The penultimate round of the 2014-2015 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup will take place on December 26th at the former F1 car racing circuit in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.

Races will be held in all four categories at the GP Eric De Vlaeminck on what is forecast to be a chilly but dry Friday. The fast course with a few bumpy and steep descents and a sometimes slippery off-camber climb usually provides for spectacular racing. Last year Lars van der Haar (Development Team Giant-Shimano) and Katherine Compton (USA) prevailed at the Belgian car track.

Elite Men: Pauwels in strong position

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games Cycling Team) held on to his World Cup lead in the citadel of Namur last weekend with his second victory of the season. If he can increase his lead over Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) by three more points on Friday he will have the overall World Cup win in his pocket. Pauwels will be full of confidence as he hasn’t finished outside the top-2 in a World Cup round this season and has already won twice in Zolder (in 2009 and 2011). Meeusen will probably focus on defending his second place as he hasn’t cracked a World Cup podium so far this season.

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Corné van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea), German Champion Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) and last year’s winner in Zolder Lars van der Haar are all within 13 points of Meeusen. In 2013 the Dutchman won ahead of Czech riders Martin Bina and Zdenek Stybar. Bina is struggling with his form this season, and did not finish the previous World Cup round. World Champion Stybar injured himself at the cyclo-cross event in Ardooie and will skip the rest of the season. Another big name absent from the start line will be Belgian Champion Sven Nys: also struggling with his form, the 38-year-old decided to skip the World Cup rounds in Namur and Zolder.

Elite women: close battle for overall lead

Managing only sixth place in Namur, World Cup leader Sanne Cant (Belgium) now leads Compton by only one point in the overall standings. The battle between these two athletes will continue up until next month’s World Cup final in the Netherlands. The course in Zolder is well suited to road specialists and this could work in favour of World Champion Marianne Vos or UCI Road World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team). Vos has a good record in Zolder with four wins although last year she was beaten by her American rival Katherine Compton. Cant was third last year.

Third round for Men Under-23 and Juniors

In the Men Under 23 category new cyclo-cross stars Wout Van Aert (Belgium) and Mathieu van der Poel (the Netherlands) are expected to fight out yet another exciting duel in their third World Cup round. Last weekend World Champion Van Aert won ahead of Dutch Champion Van der Poel, taking over the lead in the World Cup standings. Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) and Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) are outsiders for the victory on Friday morning.

In the Junior Men category Johan Jacobs (Switzerland) was the first rider this season capable of beating World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Belgium). Mountain bike World and European champion Simon Andreassen (Denmark) was a surprising third in Namur. However a strong American delegation might shake up the race scenario in Zolder.

The entries and start lists, the results and the rankings are available on the 2014-2015 UCI Cyclo-cross section of the UCI website.

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