Cyclocross’s so-called ‘Big Three’ have been absent from the start lists so far this season but all three will return to racing in December and January, as they prepare for the World Championships in Fayetteville, USA.

So, what can we expect from their return? Well firstly, out of a possible thirteen races, the trio only actually will face off against each other three times. The first of which comes on the December 26 at the Dendermonde World Cup round, then three days later at the night-time Superprestige in Diegem before locking horns again at the Hulst round of the World Cup on January 2.

Interspersed with those dates are various other races where a combination of the big three will be going head-to-head.
After a dazzling year, Olympic Mountain bike gold medallist Tom Pidcock is taking aim at his next big goal of becoming world cyclocross champion in Fayetteville. We can expect the tenacious INEOS Grenadier to bring plenty of firepower after recently recovering from tendonitis and after his showing in Tokyo, the 22-year-old has a little more pressure to perform than in previous years.
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Pidcock and Van Aert will clash in their first race weekend of the season at the Superprestige in Boom on December 4 and then the Antwerpen World Cup a day later. Both will balance their cyclocross aspirations with the more long-term goals of the road season with the Belgian yet to even confirm if he will make the trip to Arkansas or not.
Van der Poel will start his programme later than the others and it will be the four-time world champion’s shortest calendar to date. After returning from the Alpecin-Fenix training camp in Spain, the reigning world champion will start his campaign in earnest on December 18 at the World Cup in Ruchpen. The Dutchman has won his first race of the season every year since 2016, so it won’t be a surprise if he hits the ground running. The campaign will focus on scoring ranking points at these World Cups so that he will be in the best possible position to defend his rainbow jersey.
A rider that may feel hard done by for not being included in any ‘big three’ discussion is runaway World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt. The Belgian has eleven victories so far this season but last year his results tapered off when Van der Poel returned to racing. Although he has not experienced the same meteoric rise through the ranks as the trio, Iserbyt has still shown plenty of progress this year and won’t go down without a fight. “I will not just give in to Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel,” the 24-year-old told Nieuwsblad.

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This will perhaps be the biggest sub-plot then. With so much of the attention being switched from the riders who have already dominated the season to the returning trio, will the likes of Iserbyt, Toon Aerts, Quinten Hermans, Laurens Sweeck and Lars van der Haar, rain on the big three’s parade?

Expect plenty of epic clashes and racing that you dare not take your eyes off.
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The UCI Track Champions League returns for round two on November 27 and you can watch all of the action live from 16:30 GMT on the Eurosport app, eurosport.co.uk and discovery+. Find out more about the "mind-blowing" new era for track cycling.
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