After thorough deliberation between cycling's governing body the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), Belgian Cycling, the Flemish Minister of Sports Ben Weyts and the city of Ostend, the organisation is ready to welcome on 30 and 31 January 2021, the world’s best riders during the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. The strongest rider will irrefutably be crowned the world champion in the city of Ostend on this unique course, which features both sand and grass.
After a period of preparation marked by a great deal of uncertainty and many questions, the organisers of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Ostend have succeeded in completing the course well before the scheduled date. Everything is now ready to welcome the international cyclo-cross elite in the city this week.
“Unfortunately, the 2021 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships will be held this year without the many exuberant fans that usually line the course. No spectators, but a shining example of the creativity of Flanders”, says Flemish Minister for Sport Ben Weyts. “I am pleased that all the parties involved have made such an effort to safely receive the international elite of cyclo-cross in these unprecedented times. Due to COVID-restrictions, the riders from the junior category will not be participating, but we are happy to welcome the promising U-23 riders. Along with many other viewers across Flanders and the world, I am really looking forward to this highlight of the cyclo-cross season.
“In a normal year, tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world would have travelled to Flanders next weekend to witness the battle for the rainbow jersey first-hand. But even without supporters, these world championships and this stunning course cement our reputation as a cycling nation. And thanks to the 2021 UCI Road World Championships in September, 2021 will be a top year for cycling, nonetheless”, says Flemish Minister for Tourism Zuhal Demir.
Mayor Bart Tommelein: “We are really looking forward to watching these top-tier riders give it their all. The mix of sand, the grass in the hippodrome and the big bridge means the city by the sea has created a unique course for the riders. Obviously, we regret that this will not be the festive event it normally is, but we have made every effort to entertain viewers with fun additional activities along the course. There’s no point in physically attending the event, because spectators will be kept at a safe distance and the police will take action in the event that gatherings are in violation of the current measures.”
Organiser Rik Debeaussaert: “The preparations tested our mettle, but thanks to all our partners we were able to keep going with an unprecedented drive. All that hard work will have paid off when we see the riders at work this weekend. On-site we are applying all the measures as strictly as possible to ensure a COVID-safe event for everyone. No matter how unfortunate it is, I call on everyone to stay home and enjoy the races from the comfort of their living room rather than come to the course.”
UCI President David Lappartient: "The Union Cycliste Internationale is delighted that all parties have agreed to maintain the 2021 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, the major annual event in the discipline. The holding of the event was achieved after efforts by all parties to reduce the number of accredited persons and increase health measures, with the aim of ensuring a safe event for all participants in an extremely challenging health context. I would like to thank the spirit of cooperation of all those involved, organisers and competent authorities, who made it possible to safeguard our Championships for the benefit of the athletes, viewers, partners, and all cycling fans."
A number of extra measures were taken in order to ensure a save environment to hold the championships. All attendees are submitted to Covid-testing in a mix of PCR-tests and the on the field quick tests. This strategy has been approved by the national health experts, specialised in the Covid matter.
Contact between members of the organisation, the media and the participants is reduced to the bare minimum. Following the decision that spectators are not allowed, the number of attendees has also been reduced. On site, wearing a face mask is mandatory and so keeping a minimum distance between one another of one and a half meter.
The organisation is determined to restrict any possibility of spreading the virus inside the periphery of the course.
Viewers will be surprised with the magnificent scenery in Ostend. The eye-catcher of the course is the 135-metre-long and 8-metre-tall bridge. With a gradient of 21%, the climb and the descent may actually prove a decisive factor in this race. A 600-metre section of North Sea sand then awaits the riders, who will also be asked to demonstrate their technical prowess on the grass of the hippodrome.
Netherlands vs. Belgium
The big favourites in the Elite Men’s race are Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and Belgian Wout Van Aert. Fun detail: they are both hoping to win their fourth title, giving them the opportunity to determine who is the strongest of the two. Of course, an outsider can also walk off with the first prize because the course promises to make for a thrilling and exhausting battle.
The battle for the rainbow jersey promises to be equally epic in the other categories. In the Elite Women’s race, the question remains whether compatriot and three-time UCI World Champion Sanne Cant can face off the stiff Dutch competition for a place on the podium. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado is the favourite to win gold.
The various races will be held on Saturday and Sunday. The Men’s U23 and the Women’s Elite will ride on Saturday 30 January, at 1.30 pm and 3.10 pm, respectively. On Sunday 31 January, the Women’s U23 will start at 1.30 pm. From 3.10 pm the Men’s Elite will compete for the much-coveted title of UCI World Champion.
All races will be broadcast by Sporza.
The City of Ostend has joined forces with the Government of Flanders, through the intermediary of EventFlanders, to organise this event. EventFlanders operates under the auspices of VISITFLANDERS, but is a partnership of VISITFLANDERS, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Culture, Youth and Media, and Sport Vlaanderen.