Although Mathieu van der Poel is the towering favorite on Sunday for the cyclocross world championships, his Belgian competitors do not simply accept second place. Our southern neighbors realize that they are facing a hellish job in the Swiss city of Dübendorf.

"If you want to beat him, you must have the day of your life. I have been able to beat him twice in the previous two seasons. That creates trust and will be etched in my memory for a long time," said Toon Aerts, who Van der Poel was identified as the greatest danger at the NOS .

The 26-year-old Belgian ended last year, when Van der Poel took the world title for the second time with force majeure, with a third place for the first time on the World Cup podium.

His fellow countryman Eli Iserbyt, four years younger, who is thought to have a great future, hopes that Van der Poel will have a lesser day. "If you see how he has been driving for the last two weeks, there is very little you can do about it," he says.

"We have seen in the past that Mathieu can be beat at a World Cup, but the question is to what extent he is now nervous or can be influenced."

A spicy course has been laid out in the Swiss city of Dübendorf. (Photo: Pro Shots)

"We know what assignment we stand for"

The Belgian national coach Sven Vanthourenhout realizes that his drivers are not a top favorite. "There is one big top favorite and that makes sense given the season. The boys know what assignment they are facing and they will try to fulfill it."

Van der Poel, who won 23 of his 24 cyclocross rides this season, announced on Friday to Het Laatste Nieuws that he was looking forward to the World Cup in a relaxed way. "But on the day of the race I have healthy nerves," he said.

The race in Dübendorf starts on Sunday around 2.30 p.m. Among the women, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado won the world title on Saturday and the stage with Annemarie Worst and Lucinda Brand was completely Dutch.