Mathieu van der Poel is confidently preparing for the cyclocross world championships in Ostend.

The 26-year-old defending champion expects that he will feel at home on the sand course on the Belgian coast on Sunday.

"I also train a lot in the sand, even when there is no race on that surface. I think it's a nice way to train," said Van der Poel in a video of his Alpecin-Fenix ‚Äč‚Äčteam on Tuesday.

According to Van der Poel, the subsoil in Ostend will soon cause a separation.

"It is difficult to stay together in the sand. There is a faster hitching. It is easier to make a difference. I expect the strongest rider to be in the lead soon."

It goes without saying that Van der Poel and his eternal rival Wout van Aert will be the strongest riders.

The three-time world champions met each other this season in eight crosses.

Van der Poel won five times, three times the Belgian Van Aert.

They always occupy the first two places.

"I have a good chance on Sunday. I prepare myself as well as possible for the World Cup and hope that I have a good day, just like last year."

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Van der Poel has not yet studied the sand track of WK

'Winning the fourth time is no less beautiful'

After the World Cup, his focus is on the road season, while he wants to compete as a mountain biker at the Olympic Games.

Van der Poel could not immediately say how he estimated the value of a new world title in the field compared to all those other goals.

"Also because I've never won a stage in the Tour or an Olympic title. The first time you win something is always the best, I think. But that does not mean that a second, third or fourth time is less important. "

The World Cup cross for men starts on Sunday at 3.10 p.m.