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An interview with Erwin Vervecken, November 8, 2007

Vervecken's diesel running rough

Cyclo-cross champion Erwin Vervecken hasn't had the best start to the season. The Belgian has never really gone the way of Sven Nys, piling on the wins in the early season, but he's always been near the front of the field. Three World Championships later, Vervecken began this year with only four podium results in fourteen races. For the cyclo-cross crazy Flanders region, it is becoming clear that the years are starting to take their toll on Vervecken, as Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé finds out.

Vervecken on his way to one of two wins in October
Photo ©: Laura Weislo
(Click for larger image)

Fidea's Erwin Vervecken has led a much quieter career than many three time World Champions normally do. The tall, laid-back Belgian is rarely at the front fighting for the hole shot in the early season races. Still, it's unusual that he's as far back as he's been in the field this year. Cyclingnews talked to Vervecken before the Vlaamse Houtlandcross in Eernegem about his current form.

"What can I say?" Vervecken asked. "I'm turning 35 and I am not going to get better," he smiled. Things haven't been all bad, as he has already chalked up two wins this year, first in the USA in Southampton, and then in Holland in Woerden. "October has never been my month, and actually it was years ago since I'd won races in October," the World Champ realised.

Nevertheless the Fidea-rider agreed that his performances and results weren't as good as wanted. "I had three really poor performances in October: GP de la region Wallonne [10th], the Superprestige race in Ruddervoorde [23rd] and the World Cup in Tabor [11th]. In Kalmthout [22nd] – the first World Cup event – a chain problem caused the bad result, otherwise I would've finished in the top ten," Vervecken looked back on his performances throughout October.

Vervecken isn't going to fade into oblivion, however, especially not while wearing his third rainbow striped jersey. With a fifth place in the Koppenbergcross in Oudenaarde the slender Belgian showed he isn't just cashing in his start money. Nevertheless, Vervecken agreed that the organizers are questioning the world champion's value right now.

"I want at least one win in a big race, like last year in Hofstade"

-Vervecken still has goals despite being in the twilight of his career

On Monday the UCI cyclo-cross committee held a meeting where Vervecken represented the riders. Prior to the meeting, Vervecken said that the topic of start money would be on the agenda. "I didn't know this topic would be on the agenda, anyway it's just a question of supply and demand," Vervecken said. "The organizers have every right to say no to the riders they don't want to pay. For me, I'm always trying to give value for my money. For instance today – in Eernegem – I cannot afford to lose face," Vervecken explained about his participation in this less important race [Vervecken finished ninth and was never in contention for the win -ed.].

The World Champ plays around
Photo ©: Laura Weislo
(Click for larger image)

Vervecken is known to be a diesel, and he is expected to become better as the season evolves, Vervecken shared that hope with his fans. Cyclingnews asked the cyclo-cross specialist what he wanted to accomplish this year – aside from becoming world champion – so he could be satisfied with his season. "A top five result in at least two from the three GC's," Vervecken answered. The GC's are the GvA-trophy, the Superprestige Series and the UCI-rankings. "Besides that I want at least one win in a big race, like last year in Hofstade," Vervecken added.

The world championships in Treviso will of course be the main target from Vervecken, who's told to be a championships specialist although he doesn't agree with that theory. "Based on last year's World Cup race, Treviso will be a lottery. The course was fast and that means many riders will stay in contention for a long time."

Last year Vervecken was surprisingly beaten by Francis Mourey and Sven Nys in a three-man sprint, surprisingly because Vervecken was always seen as the best sprinter in the cyclo-cross peloton. "That's fading nowadays, just like my fast last lap. For instance in Tabor I was sixth going into the last lap and I eventually finished eleventh," Vervecken explained. The Belgian clearly accepts the fact that his age isn't his best friend now, but he will surely do everything he can to show his fans a few more glances of his undeniable talent as the season rolls on through Flemish fields. And maybe... maybe he can surprise the favourites once again in January when the Flemish-coloured cyclo-cross world moves to Treviso to contest the world championships.

Vervecken always explained he gets a lot of pressure from that rainbow coloured jersey, but in the mean time he would never touch his brakes when he has that beautiful jersey in sight. For now, Vervecken continues his string of poor performances with a 10th place in Hamme-Zogge, mainly caused by a broken bike frame in the second lap.

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