has competed in three Grand Tours, and Zdeněk Štybar are comparable as road riders. Štybar, the world champion of 2010 on this course, will be racing his farewell race in Tabor and has only outsider chances for a top placement.
If it’s dry, the course will be even faster than it already is. “It could get interesting if it freezes at night, then warms up during the day, so that there is deep mud in some places and the racing line changes over the course of the race. That’s then the biggest challenge for the riders, having to reorient themselves during the race,” says Schwedler.
But no matter how you look at it – it seems unlikely that anyone will get past Mathieu van der Poel here. He has prepared very precisely for these championships. The race in Hoogerheide can’t necessarily be seen as a benchmark, since he rode it tired at the end of a larger training block and also started in Hamme the day before.
Schwedler believes that van der Poel could launch his attacks after the stairs: “They only have about ten steps, but it goes uphill right after. That’s where he can make the difference.”
The fight for second place will be all the more exciting. “I was really impressed by Michael Vanthourenhout’s performance in Benidorm. He won a race in Belgium the day before and then got on a plane to Spain in the morning. You have to be very focused for that,” says Schwedler. “Someone else who can prepare well for a single event is Lars van der Haar,” says Schwedler.
The Dutchman, by the way, finished third at the World Championships in Tabor in 2015, behind van der Poel and van Aert. Vanthourenhout and van der Haar will be fighting for the podium places against Thibau Nys, Eli Iserbyt, Joris Nieuwenhuis, and Pim Ronhaar.
Mathieus first CX-title in Tabor
Open race in the womens category
While the men battle for the rainbow jersey on Sunday, the women will have their turn on Saturday. And the race could be more competitive, as the course, as already described, is not too technical.
“On a classic cyclocross course, it would come down to a duel between Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse,” believes Jens Schwedler. “However, since the course also favors the female powerhouses, Lucinda Brand could be in the mix for the podium,” Schwedler continues.
The young Hungarian Kata Blanka Vas has also shown rising form recently, having started the cross season late. “The later you start, the fresher you are – mentally as well. Moreover, the many races in the cold and wet conditions this year have already taken a toll on the riders’ substance,” says Schwedler.
Only outsider chances are given to the 2020 world champion, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. She feels more comfortable on more technical courses.