The opening round of the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup will be held on Sunday in the Czech town of Tabor.
Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) will begin the defence of his elite men’s title, while the elite women seeking to succeed the retired Daphny van den Brand will seize the opportunity created by the absence of Rabobank’s Marianne Vos.
Great Britain’s national champions, Helen Wyman (Kona) and Ian Field (Hargroves), will hope to build on the solid foundations laid last year.
Wyman will face competition for the honour of top British woman from Gabriella Day (Rapha-FOCUS) and Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea), but with six wins already this season from an American campaign begun in September, she will start as favourite among the British contingent. Fourth overall last season, she will seek a place on the final podium in 2012/13.
Field won the opening round of the season-long domestic ‘cross competition, the National Trophy Series, last Sunday, and will seek to carry that form into competition against the world’s best.
The Tabor course is steeped in history. Twice, it has been used to host the world championships, and in 2015 will do so again.
Last season’s battle for the elite men’s championship was decided at the final round in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.
Pauwels closed his successful campaign with victory, overcoming a season-long challenge from Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) and double world champion, Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Compatriots, Pauwels and Nys, are set to resume battle again, and will face the challenge of a third Belgian, the reigning world champion, Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus).
Reigning women’s world champion, Marianne Vos, will miss the opening round of the world cup, but is expected to contest later rounds and to defend her world title. The Dutchwoman has enjoyed a hugely successful season on the road, winning the Olympic and world road race titles.
Fellow Dutchwoman and Rabobank teammate, Sanne Van Passen, will seek to regain the title she won in 2010, but will face the challenge of Katherine Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective), who will this season concentrate on ‘cross engagements, as well as her illustrious compatriot.