Cyclocross: The ‘Big Three’ face off Sunday for first time this season

Cyclocross: The ‘Big Three’ face off Sunday for first time this season

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It’s one of those “get out the popcorn” moments for cyclocross fans.

On the men’s side, the “Big Three” — Wout van Aert, Tom Pidcock, and Mathieu van der Poel — square off for the first time this season in what will be a highlight in an action-packed weekend in men’s and women’s cyclocross racing.

On Saturday, the Telenet Superprestige series continues, while Sunday’s UCI Cyclocross World Cup leg in Antwerp is drawing all the big names under one tent.

Here’s what’s on tap:

Saturday: Superprestige gets tight at top

Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado is in a tie for the lead in the Superprestige series. (Photo: JASPER JACOBS/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Superprestige hits the midway mark of the 2022-23 series with the fourth round in Boom, Belgium.

Set in a park area that hosts the Tomorrowland music festival each summer, the course delivers a mix of climbs, technical areas, and even some cobbles that provide a challenge for all skills. Forecasters are calling for cloudy and cold conditions, with temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s (F), but it’s not expected to see a repeat of the mud-fest of last year.

Van der Poel races his first Superprestige of the season and will see a stiff challenge from Laurens Sweeck, who’s already won two legs of the Superprestige this fall. Pidcock is also slated to race in Boom.

Also read: Pidcock admits weight and power disadvantage in cyclocross

In the women’s race, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Denise Betsema are locked in a tie for Superprestige series lead. Alvarado is coming off back-to-back wins in her return to cyclocross form and is putting all of her cyclocross eggs into the Superprestige basket.

The event also sees Pauline Ferrand-Prévot returning in her new Ineos Grenadiers colors for the Boom Superprestige race ahead of a busy next few weeks.

How to watch: GCN+

Sunday: World Cup clash of the titans

Van der Poel powered to World Cup victory last week in Hulst. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

On the men’s side, the much-hyped “Big Three” have been avoiding each other all season. Much like heavyweight favorites waiting for the big fight, the dodging and weaving are over for cyclocross’ big stars.

For the first time since the worlds, Pidcock, Van der Poel, and Van Aert — all current and former world champions — will toe up to the line Sunday at the Antwerp World Cup stop.

Also read: Ferrand-Prévot sees packed December cyclocross schedule

Antwerp’s Scheldecross is renowned for its tight cornering and long sectors of sand lined out along the Schelde river. On the men’s side, Van der Poel has won the past four races on the course.

After winning the Hulst World Cup last week, Van der Poel will be the five-star favorite in the sandy slugfest.

The women’s World Cup will see Fem van Empel trying to fend off recent challenges from Puck Pieterse, who’s won two World Cup rounds so far, and rising star Shirin van Anrooij. All of them are 20 and are collectively reshaping the cyclocross hierarchy.

How to watch: GCN+

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