"What can we offer them then? Mathieu, yes... but that is often only for a World Championship" - Gerben de Knegt concerned for future prospects of Dutch cyclocross

On paper, things might look pretty rosy for Dutch cyclocross at the moment. Mathieu van der Poel has been dominant this winter with the likes of Joris Nieuwenhuis, Pim Ronhaar and Lars van der Haar impressing. Dig a little deeper however, and things are more concerning.

This is at least, the view of Dutch national coach, Gerben de Knegt. "We have a reasonable budget, but it is also very difficult for us to look for sponsors. I don't want to be too negative, but the elite - unlike the juniors and promises - do not ride around here in our clothes," he shares his concerns in conversation with In de Leiderstrui. "What can we offer them then? Mathieu, yes... but that is often only for a World Championship. The Dutch are also not real supporters of the sport, as Belgians are. Dutch people stand and watch, but they create less atmosphere. There isn't that vibe, which there is in Belgium."

Alarmingly, some of the up-and-coming Dutch stars, such as Ryan Kamp and Mees Hendrikx's futures in the sport look in doubt. Kamp is currently riding without a team whilst Hendrikx is set to find himself in a similar position very shortly.

"I have told that story before that cyclo-cross is Formula 1 and that you have to be super good to make it. The benchmark is simply that you have to become U23 world champion, otherwise you won't just become a professional," analyses de Knegt. "Look at Ryan: he was cyclo-cross world champion three years ago. Mees was third there and won the U23 World Cup two years ago. You have to keep going, but still…"

Whilst Mathieu van der Poel is undoubtedly a massive positive, his electric performances somewhat mask the underlying issue de Knegt believes. "He is an absolute crowd favourite, there is no doubt about that. He will always continue to race a bit, because he just likes it," says de Knegt. "I don't think disguising is the right word, because we have more Dutch professionals than ever. It only disguises the fact that there is no Dutch sponsor, because we are doing very well in all other areas."

"We get more World Cup medals than Belgium. They always say that Belgium is the cross country, but we are doing better now," he concludes with a smile. "My frustration is that we have a lot of good juniors, but I have to tell them that we have to do even better. If you are the absolute best of your generation, you can go pro. That's the way it is in cyclo-cross at the moment, we shouldn't beat around the bush."

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