Lucina Brand is in Arkansas to defend her women's world title ©Getty images

All eyes will be on the Dutch in Fayetteville this weekend, where the International Cycling Union (UCI) Cyclo-cross World Championships are due to unfold.

The Netherlands' riders won the men's and women's elite and under-23 titles in Ostend last year, representing a clean sweep of the gold medals.

Dutch riders won eight of the 12 total medals in Belgium, with junior races axed because of the coronavrius crisis.

Junior races - open to athletes born in 2004 and 2005 - are back on the agenda in Arkansas.

Lucinda Brand is the reigning women's champion and favoured to retain her title, with her chances increased by being strong in the conditions likely to be on offer in the United States.

Brand is also the reigning UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup champion.

Compatriot Marrianne Vos, who is in good form heading into the event, is another contender.

Hungary’s Blanka Kata Vas, 20, is among the rising stars of women's cycling and may prove to be a troublemaker for the Dutch.

The host nation's best chance in the women's elite race is expected to come from Clara Honsinger, who is sixth in the world rankings.

The picture in the men's elite is less straightforward as Mathieu van der Poel, the reigning champion, is out due to a back injury.

Mathieu van der Poel will not be defending the men's world title ©Getty Images
Mathieu van der Poel will not be defending the men's world title ©Getty Images

Belgian Wout van Aert, a three-time world champion, is also not competing, leaving it all to ride for.

Britain’s Tom Pidcok and Dutchman Lars van der Haar are contenders but Belgium’s team, containing the likes of World Cup champion Eli Iserbyt, Toon Aerts and Michael Vanthourenhout, is hard to look past.

Italy’s team suffered a major setback in the build-up.

Six riders have been unable to travel following one member testing positive for COVID-19, which added to difficulty over travel expenses.

Dutch riders are heavy favourites to for the under-23 women’s race, with 19-year-old’s Fem van Empel - the defending champion - and Shirin van Anrooij ready to battle for the title.

The 20-year-old Pim Ronhaar is attempting to retain his men's under-23 crown.

However, Belgium's Emiel Verstrynge is one cyclist who has a chance to knock the Dutchman off his top spot.

The Fayetteville course will offer the cyclists room to pass each other comfortably, with few tight corners and small fields entered to reduce traffic.

The weather is expected to be clear and dry.

Women's elite and junior events are scheduled tomorrow, plus the men's under-23.

Men's elite and junior, plus the women's under-23, are then on the agenda on Sunday (January 30).