0cycThe cyclo-cross peloton lands in the dunes of Koksijde, Belgium, on Saturday for the third round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup. A regular host of the World Cup, and venue of the 2012 World Championships, Koksijde is a cyclo-cross classic, and many riders have a love-hate relationship with its sand.

Elite Men: Van der Haar’s successful history in Koksijde

Young Dutch Champion Lars van der Haar (Rabo Development Team) has fond memories of Koksijde. At the 2012 World Championships he won the Under 23 race after a fierce duel with Wietse Bosmans (BKCP-Powerplus).

Despite his current World Cup lead over German Champion Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus), van der Haar will face tough opposition from the Belgian selection in Koksijde. Men such as Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) and the now-retired Erwin Vervecken have dominated the top spot of the Koksijde podium in the past decade.

The only man who managed to break their domination was Czech star Zdenek Stybar who won in Koksijde back in 2009. Last year Nys won ahead of Albert and French cyclo-cross star Francis Mourey (FDJ.fr). It’ll be interesting to see how young wolves van der Haar and Walsleben deal with the more experienced Belgians.

Elite Women: Compton hot favourite

US Champion Compton is hot favourite for the win in the Women’s category. Last year she demolished the opposition by winning the World Cup event by more than a minute over her nearest rivals. In the past few years she’s only been beaten in the Koksijde sand by Dutch women Marianne Vos and Daphny van den Brand (both absent).

Compton currently has 110 points in the World Cup standings in front of British Champion Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea) on 95 points. The rest of the field has already been distanced after two World Cup rounds. Czech rider Pavla Havlikova (Young Telenet-Fidea) shares third place with the now-retired Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Faren-Kuota) holding 75 points.

In the younger categories, it will be interesting to see how the Dutch team fares against the Belgians. The Dutch Men Under-23 riders have always performed well in Koksijde with wins from Gert-Jan Bosman and Van der Haar in recent years. Mathieu van der Poel won the Koksijde World Championships race and World Cup round as a Junior in 2012, and currently leads the U-23 rankings.

Belgian rider Eli Iserbyt copes well with the sand and will be looking to extend his overall lead over Lucas Dubau (France) in the Junior Men rankings.

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