As this year’s road cycling season comes to an end, it’s only natural to shift the focus towards cyclocross. Because every year, as we struggle with the autumn and winter weather shifting to rain, cold and ice, the tough men and women of cyclocross are just getting ready to shred in the mud. To get you excited for what’s coming, we’ve listed the male cyclists you should watch when the season begins.
Mathieu van der Poel
Mathieu van der Poel has been a big name in cyclocross since 2015—the year he immediately became the world champion. Last season he won pretty much everything that could be won, with the exception of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship where Wout van Aert peaked at the right moment and took the title. Prior to the new season, Van der Poel already won the Dutch National Road Race Championships, managed to get third during the UCI World Mountain Bike World Championships, and second during the European Road Cycling Championships. He seems to be ready for it and may be doing himself a favour to skip the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup races in the United States.
Wout van Aert
In recent years Wout van Aert has fought an impressive battle with Van der Poel, and he still has hopes to shine as the three-time, and current, world champion this year. He began the season with a false start, however, thanks to some controversy over his former team and the merger with Roompot. As a result, he canceled his contract and now rides solo without a team. We will have to see where he ends up this season.
Toon Aerts is a fresh name on the scene, and he looks to be a contender for the podium. Just like Van der Poel, he has been riding in the field since 2015. His best performance so far was the victory at the European Championships in 2016 and a third place at the same event in 2017. This year might turn out to be his best yet, as he won the World Cup races in both Waterloo and Iowa, beating Wout van Aert twice. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop.
There has been a big gap behind Van Aert and Van der Poel in recent years. That gap is getting tighter with Toon Aerts, but behind him it looks like this might be the year for Quinten Hermans. At the age of 23 he is still quite young and last year was the first time that he was allowed to join the big names after he became the European and Belgian champion of the U21s category, in 2016. During the first World Cup races this year, he achieved fourth place in both events, so he is now in third place in the general classification.