Mathieu Van der Poel to face Tom Pidcock and Wout Van Aert at Antwerp cyclocross World Cup

Alpecin-Deceuninck rider returns to cyclocross action this weekend in Belgium

Mathieu van der Poel Wout van Aert
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Get your diaries ready, as we now know that the 'big three' of cyclocross are likely to return to face off against each other for the first time this season on 4 December.

This will be the Antwerp round of the World Cup, and will be when Wout van Aert heads back to off-road action; Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock have already or will already have started their seasons by then. Between them, the trio have won the last eight cyclocross World Championships.

Van der Poel is set to return to cyclocross this weekend at the Hulst round of the World Cup, his Alpecin-Deceuninck team confirmed on Monday.

Meanwhile, Pidcock started his first cyclocross races last weekend, finishing seventh at the Telenet Superprestige Merksplas, and second at the Overijse round of the World Cup.

He had an unfortunate time at the World Cup, but said: "I can be proud, but it was very frustrating".

Van der Poel's schedule up to the cyclocross World Championships, which will happen on home soil at Hoogerheide in the Netherlands.

His calendar is filled with World Cups in Antwerp, Val di Sole, Gavere, Zonhoven and Benidorm across December and January, with racing interrupted by road team camps in Spain from 5-14 December and 9-19 January. The team is yet to make a decision on what he will do the weekend before the World Championships.

The 27-year-old will also head to other cyclocross races, including the Superprestige rounds in Boom, Heusden-Zolder and Diegem, and the X2O Trophy races in Herentals and Koksijde, the Exact Cross in Mol and Leonhout.

The World Cup has already had six rounds, but Pidcock, Van Aert and Van der Poel have all had differing lengths of time off the bike, as a result of their hectic road seasons. 

Van der Poel last raced at the Giro del Veneto on October 12 after he retired from the World Championship road race in Australia after being arrested in connection with an altercation with two teenage girls in the Dutch team hotel. After being charged with two counts of common assault, the Dutchman was later fined £900 for the incident

Last month, he spoke of being close to burnout: “I think this year the mental fatigue is a bit bigger than the physical one. There’s not really a lot left. I will be happy if I can take a little break again after Friday.” 

The three men will all be targeting yet another rainbow jersey come January; Pidcock won his first title in Van der Poel and Van Aert's absences last year in Fayetteville. The former has won four rainbow jerseys in cyclocross, while the latter has won three.

"I think we are all curious about Mathieu's return to the field. That certainly also applies to Mathieu himself," Dutch national coach Gerben de Knegt said ahead of Van der Poel's return to the discipline.

"As a cyclocross rider you often need some time to pick up the technical skills at your first cross, but I am confident that Mathieu will soon get that routine back. Last weekend you also saw with Tom Pidcock that men of this calibre quickly make that adjustment."

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.