TWO-time series winner Toon Aerts and the women's world champion Lucinda Brand start as favourites in the opening round of the UCI World Cup in Wisconsin today although both face stiff competition.

The elite women's race has a particularly spectacular entry list with the complete top ten of UCI ranked riders slated to start (plus Evie Richards and Kata Blanka Vas). Former world champion Ceylin Alvarado does not make the journey stateside. The Dutchwoman finished a disappointing 9th in Bredene (25th September) and blood tests revealed that all is not quite right so rest and another build up in training is needed according to her Alpecin-Fenix team.

After a hat trick of (dry) early season wins for Eli Iserbyt it was Toon Aerts who looked in great form taking the opening race of the Superprestige series in a muddy Gieten - by 23 seconds - a week ago.

Aerts (beating Wout van Aert on one occasion) and Iserbyt have both won in America previously and with conditions expected to be dry we should see a great battle between the pair (and others) up at the front. A whole host of American riders will be wanting to impress as well and we could see a big bunch in contention until the closing stages. Reigning US 'cross champion Gage Hecht recently announced that he will join the Rally Cycling UCI ProTeam in 2022.

Belgian Daan Soete won the C2-ranked Trek CX Cup race on Friday so he will also have great confidence going into the World Cup races. Soete is a regular training partner of Wout van Aert and naming one ride a 'Different kind of motorpacing…' it would seem that the Belgian champion spends at least some time riding behind super strong Daan. Soete has previously finished on an American World Cup podium.

One other rider of note is Felipe Nystrom of Costa Rica who's intriguing story we profile here.

The two races are on Sunday evening European time (18:30 BST and 20:05 BST). Rounds two and three in Fayetteville and Iowa follow on Wednesday and next Sunday. Full entry lists can be found here.

Photos: Jeff Corcoran.


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