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Cyclo-cross News & Racing Round-up, December 31, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Boom's birthday ends in stitches

By Brecht Decaluwé

Lars Boom (Rabobank)
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Cyclo-cross World Champion Lars Boom (Rabobank) will miss tomorrow's Grand Prix Sven Nys in Baal, Belgium after suffering injuries in Tuesday's Azencross Loenhout. The rider will take the time off to recover from his injuries, which include stitches in his elbow but no broken bones.

Boom had a nasty crash when entering the street towards the finish line as his chain jammed, causing him to lose control and slip out of his pedals before crashing to the ground. It was an unfortunate way for Boom, who was unable to continue the race, to celebrate his birthday.

"I've got a deep wound in my elbow and that ought to be stitched. I've also got some scrapes on my knee," Boom told Sporza. "I don't think anything is broken but I'll have some photos taken to make sure about that."

Boom is expected to be back in action for the Internationale Centrumcross van Surhuisterveen. The riders doesn't believe the incident will have an impact on his bid to retain the world title at the end of January.

Al credits 'cross success to lighter mountain bike season

By Gregor Brown in Loenhout, Belgium

Thijs Al (Chain Reaction Cycles)
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Thijs Al has credited a change to his mountain bike season for his successes thus far in cyclo-cross. The Dutchman has claimed victories in three races and acted as the main protagonist in the others, like Tuesday's race in Loenhout, Belgium.

"I had a really easy summer and less mountain bike races," said Al after his sixth place finish in Loenhout. "This year it was all focused on the cyclo-cross season."

Al led the field for part of the race in Loenhout. His confidence comes from an early season win in Antwerp and last week's big one, the Zolder World Cup.

Last season did not go as well due to a busier mountain bike schedule, though he did have the experience of finishing on the podium of the 'cross World Cup in Hofstade in 2006.

"That was a really big step," he said. "I was thinking back to Hofstade [in Zolder] and I did not want to miss out on the win again - I was not going to be happy with just a podium.

"I did not have the confidence to achieve the same thing last year," he added. "I had a really ambitious summer. I stopped with those [mountain bike races] now. I did about three or four [races this year], and I won nationals. I did some marathon [races] to prepare for the cyclo-cross season."

Al has set a season goal of a good finish on home soil at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide. He will back current World Champion and Dutchman Lars Boom to put one of the team members on the podium. Al finished 44th last year at the Worlds in Treviso, Italy, and 10th the year before in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium .

Cool change receives mixed reactions

By Brecht Decaluwé

Bart Wellens (Fidea) doesn't like it this cold
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The mercury has dropped in Flanders, Belgium, and the cool change is receiving both a hot and cold reaction from races. While the reasons behind the climate change aren't known, the result has been fast and furious cyclo-cross courses.

In Loenhout race winner Zdenek Stybar (Fidea Cycling Team) completed no less than 11 laps, averaging more than 31 km/h on the frozen meadow. While former BMX-champion Stybar is clearly a star on ice, there are other riders who hate this type of racing like the skinny Bart Wellens (Fidea Cycling Team), who has been struggling with a fragile back.

"I like such races," Stybar, who also won in Diegem, said. "They are fast, slippery and there's also the sun, what else can I ask for."

Belgian Wellens doesn't share the Czech's opinion though, claiming he lost 10 percent of his motivation when finding out it was freezing in Loenhout. "The last few days we had courses for guys like Stybar and Thijs Al," said Wellens. "My time will come when thaw sets in. Then we will have courses like in Nommay and unsurprisingly they both finished two minutes behind me there."

Stybar pointed the finger at mud-pits when explaining why he didn't perform to his best in Nommay. "Nommay had a course where you can close your eyes and push," Stybar said.

For now it doesn't look like temperatures in Belgium will be rising above zero degrees Celsius during the upcoming week and that means that Wellens will have to keep working on doing damage control. That's in contrast with Stybar who, might be racking up a couple of more wins next week.

One place where Stybar will face a few more ice lovers is at the Czech National Championship race. "Everybody is motivated there and I think they all want to beat me," said the current champion. "I will do all I can to stay in this jersey."

Powers runs at the front again

By Gregor Brown in Loenhout, Belgium

Jeremy Powers (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld) closed one of his best cyclo-cross races to date Tuesday in Europe with a 13th place in the Azencross race in Loenhout, Belgium. The USA rider again showed the strength that allowed him a seventh placing the day before in Middelkerke, but today he was up against a stronger field.

"I am elated to be up there again today. It was good, really good," said Powers after a notably fast race. "Every year I try to improve a little bit here [in Europe] and this year it is working."

Powers has fought for his space in Europe over the past years of trans-Atlantic trips. He is now to a point where he is comfortable amongst his rivals and his legs allow him to fight for top 10 finishes.

"I have been doing this for five years, and every year gets like three or four more places better," he said. "This does not happen over night, it takes so much time to get there. These guys are the best in the world and there is no where to go from here."

Powers fought with leaders, like eventual winner Zdenek Stybar, in the early part of the race. He gradually moved up through the field, but saw his compatriot Ryan Trebon (Kona) slip back due to back problems. The USA Champion suffered from a crash the day before in Middelkerke.

"Ryan was a good countryman; he pulled really hard for me one time and got me back on," he said. "It was a group effort; it is not like racing in the states."

The rider from Springfield, Massachusetts, acknowledged that his family and friends at home would be just as excited for his result in Loenhout. He will celebrate the New Year and then race twice more - Sint Niklaas and Tervuren - before travelling to Alicante, Spain, for a warm-weather training camp with Trebon. The duo will be back for the northern World Cup events, but they are uncertain for the round in Milan.

Lloyd makes American top-10 trio

By Gregor Brown in Loenhout, Belgium

Rachel Lloyd (Cal Giant Berry)
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Rachel Lloyd (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) formed part of a trio of American riders in the top-10 of the Azencross race in Loenhout, Belgium, on Tuesday afternoon. The rider avoided difficulties in the last lap to arrive fifth in the race won by Netherlands' Daphny Van Den Brand.

Fellow Americans Katie Compton and Georgia Gould finished second and ninth respectively.

"It was really fast, but the real leaders just kept slowing down in places," Lloyd said. "I figured if I could stay far up I would have a good chance of finishing top-five because the riders in the back would not be able to move up."

Lloyd was with the front group that also included Canadian Wendy Simms as the final lap started. A crash on an artificial bridge allowed Van Den Brand to gain her lead while Lloyd pushed on over a roller section and avoided a mishap by World Champion Hanka Kupfernagel.

"I still don't feel I have the speed and the acceleration out of the corners to match these girls," she said. "I have just been training steady and high-end. We don't have this kind of speed in the USA, these types of fast courses."

Lloyd will return to action in 2009 when she lines up in Tervuren on January 4. She stays in Europe and races the next two World Cups as a lead-up to the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships on February 1 in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. She finished ninth at World Championships last year in Treviso, Italy.

Summerhill's chances come crashing down in Loenhout

By Gregor Brown in Loenhout, Belgium

Danny Summerhill's fight for the podium spot in the Under 23 Azencross race in Loenhout, Belgium, suffered with a crash in the last lap. he 19-year-old said he came down due to another rider in the 50-minute race on Tuesday.

"I got crashed out on the last lap, they just took me out," Summerhill told Cyclingnews following the race near Antwerp. "It was just bad luck. I had no troubles the entire race"

He recovered to finish 17th in the race won by Belgium's Vincent Baestaens. Though he crashed, Summerhill felt better than two days prior at the Superprestige in Diegem. There he complained of bad legs and lack of acceleration.

Summerhill is on a two-week racing trip to Europe. It is the second time in the cyclo-cross rich country of Belgium this year; having already been there a month and a half earlier for five weeks. After two more races he will go home before returning to race the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships on January 31 in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.

"I don't think it is the smartest mentally or physically to stay over here in foreign surroundings," he said. "I will have to work hard to work on my recovery and jet-lag off the flight, but I am getting prepared for what it will take to accomplish it."

Summerhill finished seventh twice this season - in Portland and Uitbergen. He took the silver medal two years ago at the Junior World Championships in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium.

Euro 'cross camp VI diary

Brian Matter: Living the dream

Brian Matter as Frankenfurter
Photo ©: Brian Matter
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The Euro 'Cross Camp is in full swing this week. We are in the heart of the racing schedule in the motherland of cyclo-cross. The races have been fast and furious. The spectators have been loud and numerous. The weather has been cold and surprisingly, not muddy. For me the Euro 'Cross Camp has been about living the dream.

As a competitive cyclist you want to race the best in the most spectacular conditions. Everyone knows that Belgian 'cross racing during the holidays is the crème of the crop. So to be here accomplishing my goals on a daily basis is unbelievable.

To read more, click here.

Gavin Mannion: Overcoming new challenges

Gavin Mannion
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This is my second year racing and living here in Belgium during the heart of the cyclo-cross season. Each year poses a new set of challenges that need to be overcome in order to be successful. This year was no different; I faced my first problem back in the states when I was trying to fly to Brussels.

Due to the large snow storm hitting the east coast, almost all flights were either delayed or cancelled. After sitting in the airport for eighteen hours I embarked on my journey to the heartland of cyclo-cross racing – Izegem, Belgium. When I finally arrived in Brussels airport, I picked up my bag and went in search of my bikes. After searching the entire baggage claim area with no luck I began to fill out the paperwork for lost baggage, luckily I carried the address for the house in my carry-on. At this point I wasn't too disappointed it was late and no bikes meant a few less bags to drag to the car.

To read more, click here.

Read all of this year's Euro 'cross camp diaries here.

Cyclingnews Reader Poll: Best 'cross racers

The results have been tallied up, and with more than 13,000 votes cast, this year's poll the biggest ever! Today we announce the Best Male and Female Cyclo-crossers of the year.

Thank you to all who voted, and look for the winner of the 2009 Zipp 808 wheel set with the new 88/188 hub to be announced on January 5.

Recent Cyclo-cross results

December 26: Internationales Radquer Dagmersellen, Dagmersellen (Swi) C2 ME/WE
December 26: Grand Prix DAF Grand Garage Engel, Differdange (Lux) C2 ME
December 26: Coupe du Monde UCI / UCI World Cup, Heusden-Zolder (Bel) CDM ME/MU/MJ/WE
December 27: Sylvestercyclo-cross, Torhout (Bel) C2 ME
December 28: Superprestige Diegem, Diegem (Bel) C1 ME/MU/MJ
December 29: Noordzeecross, Middelkerke (Bel) C1 ME
December 30: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (Bel) C1 ME/MU/MJ/WE

Upcoming UCI races

December 31: GP 5 Sterne Region, Beromünster (Swi) C2
January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (Bel) C1 ME
January 1: G.P. Hotel Threeland, Pétange (Lux) C2 ME/WE
January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster, Sint-Niklaas (Bel) C2 ME
January 4: Flüüger-Quer, Dübendorf (Swi) C1 ME
January 4: Internationale Veldrit Sint Michielsgestel, Sint Michielsgestel (Ned) C1 ME/MU/MJ/WE
January 4: Vlaamse Witloof Veldrit, Tervuren (Bel) C2 ME/MJ/WE

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