Next weekend, from Friday 3 to Sunday 5 November, Pont-Château (France) will host one of the most exciting editions of the Cyclo-Cross European Championships. The small town in the heart of the Pays de la Loire region, which has always been a benchmark for international Cyclo-Cross events, with two World Championships (1989 and 2004) and two European Championships (2005 and 2016), is once again preparing to be the scene of high-level challenges.
A total of 277 athletes from 23 countries have registered for the continental event and will be competing for the seven titles at stake, including the Team Relay title which will be awarded for the first time.
In the Elite Men's category, the challenge between the Belgian and Dutch riders, the two national teams that will be present on the start line with many top athletes, will be particularly eagerly awaited. The reigning European champion, Belgian Michael Vanthourenhout, will be up against some tough opponents to defend the title he won last year in Namur (Belgium), including Dutchmen Lars van der Haar, winner of two European titles in his career and runner-up last year, Joris Nieuwenhuis, Ryan Kamp and Pim Ronhaar.
As well as the reigning champion, Belgium will be able to count on other particularly interesting competitors such as the young Thibau Nys and the experienced Eli Iserbyt and Laurens Sweeck, while the host country, France, will be able to count on top athletes such as Joshua Dubau and Mickaël Crispin.
Reigning World and European Champion Fem van Empel (Netherlands) will be leading a battleship. The Dutch team will be lining up at the start with Annemarie Worst, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Denise Betsema, Manon Bakker, Aniek Van Alphen and Inge Van Der Heijden.
Hungary's Kata Blanka Vas, Italy's Silvia Persico, Belgium's Laura Verdonschot and France's Hélène Clauzel will also be present.
Belgium's Emiel Verstrynge, first last year in Namur, will be one of the favourites in the Under 23 event, along with David Haverdings (Netherlands), Nathan Bommenel (France) and fellow Belgians Victor van de Putte and Jente Michels, while in the Women's race the focus will be on Zoe Backstedt (Great Britain), Marie Schreiber (Luxembourg) and Kristyna Zemanová (Slovakia).
Danish star Albert Whiten Philipsen, this year's winner of the World Road and MTB Cross-Country titles, as well as the European titles in MTB Cross-Country, MTB Team Relay and Individual Time-Trial, will be at the start of the Juniors race, which will also feature Hungary's Zsombor Takács, leader of the UCI rankings, Spain's Hodei Muñoz Gabiña and France's Aubin Sparfel. In the Women's race, Célia Gery (France) will be joined by Britain's Cat Ferguson and Imogen Wolff, as well as Slovakia's Viktória Chladoňová.
Enrico Della Casa, President of the Union Européenne de Cyclisme: "The Cyclo-Cross European Championships are the last major event of the season for the UEC, but it coincides with one of the first major international events in this fascinating discipline.
Europe has always been considered to be the home of Cyclo-Cross and in a few days' time in Pont-Château we will have another demonstration of this with all the best specialists at the start, girls and boys, who will then make the headlines for three months and more.
The promotion and development of cycling in all its disciplines, particularly among young people, is one of the priorities of the Union Européenne de Cyclisme. This is precisely why this winter we launched the Cyclo-Cross European Cup for the Under 17, Juniors and Under 23 categories, building on the success of the youth initiatives in BMX and MTB, a new format that we will continue to develop next season.
I would like to thank the French Cycling Federation, with its President Michel Callot, the CC Pont-Château organising committee led by Hervé Faucheux and Jean-Yves Plaisance, and all the volunteers who took care of every detail of these Championships with passion and professionalism."