De Bie's picking the Belgian CX Worlds team tomorrow, and as far as I see it, of the 7 available places, there are 5 "certainties," 1 "probable," and one "disputable."
As usual, the Belgian team will surely be a team only in name, and all the riders will be looking for their trade team-mates to accompany them in the worlds.
Place 1: Kevin Pauwels (Certainty)
Kevin Pauwels has won plenty of races, such as Namur, Hasselt, and Zonhoven. While not a fan of running, he has a relatively strong sprint and is good through mud. Running won't be too much of a concern on the 1st of February, anyway.
Place 2: Wout Van Aert (Certainty)
The under-23 world champion decided on Friday that he would try to exchange those under-23 stripes for the elite. He has won 16 races this season, including under-23, and beat the new Belgian champion by 1:25. He will possibly be the favourite to win, and will be looking for trade team-mates.
Place 3: Sven Nys (Certainty)
YES Sven has had a terrible last couple of months. YES he has not won a race since the 11th of November. I, and everyone involved in Belgian cyclo-cross are perfectly aware of these facts. However, he won't be left out. no way, José. He will be trying to build up form to peak for the first of February, not one day before. He has only one trade team-mate, who's not much use to him in normal races.
Place 4: Klaas Vantornout (Certainty)
"WHAT a terrible season Vantornout's having," was the united cry from worldwide cyclo-cross aficionados. At least until last Sunday, when he won some small race in Erpe-Mere, the Belgian Nationals. Heard of it? The jersey he won will, he hopes, be consigned to the cupboard on February first, to be replaced by rainbows. He is Pauwels' trade team-mate.
Place 5: Tom Meeusen (Certainty)
The last of the certainties, Tom Meeusen has won two big races, Overijse and Ruddervoorde. He has finished on the podium countless times and was within seconds of Vantornout at the Belgian championships. His strong sprint will suit the Tabor course.
Place 6: Rob Peeters (probable)
For the last three years, you could put Rob Peeters higher on your Belgian teamsheet. He came 2nd in Koksijde worlds in 2012, but has not been so good this year, with no race wins, helping Van Aert. He still fits on the teamsheet, leaving him out would be controversial.
And Now it Gets Interesting
There will be a war for the final place on the team, with these expected protagonists:
Tim Merlier is 22 years old, eligible for the under-23 race, but has ridden an Elite program this year. He came third in Zonnebeke on Saturday, beating Nys, Peeters and Vermeersch. Pauwels wants him and Gianni Vermeersch on the team. While both is unlikely, one of them should make it. Vermeersch has a strong claim, though he is also under-23, he has done well, notably in Loenhout and Baal, coming fourth in both. This would leave Pauwels with two team-mates, and you know who won't be happy with that? Wout Van Aert, that's who. He will want one of Jens Adams, Jan Denuwelare or Joeri Adams on the team. Denuwelare came 8th in theBelgian championships, and is amateur champion. However, he goes as fast in ankle-deep mud as on grass, making Jens Adams a bit more likely, going well on the fast Hamme-Zogge course. However, he may not be so much use if (as it sometimes does in Tabor) it snows. Other names are Vincent Bastaens, who has recently returned to cyclo-cross and has accumulated a number of top 10 results, Bart Wellens, who is struggling to keep his stronghold on 14th, Jim Aernouts, who is taking some of said 14ths, Bart Aernouts, who seems to have almost disappeared this season and Sven Vanthorenhout, Nys' team-mate, who also has not had too much success this year, but a dry Tabor course will suit him; it's very fast.
Place 7: Gianni Vermeersch.
Vermeersch has been more consistent than Merlier and Adams, and those fourth places are better than anything any other names have achieved this year.