The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup heads to the south of Belgium on Sunday for spectacular racing up and around the towering citadel of Namur. World Cup races will be contested in all four categories.

The Namur course is characterised by the medieval fortification and its steep slopes, making it one of the toughest courses of the cyclo-cross circuit. The uphill start leads the riders up a 500-metre long cobbled road towards the top of the fortress. Just before entering the muddy sections of the course, riders have to tackle a slippery wooden bridge. Along the course there are multiple demanding climbing paths but also multiple steep descents. Add a difficult 300-metre long off-camber section and it’s clear why Namur doesn’t provide surprise winners.

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Elite Women: Vos back in competition

A high quality starting field will line up for the Women’s race, with the return of UCI Cyclo-cross World champion Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv Women Cycling Team). Just like last year Vos will ride her first cyclo-cross race of the season at the citadel. Back then she finished runner-up behind US Champion Katherine Compton, trailing her rival by forty seconds. Nikki Harris (Great-Britain) was third at 46s.

Vos’ teammate Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) will also start their World Cup campaign in Namur. Ferrand-Prévot is French Cyclo-cross Champion and UCI Road World Champion. She has already shown good form this season and last week won in Lanarvilly. Nash is a previous winner of a World Cup round in Roubaix and grabbed her third Czech national title in Milovice last weekend.

The trio will have to deal with in-form European and Belgian Champion Sanne Cant. The 24 year-old tops the World Cup standings after winning the two previous World Cup rounds in Koksijde and Milton Keynes. Halfway through the World Cup Cant holds a 16-point lead over Katherine Compton and is 38 points ahead of Nikki Harris.

Elite Men: Pauwels looking to confirm World Cup lead

Also the race in the Elite Men category is expected to be spectacular. Every year Francis Mourey (FDJ.fr) shows off his strong skills in Namur and last year he managed to win an extremely muddy edition. The French Champion dealt masterfully with the mud, climbed well and successfully withstood the return to the front from all other favourites to win solo ahead of Klaas Vantornout, Niels Albert and Sven Nys.

In the World Cup standings Kevin Pauwels is enjoying a comfortable lead of 35 points over his teammate Klaas Vantornout. Dutch rider Corné van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea) shares third place with his teammate Tom Meeusen, both 57 points behind Pauwels. The latter finds a course in Namur that suits him very well. In 2012 he won the race after riding away from Mourey and completing a long solo ride.

Although Wout Van Aert (Belgium) and Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) are nowadays winning races in the Elite Men category, the duo opts to race the remaining rounds of the World Cup in their Men Under 23 category. It’s only the second round of the World Cup in this category with Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) winning the opening round in Valkenburg. Van Aert was runner-up in the Netherlands ahead of Fabien Doubey (France) while Van der Poel placed fifth. Last year Van Aert won the Men Under-23 race, finishing solo by more than a minute ahead of Mathieu van der Poel.

In the Junior Men category Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) convincingly won the opening round in Valkenburg and leads the World Cup standings ahead of Max Gulickx (the Netherlands) and Johan Jacobs (Switzerland).

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

Follow the Elite racing live on the UCI YouTube channel tv.uci.ch.