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Cyclo-cross news & racing roundup for December 28

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.

Nys takes tense three-man battle

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hofstade with assistance from Gregor Brown

Sven Nys (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Isosport
(Click for larger image)

The beautiful and diverse course in Hofstade often brought great cyclo-cross racing in the past, and today wasn't much different. Three riders offered a spectacle to the huge crowds of about 20,000 people around the lake and they heralded the race afterwards as one of the greatest of the season.

The trio of UCI-leader Sven Nys, Belgian champion Bart Wellens and Dutch champion Lars Boom separated themselves from the rest after only one lap and together they ploughed away from the opposition.

After an exciting race and a great finale Sven Nys added another World Cup win to his palmares. The UCI-leader had enjoyed his time out there and mused on about how the race developed. "This is why we became cyclo-cross riders," Sven Nys said.

See the full report, results and photos here.

World champion Salvetat takes first World Cup of the season

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hofstade, with additional reporting by Gregor Brown

The happy winner, Maryline Salvetat
Photo ©: Mark Legg
(Click for larger image)

Five women dominated the women's race. Last year's winner Hanka Kupfernagel got away with Daphny Van Den Brand who has been dominating the World Cup this year with three out of four wins. Her compatriot Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn featured in the group as well and after a while world champion Maryline Salvetat bridged up towards the leaders after a poor start.

Just as young Belgian Sanne Cant also joined the leaders, Salvetat attacked the leading group. The French woman created a safe gap and powered towards her first World Cup win of the season. Behind her Daphny Van Den Brand attacked the chasing group and got away for good thanks to the protection of compatriot Hormes-Ravenstijn.

See the full report, results and photos here.

Salvetat ponders retirement after Hofstade win

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hofstade

World cyclo-cross champion Maryline Salvetat grabbed her first World Cup win of the season in Hofstade and afterwards announced she may not come back to cyclo-cross next season. "It's great to win here," Salvetat told Cyclingnews at the finish line. "I had a bad start - I crashed, and had to chase for a while. I didn't panic because I knew that I needed the energy for the two final laps as the course is very demanding."

The French woman has not had a great season so far, but explained why she took it easy back in November. "I want to go to the Olympics and I'm building up my season for that goal," she said. "I didn't race in November and after the world championships I will take a break again. I hope to race the road race and the time trial in China, but I don't know if I'll be selected right now."

Taking a break isn't what many would expect, since 33 year-old Salvetat is combining cycling with a hospital job. "I don't think I'll be here next year," she said. "I studied for ten years to become a doctor and I finally want to perform the job. Right now I want to make it to the Olympics and that should be it for me.

Johnson debuts stars and stripes fly in Belgium

By Gregor Brown in Hofstade, Belgium

Tim Johnson
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

One week after winning the USA Cyclo-cross Championships in Kansas City, Tim Johnson is racing in Europe to prepare for the World Championships, January 27. The 30 year-old struggled somewhat in the World Cup in Hofstade, Belgium, but was able to fly the stars and stripes jersey of USA champion.

"I don't have my new jersey yet; it arrived at the home here in Belgium after we left this morning," he noted on a chilly Wednesday afternoon. He will be racing in a standard issue USA Champion jersey while waiting for the sponsor labeled kit to arrive. "I saw the proofs, and it looks pretty sweet. It still has a nine ball – actually a nine ball on the front and back. Loenhout [December 28] will be the first race in the new kit."

Johnson fought hard for the jersey that will make him easily recognisable while racing in Europe. "It has been seven years since I have raced in the jersey... I am excited. I have never raced in Europe as a US Champion, for some reason I did not race in Europe that year I had won... I had just signed with Saturn, and I did not race the Worlds."

He noted that although he was far from his home country, he had a nice holiday celebration in Belgium with his wife Lyne Bessette. "We had Christmas here with the host family and some other friends," he stated.

Johnson had a bad start in Belgium's post-Christmas event that saw him riding mid-field for the entire event, eventually being lapped by Sven Nys as the Belgian finished the last lap. USA fans can expect more from him as his legs become warmed up and the jet lag disappears.

"It kind of sucks, we were supposed to be here on Thursday of last week but there were flight delays in Boston, so we got here two days later," he continued. Johnson has recently bought a home in his home area of Boston, Massachusetts, where he stopped over from Kansas to Belgium. "It would have been good to have more racing already in my legs."

He will race on Friday after a day's break, and then travel south, out of the country. "I will head to Switzerland for some racing after Loenhout. Then we [with Cannondale/Leer/Cyclocrossworld team-mate Jeremy Powers - ed.] will come back and race Liévin, Zonnebeke and Hoogerheide before going to Treviso for the World Championships."

Iceman Simunek slides to first big win of the season

By Brecht Decaluwé

Radomír Simunek Jr.'s last big win
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The race conditions offered to riders in Antwerp on Friday were quite different from the mud and slop which assaulted riders in virtually every 'cross race earlier in the month. It was freezing on the Saint-Anna beach near the port, and the course was slippery and hard. Radomir Simunek Jr. (Palmans-Cras), a man from the Czech Republic who's used to the cold, took the initiative right from the start and never dropped back.

The son of the cyclo-cross legend with the same name allowed the experienced Richard Groenendaal (AA Sport Drinks) to join him up front, but eventually Simunek jumped away from the Dutch rider in the last kilometre to take his first big win since the World Cup round in Tabor last season. While crossing the line Simunek clearly couldn't believe what he'd pulled off. He'd kept big guns like Bart Wellens (Fidea Cycling Team) and Sven Nys (Rabobank) a safe distance away. The euphoric winner explained why he chose to attack right from the start at the finish line.

"This course is very fast and there was a lot of ice in the corners, so it was better to ride in front to chose your lane. I'm always going strong on ice and a fast course is also in my advantage," said the 22 year-old Simunek.

See the full report and results here.

Nys makes Olympic training plan

Sven Nys (Belgium)
Photo ©: John Pierce/PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Sven Nys' coach is already making specific training plans to prepare the star cyclo-cross rider to compete in the mountain bike events at the Beijing Olympic Games. The #1 ranked rider will preview the Beijing mountain bike course in May on a converted cyclo-cross bike rather than a standard mountain bike.

"There is nothing against this in the regulations, and on that parcours it is certainly an option," said Belgian coach Rudy De Bie in Het Laaste Nieuws.

With cyclo-cross not on the Olympic agenda, Nys, who dominates the 'cross circuit, is a former Belgian mountain bike champion, but third on the list for the Belgian Olympic mountain bike squad behind Roel Paulisson and Filip Meirhaeghe.

"On March 31, Sven will start his preparations for the Games. His first pick is planned for the mountain bike European championships in Sankt Wendel," Paul Van den Bosch told Sporza.be. "After that there are two big competitions on the agenda: The World Cup in Fort William and the World Championships," he said.

Nys had previously discounted his Olympic hopes after having trouble competing in hot weather, but his coach has a plan to tackle that weakness. "July and August will be entirely dominated by specific training and adaptation to the extreme heat."

"The signs are now all pointing in the same direction: direction east. Hopefully we will return at the end of August satisfied: direction west."

Euro 'cross briefs

German U23 rider Philipp Walsleben (Heinz von Heiden Focus) had an unlucky day in Hofstade. The rider, who was sitting second in the World Cup standings at the start of the day was involved in a crash on the run-up and feared he'd broken the same collarbone he'd fractured earlier this year at the road worlds in Stuttgart. An initial check revealed no fracture, but he will undergo a second test to be sure that the bone had not been cracked. His crash cost him dearly in the standings; he plummeted to eighth.

Davy Commeyne has scored a new contract after failing to earn a renewal with Palmans Cras. He will switch over to the Revor Cycling team led by Jeroen Vanderspinnen as of January 1. He will join David Willemsens (ex-Sunweb-ProJob) and Jan Soetens (ex-Jartazi-Promo Fashion) in switching to the Revor team.

Swiss rider Julien Taramarcaz earned himself quite a bit of notice from the Belgian teams after winning the U23 race in Koksijde, but will remain with his current team, ASD Selle Italia Guerciotti through the end of the season.

Czech rider Petr Dlask was lucky enough to be injured last week. He was home, and not racing with his Fidea team when his wife gave birth to their second child, a boy named Marek on December 22.

Bessette's return to Europe starts slow

By Gregor Brown in Hofstade, Belgium

Lyne Bessette in Kentucky
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Lyne Bessette got off to a slow start in her return to European cyclo-cross racing. The 32 year-old talented Canadian was here a month ago, and has returned for a second go-around leading up to the World Championships in Treviso, Italy, January 27. Unfortunately, leg pains forced her out of the World Cup round number seven in Hofstade, Belgium, before concluding lap one.

"Two years ago we had to run those two long stretches, and it is easier for me to ride those sections – it was to my favour, but I did not have the legs to race them. I did one lap... I did not even finish one lap," recalled Bessette in the team bus of husband Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers.

She had just returned to Europe, where she had spent Christmas at her host's home, south of Brussels, in Wallonne. Perhaps the jet lag and holidays affected the normally rock-solid Bessette. "We got here two days ago. I feel tired, but I can usually manage better than this," the experienced rider reckoned.

"As soon as we started I did not have the fight in me to do anything. Everyone was crashing in front of me, and I didn't really want to fight. I did not have the focus to race – to hurt myself... I am having a hard time. I would rather stop than finish last. I don't know if I will start the next race [Friday in Loenhout, Belgium]. For me, to stop today, it is almost a relief than to do 40 minutes of suffering."

Preferring to listen to her body rather than press and her competitors, Bessette is hoping the next week and then a trip to Switzerland will be the proper tune-up for the Worlds. "I have to accept some things. I have to listen to myself. I know some probably will say 'she should have finished, et cetera.' I think about what others say in my career, and that has been hurting me a lot.

"The Worlds is still far away. I will give it a shot in the next couple of races to see how it goes. I will head to Switzerland with Tim – the pressure will be less there, and I will just ride my bike to see how it goes. I think it will get better from there."

Jacques-Maynes makes remarkable comeback ending in national title

Andy Jacques-Maynes (California Giant Berry Farms)
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

Less than seven months ago, Andy Jacques-Maynes (Cal Giant Strawberries) suffered life-threatening injuries in severe crash during a race in late May in California. Less than two weeks ago, he won the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championship in the Masters 30-34 category in Kansas City.

"My brother had a horrific crash on Memorial Day in the last corner of a crit, he went into the curb and straight into a pole," said Ben on his blog, www.benjacquesmaynes.missingsaddle.com, soon after the accident. Andy spent a week in the ICU "with multiple fractures and a collapsed lung."

Among his 15 broken bones were ten involving his spine, including one of which is usually linked with paralysis below the waist. He also suffered one bruised lung, one punctured lung, a torn hand ligament, and a concussion according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. ""I was in a bad way for a while," said Jacques-Maynes.

Well before the accident, Jacques-Maynes had set cyclo-cross nationals as a goal. Such an accident might have derailed any one less determined."The hardest part was deciding that's what you're going to do when you're lying in the hospital bed bleeding and all you want to do is go back to sleep," said Jacques-Maynes, who credited positive thinking and working toward a specific goal with his successful and relatively speedy recovery.

Following his crash, Jacques-Maynes resigned from his role as road bike product manager for Specialized to focus fully on his recovery and was supported in large part throughout by fellow racer Josie Beggs, who became his wife this summer following the accident.

His road to recovery was not smooth. Just after winning his first cyclo-cross race back following his accident, a fall while running the course resulted in a broken collarbone. According to the Sentinel, a steel plate and seven screws led to still more recovering to be done. Fortunately, this time around, his injuries were less severe, and he was back in action in time for the National Championships.

"After six months of work (and workouts!), I achieved my season's goal to win the 30-34 cyclo-cross National Championship! It was so intense, and such a gnarly race," said Andy Jacques-Maynes on his website, www.getwellandy.blogspot.com.

One day after his national title win, Jacques-Maynes also finished an impressive sixth in the elite men's race. Looking ahead, he is determined to make it to the top of the pro ranks and is hoping to take the next step by racing with a still to be determined pro team in the Tour of California.

Upcoming UCI Cyclo-cross races

  • December 27: Sylvester Cyclo-cross, Torhout (Bel) C2
  • December 28: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (Bel) C1
  • December 29: Noordzeecross, Middelkerke (Bel) C2
  • December 30: Badiquer Schmerikon, Schmerikon (Swi) C1
  • December 30: Superprestige, Diegem (Bel) C1
  • January 1: G.P. Hotel Threeland, Pétange (Lux) C2
  • January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (Bel) C1
  • January 2: Flüüger Quer, Dübendorf (Swi) C1
  • January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster Sint-Niklaas, Sint-Niklaas (Bel) C2
  • January 3: Centrumcross Surhuisterveen, Surhuisterveen (Ned) C1
  • January 6: National Championships CN

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