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Cyclo-cross news & racing round-up for February 2

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 gets consolation win in Maldegem

Sven Nys rebounded from his disasterous World Championships by winning a small Belgian 'cross race in Maldegem this week. Nys finished ahead of Niels Albert and David Willemsens, and rainbow-jersey clad Erwin Vervecken was a distant sixth. Vervecken said he was tired from all the post-worlds festivities, and that he also had a sore back from the fall he had at the worlds.

Nys may not have the rainbow jersey, but he will find some consolation in the fact that he has a strong chance of winning the overall GvA trophy and Superprestige series. With Wellens out with a broken wrist, Nys holds a lead of 34 points over Niels Albert in the GvA Trophy, and 33 point lead over Vervecken in the Superprestige. The GvA trophy continues in Lille on Saturday, and will conclude in Oostmalle on February 18. Sunday's Superprestige event will be held in Hoogstraten, Belgium, and the finale will be in Vorselaar on February 17.

Vannoppen injures shoulder

Tom Vannoppen, who is still to try to come back to top form after taking time off earlier this season while being treated for depression, has had another setback. He crashed badly in Maldegem, hitting his face and dislocating his shoulder. But despite the injury, Vannoppen still wants to try for a good result in this weekend's race in Lille. "The muscles around the shoulder are very stiff, but I still have two days time to recuperate." Vannoppen told Sporza, "I want to try to conclude my season beautifully."

Wellens wants payback

Bart Wellens (Belgium).
Photo ©: Russ and Nancy Wright
(Click for larger image)

Bart Wellens started the Cyclo-cross World Championships with a dream of wearing the rainbow bands, but his hopes were quickly dashed when a camera ATV clipped a plastic barrier, sending it careening into his path early in the race. Wellens crashed hard, and unbeknownst to the Belgian, he fractured his wrist in the fall, and now he wants the organisers of the race to pay.

Wellens gritted out the pain to finish in fourth place, a remarkable feat for most riders with two good arms. "I could no longer lift my bicycle... but with 30,000 men shouting in the stands, you don't give up" he told Het Nieuwsblad.

But obviously, one step off the podium wasn't where Wellens planned to finish. "They have taken a lot away from me today," said Wellens, "a beautiful jersey and a heap pennies also."

He had a clean break in his wrist that did not require surgery, but Wellens will spend four weeks with the arm in plaster, miss seven races worth of start money and prize purses during that time. The Fidea Cycling Team manager, Hans van Kasteren intends to lodge a complaint with the UCI.

Season over for Soetens

Cyclo-cross racer Jan Soetens has hung up his bike for the season after struggling to return from a shoulder injury following a crash in the World Cup race in Kalmthout in October. Soetens had a promising result in the week before the crash, taking a top ten at the opening Superprestige round in Ruddervoorde.

Due to a long recovery period, Soetens was left off of the Belgian team for the World Championships, and, according to his Jartazi team, an illness forced him to stop racing for the rest of the season.

World Cup heading for US

By Brecht Decaluwé in Kotrijk

Sven Nys
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

During the presentation of the next cyclo-cross world championship in Treviso, Cyclingnews talked to Peter Van den Abeele about next year's World Cup. Van den Abeele, UCI cyclo-cross coordinator, said that the UCI certainly plans to have a World Cup event in the US. "We've left space during the weekend of October 6 and 7 but it's still unsure where the race will take place," Van den Abeele said.

Cyclingnews previously reported the news about the World Cup, but the Belgian confirmed the race will be held in Providence. "It's 70% sure that the organization will be held in Providence, Rhode Island. The European top riders agree with this as the World Cup race will be combined with another big UCI-race during that week. The top 25 of the UCI will fly together to the US on a flight chartered by Sven Nys," Van den Abeele said.

Many American riders have stated they would love to see the World Cup coming abroad. Sunday, Katie Compton, who finished second place at the world cyclo-cross championships, said to Cyclingnews, "We need to have the World Cup in the US." Compton is one of three Americans who earned silver medals at the worlds this year. The improved American performances may be the inevitable result of the increasing popularity of cyclo-cross in the US.

US champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) was delighted to hear the news but warned the organizers. "The course in Providence is way too fast, it would end up in a bunch sprint," Trebon said.

Both riders participated in the world cyclo-cross championships, held in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium, this weekend. Read Cyclingnews' complete coverage, including race reports, full results, and photos of the elite men's and elite women's races.

'Cross worlds round-up

Adams victorious, Summerhill a surprise second

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hooglede-Gits

Start of the junior men's race
Photo ©: Mitchell Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Two races were scheduled on Saturday at the worlds in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium: the junior and U23 men were to battle for the world title. The low countries of the Netherlands and Belgium have been dominating the cyclo-cross worlds lately, and 15,000 spectators showed up to watch their young stars shine.

The junior race is always unpredictable at worlds because the young men don't compete with each other often during the season, but the Belgian World Cup winner fully met expectations when he became the new world champion. Six riders remained in contention going into the ultimate lap. Eventually, it came down to a sprint in which Joeri Adams clinched the biggest win of his young career.

Most spectators were surprised to see American rider Danny Summerhill finish second. By claiming a medal at the cyclo-cross worlds, Summerhill follows in the steps of Walker Ferguson (silver in 2000) and Matthew Kelly (gold in 1999). Ferguson and Kelly battled with Belgians Bart Aernouts (Rabobank) and Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb), guys who will both race Sunday in the elite men's category, unlike those two American heros themselves, who have disappeared from the scene. Summerhill has proven that he has talent, but the real work of his career is just beginning.

To read the full report and results for the junior race and see photos, click here.

Boom takes the reins

Boom leads
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

The U23 race was dominated by Dutchman Lars Boom (Rabobank) who outclassed his competition. Leading up to the race, Boom and rival Niels Albert (Palmans) kept a media battle going in which they tried to make each other nervous. However, Albert finished nowhere near the wheels of Boom; in fact, he was over a minute down. The Dutch champion said he would compete in more cyclo-cross races from now on, while Albert promised to win the title next year. No American riders anywhere near the front on Saturday afternoon, with Jamey Mullet Driscoll first American in 36th position.

On Sunday, the elite riders will compete in Hooglede-Gits. German champion Hanka Kupfernagel is the favourite in the women's race, and Sven Nys (Rabobank) tops the favourites list in the men's race.

To read the full report and results for the U23 race and see photos, click here.

Mourey out of worlds after crash during training

One outsider for the victory in the men's race is out of contention. Francis Mourey (fdjeux.com) fell on his head during a training session on Friday afternoon as reported yesterday. The number three at the worlds in Zeddam (2006) was brought over to hospital where they determined Mourey suffered a minor concussion and a wound above his eye. He left the hospital, but will certainly not compete Sunday.

Salvetat surprises in Belgium

Maryline Salvetat takes gold
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

In a major surprise in the women's race, German Hanka Kupfernagel was unable to convert her pre-race favourite status into a world title while Maryline Salvetat nailed an unexpected win. Kupfernagel had a great start, but halfway through the race she suffered a pedal-related mechanical and then dropped back from the lead. Defending champion Marianne Vos from The Netherlands was never in contention for the title either, and when her compatriot Daphny Van Den Brand crashed, it was clear an outsider would grab the title.

US national champion Katie Compton came close to the win, but faced an unfair battle against two French ladies. Laurence Leboucher dropped the pace while riding in second position thereby forcing Compton to close the gap in the final moments of the race. Compton made a valiant effort, but could not regain the wheel of Salvetat before the final straight. An emotional Salvetat won the gold in front of Compton and compatriot Leboucher.

Maryline Salvetat (France),
Photo ©: Russ and Nancy Wright
(Click for larger image)

"I had a bad start as an Italian girl blocked the road. It took me more than a lap to come back. I only started to believe in my chances when there was only 400 metres to go. I didn't raise my hands as I didn't know where Compton was, but I can assure you that I'm really excited," Salvetat said.

Tomorrow the newly crowned world champion drops back into the real world though as a day at the office awaits, Salvetat works as an osteopath. Last year, the 32-year-old almost decided to quit racing but luckily a visit to Africa gave her a revived view of the sport. "I arrived here with a mind to do well. I had energy and form," she said.

The French women exploited their numerical advance to keep Compton from the victory. "Actually we didn't talk before the race, we know each other so well that everything automatically happens," Salvetat explained.

To read the full report and results for the women's race and see photos, click here.

Vervecken gets three, favorites unlucky

Belgian Erwin Vervecken
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

About 30,000 spectators witnessed a tumultuous world championship at the "Domenico Savio" park in Hooglede-Gits. Defending world champion Erwin Vervecken extended his world title this afternoon. After taking third in 1994, he managed five more podium results since then and now is on top of the world again.

"It was a very, very special race as so many things happened; to me, it was just like a movie or a dream," Vervecken said.

With this win, the 34-year-old Belgian makes up for a troubled season where he grabbed only one major victory at the World Cup in Hofstade. He has again proved himself a great championship rider. "I don't like that term, but I can understand it; I don't win a lot, but I can't help it that the favourites often fail at the championships," Vervecken said.

"This is the most hard-won title of the three, winning it at home adds to that of course. It was a very special atmosphere today; during the ultimate hundred metres I couldn't hear anything like being in a disco! I didn't have a clue where Page was," Vervecken described the hectic final and his rival there. "He had a troubled season but he's fresh. I did 40 races and that makes a big difference."

Big favourites Sven Nys (Bel) and Bart Wellens (Bel) were set back by pure bad luck. While riding in the lead, the duo were brought down by a plastic block that was touched and knocked over by the TV quad. Both continued the race, but while Wellens fought back to reach fourth, Nys' bad luck continued; he finished eleventh.

With many favourites out of contention for the world title, the outsiders stepped up. At first, it was former world champion Richard Groenendaal (Ned) who took the initiative, but he crashed out as well. Italian champion Franzoi then stormed forward together with former US national champion Jonathan Page (USA). While Franzoi couldn't keep the pace of the American, Vervecken pushed ahead.

In a tense final lap, it was Vervecken who entered the final straight with a little gap. Page took the silver medal and headed for the arms of wife Cori and young daughter Emma. The 30-year-old American, who lives in Belgium near Oudenaarde, was delighted although he started off cynical when describing his performance.

"I thought I was okay today," Page smiled. "This is the start of my future today, so I'll be around for a few more years." The US rider battled for victory, but came a little short in the end. "I hoped to win gold, but it all came down to the last little hill where he had a good run and I didn't."

To read the full report and results for the men's race and see photos, click here.

Page celebrates career highlight

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hooglede-Gits

US rider Jonathan Page celebrates on the podium
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After grabbing the United States' first-ever medal in the Elite Men's division at the Cyclo-cross World Championships, Jonathan Page had many reasons to celebrate. The second placed Page was interviewed on Belgian TV and radio as they wondered who the relatively unknown American was.

Page charmed the Belgian audience by saying some Dutch words and expressed that he deserved his second place. "That's the world championships, you never know what you're going to get on this day. [The Europeans] had all the pressure in the world and maybe it got to them… you have to be lucky today also," Page said.

At the post-race press conference Page expressed his joy to the written press and pointed out that he made a huge comeback: "I'm coming back from injury and I saved my season over here. My dreams are coming true."

After the doping control Page quickly went back home to Oudenaarde with his wife Cori and two year-old daughter Emma to freshen up before heading to his friends at the Brasserie in Avelgem. There were no huge crowds there to gather around the podium finisher, as Page just isn't one of them - he's a stranger in Belgium, but Page didn't mind. “I don't need more friends, they help me to achieve my goals and that's what's most important," Page said.

He still wondered how it was possible to pull off what he did, but realised this performance needs confirmation. "Today my new career starts," and that's probably why Page didn't touch the famous Belgian beers…okay, that's a lie. Page did touch a couple of those Belgian beers and treated his friends to a few rounds, even serving as bar tender himself.

Cyclingnews was there in Avelgem and also talked to some people who work with the successful American cyclo-cross rider. Former triple world champion Mario De Clercq trained with Page and coached him for many years. "His technical skills are awesome, they equal those of Sven Nys; but he hasn't got Nys' power," De Clercq said. "It's a pity he didn’t win today; I can tell you it makes a huge difference coming in first or second at the worlds. If he would've won the race he [financially] would've made it."

Franky Van Haesebroucke, Page's mechanic and close friend, has helped the American for many years. "We met in the US and Page said to me that he wanted to live in Belgium to become a better rider," explained Van Haesebroucke. "We took him in at our place and he didn’t need much time to find his way." The former Navigators coach also gave Page some tactical help during the race. "Halfway I told him to stay on the wheel of Franzoi for a while, as he used lots of energy to get where he was. Before the worlds some people asked me whether Page would start but I guess they know by now," he laughed.

Page's current sponsor Kurt Tembuyser from Morgan Blue was happy with his investment. "Page was searching for a team, but he was injured and nobody wanted him, then we were there to offer him a contract. We will offer him a better contract for next year, but if he can improve his situation we wish him good luck," said Tembuyser, who has harvested riders such as Klaas Vantornout and also Maxime Lefèbvre in his team.

Upcoming UCI Cyclo-cross races

  • February 3 - Krawaten Cross, Lille (Bel) C1
  • February 4 - Superprestige, Hoogstraten (Bel) C1
  • February 10 - Grote Prijs Eecloonaar, Eeklo (Bel) C2
  • February 11 - GP Heerlen, Heerlen (Ned) C1
  • February 17 - Superprestige, Vorselaar (Bel) C1
  • February 18 - Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle, Oostmalle (Bel) C1

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