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Cyclo-cross news & racing round-up for December 15

Edited by Laura Weislo

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in cyclo-cross. Feel free to send feedback, news and releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com.

World champion falls a spot, Nys still on top

By Laura Weislo

Nys leads
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Reigning world cyclo-cross champion Erwin Vervecken, who was ill earlier this month and has since struggled to find his form, has lost one spot in the UCI rankings this week. Vervecken's poor performance in the Milan world cup, where he was 15th, dropped him into fourth place behind the Dutch national champion Gerben De Knegt (Rabobank), who has been consistently turning in top ten performances. De Knegt won the Huybergen C1 race in the Netherlands, bumping him up to the third spot behind Bart Wellens and Sven Nys.

Nys continued his domination of the rankings despite having lost the Milan world cup race to Wellens. Wellens' convincing victory seemed to be an indication that Nys' form might be fading, but two days later, Nys was back out on top in Hamme Zogge for round five of the Superprestige, where he turned the tables on Wellens. Vervecken, who seemed to find some form on his home soil, and took third.

Elite Men - UCI Ranking Points (as of December 11, 2006)

1 Sven Nys (Bel) 2650 pts 2 Bart Wellens (Bel) 1944 3 Gerben De Knegt (Ned) 1489 4 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) 1471 5 Francis Mourey (Fra) 1462 6 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) 1411 7 Klaas Vantornout (Bel) 1338 8 Christian Heule (Swi) 1071 9 Kevin Pauwels (Bel) 983 10 John Gadret (Fra) 955 11 Bart Aernouts (Bel) 941 12 Kamil Ausbuher (Cze) 863 13 Radomir Simunek (Jr) (Cze) 797 14 Simon Zahner (Swi) 705 15 Thijs Al (Ned) 697 16 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) 631 17 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) 630 18 Zdenek Mlynar (Cze) 542 19 Marco Bianco (Ita) 531 20 Maarten Nijland (Ned) 502 21 Steve Chainel (Fra) 488 22 Ryan Trebon (USA) 481 23 Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) 480 24 Davy Commeyne (Bel) 474 25 Enrico Franzoi (Ita) 412

US Cyclo-cross champs start this weekend

Wells chasing down the tree farm
Photo ©: Ryan Amirault
(Click for larger image)

The 2006 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships will kick off this weekend with a record-breaking 1,940 entrants. Held for the second year at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island, riders will fight for 28 national titles.

As a testament to the ever-increasing popularity of the sport in the U.S. The entry numbers represent a 14-percent increase over the 2005 edition US Cyclo-cross Championships and a 41-percent growth compared to 2004.

Racing starts Friday with 14 master national championships. Saturday will include junior racing, the U23 and collegiate women's events, the U23 men's contest and the elite men's race. Competition will close Sunday with the collegiate men's and elite women's races. Two non-national championship categories - the class-B events and the Pro-Elite Cup - will also be contested Sunday.

Defending elite and two-time Cyclo-cross National Champion Todd Wells (GT/Hyundai) will face US National MTB Cross-Country Champion Ryan Trebon (Kona). Trebon recently dominated the US field by winning the 2006 U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross series (USGP). USGP overall runner-up Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) will also present Wells with some tough competition, as will perennial 'cross powerhouses Adam Craig (Bend, Ore./Giant) Mark McCormack (Northeaston, Mass./Clif Bar), Barry Wicks (Corvallis, Ore./Kona), and three-time National Champion Jonathan Page (Cervelo).

Page is normally the dominator in US Cyclo-cross National Championships races but the rider from the Northeast who focuses on European competition has been sidelined with a shoulder injury and his form is unseen. So even though Wells is the defending champ, a top-ten finish for Trebon at last weekend's Superprestige in Belgium suggests he will be marked as the man to beat.

Two-time winner and defending elite women's National Champion Katie Compton (Spike/Primus Mootry) will face an 81-rider field. To take the win for a third year in a row, she'll need to be stronger than other primary contenders like Anne Knapp (Seattle, Wash./Kona), Dorothy Wong (Altadena, Calif./Figueroa Farms-Redline-MS Society) and Georgia Gould (Ketchum, Idaho/Luna), who is the reigning Mountain Bike National Champion and second-place finisher in this year's USGP Series.

Event Schedule

Friday, December 15
7:30: Open Course
8:30: Master Women (40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55+)
9:30: Master Men (50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65+)
10:30: Master Women (30-34, 35-39)
11:30: Master Men (45-49)
12:30: Open Course, Awards
13:00: Master Men (40-44)
14:00: Master Men (35-39)
15:00: Master Men (30-34)
16:00: Closed Course, Awards

Saturday, December 16
7:30: Open Course
8:30: Junior Women (Under 12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18)
9:30: Junior Men (10-12, 13-14, 15-16)
10:30: Women (U23, Collegiate)
11:30: Junior Men (17-18)
12:30: Open Course, Awards
13:00: Men (U23)
14:00: Elite Men
15:00: Closed Course, Awards

Sunday, December 17
7:30: Open Course
8:30: Women Category B
9:30: Men U35 Category B Race
10:30: Men 35+ Category B Race
11:30: Men (Collegiate)
13:00: The Giant Strawberry Cup
14:00: Elite Women
15:00: Closed Course, Awards

Wellens the new master

By Laura Weislo and Brecht Decaluwé

Bart Wellens (Fidea Cycling Team)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

The 'master of the mud', Sven Nys, has been dethroned in Italy by his compatriot, Bart Wellens. Wellens showed that he, too, can be king in bad conditions, as he powered away early on, and then kept extending his lead throughout the race.

Beaming with joy at the finish while being congratulated by his family and girlfriend Lentel, Wellens told Sporza TV, "I had to wait for this moment for so long but now I'm enjoying really great sensations. This is my first big win of the season, being only my third victory actually. I got the victory on a nice course and in my opinion I did it in a great way in a man-to-man duel; this is really morale-boosting."

The Belgian then explained his fierce tactics at the beginning: "That wasn't planned but I decided to pull through anyway," he said. "Only when I started the ultimate lap did I realised the victory was for me."

Wellens has tried the early attack before only to be overhauled by Nys midway through the race, but this time his gamble paid off. Nys, who found himself too far back after a furious start by the Fidea team, got caught up behind Erwin Vervecken, who had some trouble on one of the many short, steep climbs.

The UCI points leader wasn't too disappointed after being beaten by his career long rival. "I shouldn't be apologising for a second place in a world cup race," he said. "I just didn't have the legs I hoped for, while Bart had a really good day. If I would've been riding on my normal level, we would've seen a great race."

See the full report, results and photos here.

Nys overcomes illness and bad luck

By Brecht Decaluwé

A familiar sight: Nys wins yet another Superprestige
Photo ©: AFP
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All the big names in European cyclo-cross were ill: Sven Nys (Rabobank) and Bart Wellens (Fidea) didn’t touch their bikes on Saturday, and were uncertain about their participation in a rain-drenched Hamme-Zogge. World champion Erwin Vervecken (Fidea) was ill last week and performed badly in the World Cup races Igorre and Milano (11th and 15th place).

Still, these three proved to be the strongest riders in the field in Hamme-Zogge. Sven Nys had the worst start of all but managed to come back from last position to first within twenty minutes. He easily distanced Wellens at the end of the second lap to claim his fifth Superprestige win of the season.

"Nobody will believe that I was ill yesterday," Nys said after the race. "Actually I hesitated to participate in today’s race and if this wouldn’t have been a Superprestige race, I would have stayed in bed," the Belgian champion explained. After the first kilometre, it seemed impossible that Nys would continue his winning streak in the Superprestige Series.

"I don’t get it myself!" Nys honestly said. "I almost crashed at the start due to some gearing problems, then I just continued in my own pace without thinking about the victory; at the end of the first lap I was already in third position," the winner said. The Belgian started the chase on Bart Wellens and the surprisingly well-off Jan Soetens (Jartazi - Promo Fashion); two laps further Nys was riding alone in front and bagged another nice victory.

See the full report, results and photos here.

Johnson & Bessette double up in Rhode Island

The calendar may say December but the weather said otherwise at Sunday's final round of the 2006 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series, the Caster's Cyclo-cross in Warwick, Rhode Island. The '06 Series closed out just as it began as Lyne Bessette (Cyclo-crossworld.com) and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-cyclo-crossworld.com) stamped their authority all over the Elite Women's and Men's events.

Lyne Bessette
Photo ©: Paul Weiss
(Click for larger image)

Besette's win, her fifth in five starts, cemented her position as the 2006 Verge NECCS champion while Mark McCormack (Clif Shot) took home the overall title for the Elite Men, his fifth in the past six years.

Picking up where they left off two weeks ago the wife-husband duo of Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) won Saturday's W.E. Stedman Grand Prix in South Kingston, Rhode Island. Less than 20 miles from the site of next week's U.S. national Championships, the penultimate Verge NECCS race went to form, with Bessette dominating the elite women's field and Johnson forming an early breakaway and then soloing in for the elite men's win.

In the men's race, Johnson initiated a strong early move with U.S. National Champion Todd Wells (GT), Jeremy Powers (Jelly Belly), and Matt White (FiordiFrutta). The quartet rode well together with White the first to come off. An acceleration by Johnson eventually dropped Wells and Powers and it was clear sailing for the defending Verge NECCS champ. Powers came in for second with Wells filling out the podium.

On Sunday, the pair once again led their respective fields. Never one to take the easy way out, Bessette opted to race the B Men's event just prior to the Elite Women's race, accumulating a solid 90 minutes of 'cross racing on the twists, turns, and sandy beach runs of the Goddard Park course. Bessette finished fifth in the men's race and credited the extended preview of the race course for her flawless performance against the Elite Women. Up-and-comer Deidre Winfield (Velo Bella-Kona) dropped 2005 Verge NECCS champion Mo Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrication-Wheelworks) to take second.

"I saw where I could carry speed and what the right way was to go around the turns," said Bessette. "So I could just sit back on the first lap, knowing I had the course figured out. I made my moves in the corners, which was pretty fun. It was a big deal for me to win the New England Series and it's a great way to end my season."

Tim Johnson
Photo ©: Paul Weiss
(Click for larger image)

On the men's side, series leader McCormack had to hold off the challenge of youngster Matt White (FiordiFrutta) in order to win his fifth NECCS title. White went off the front on the first lap, knowing he only had to finish one spot ahead of McCormack to take the jersey. He was joined by Johnson, who made the pace a bit too hot and dumped White into no-man's land after three laps. With Johnson dashing off to a convincing win McCormack caught and passed White to wrap up the title.

"Winning the Series was always a season goal for me," said McCormack, who finished third on the day behind Tristen Schouten (Trek-VW). "I would have liked to win today because I won on this course last year but getting another New England 'Cross championship really means something to me."

"I felt pretty good out there," said race winner Johnson, whose Sunday victory extends his winning streak to three. "Nationals is obviously really important and I feel pretty good going into it."

See the full report, results and photos here.

Global cyclo-cross roundup

Upcoming UCI Cyclo-cross races

  • December 15 - 17: USA National Championships, Providence, RI (USA) CN
  • December 16: Budvar Cup 7, Hlinsko (Cze) C2
  • December 16: GP Rouwmoer, Essen (Bel) C2
  • December 17: Challenge de la France Cycliste 3, Blaye (Fra) C2
  • December 17: Vlaamse Druivenveldrit, Overijse (Bel) C1

New courses for USGP

The US Gran Prix will get four new courses for 2007. The newly announced schedule will once again include six events, but four will take place in new venues. The first pair of events will take place in New Jersey, outside Trenton in the Mercer County Park in West Windsor on October 27-28, 2007. In November, the series heads south to Kentucky, where races will be held at the River Road Country Club in Louisville on November 17-18. For the finale, the USGP heads to the familiar territory of Portland, Oregon on December 1st and 2nd.

“In the last three years, the sport of cyclo-cross has grown exponentially and the US Gran Prix of cyclo-cross has become the most popular and exciting race series in North America and the premier ‘cross series in the US,” said Bruce Fina, executive director, US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross. “In 2007, we look forward to bringing the excitement that is the USGP to two new parts of the country - New Jersey and Kentucky and returning to Portland, one of the true hotbeds of cyclo-cross.”

For more information on the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, visit www.usgpcyclocross.com.

Santa Cruz 'Peak Season' cyclo-cross series

The Santa Cruz County Cycling Club (SCCCC) has announced the third annual "Peak Season cyclo-cross series," held in Santa Cruz County, California. Peak Season 'cross is the equivalent of surfing's big wave contests, where the events are only held when conditions are right. Most of the cyclo-cross season in Northern California is taken up by very un-'cross-like conditions (sunny and warm), but Peak Season waits until the conditions are right for 'cross - the wet and cool NorCal winter.

Race 1: Sunday December 17, 2006
Race 2: Sunday January 14, 2007
Race 3: Sunday January 28, 2007

All races currently scheduled for the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 East Lake Ave. Watsonville, CA 95076. USA. For more information visit http://www.cyclocross.cx.

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