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Photo ©: Schaaf

2007 Cyclo-cross World Championships - CM

Hooglede-Gits, Belgium, January 27-28, 2007

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Race 4 - January 28: Elite men

Vervecken takes third world title in fascinating race

Page surprises cylco-cross world with second place

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hooglede-Gits

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."

With this result Page completes his remarkable comeback from a serious shoulder injury which has been described to Cyclingnews in a recent interview. "I don't know if it [the recovery and free time] helped me to be good today but it definitely helped me to be motivated," Page said.

Already during the race Page's mechanic was commenting on his current performance. "Jonathan deserves a team for next season, after all the work he's done he showed he's good enough," Frankie Van Haesebroucke said. By bringing home the first ever US medal in the elite men's race, Page shouldn't have much trouble finding a team now.

"The US-team grabbed three medals over here so that's great, hopefully it continues," Page said, referring to the other silver medals from junior Danny Summerhill and Katie Compton. US-champion Ryan Trebon was disappointed with his 21st place as he hoped for at least a top15 result. "It's great what Jonathan did, he did well enough for both of us," Trebon said to Cyclingnews.

Another surprise on the podium was Italian champion Enrico Franzoi. "It was a tough year for me with little time to recover as I did the Vuelta a Espana. The federation supported me a lot to focus on these worlds. I had to start far behind and that makes this third place even more special," Franzoi said.

UCI-leader Sven Nys once again couldn't convert his dominance during the season into a world title. "I fell three times, and only the last time it was my own fault. From then on, I gave up for the win. Still you continue the race but you wonder why it happens again with us [Nys and Wellens]. I'm happy that I already did a great season. We were putting everybody under pressure, even Vervecken who was a few metres down and then it happens. I realize that tomorrow it's Monday, and next weekend we start in another race," said Nys.

His arch rival Wellens found it more difficult to deal with the loss. "Even though I had the best legs of the season I couldn't do much more than what I did. The jersey went to the wrong person, he shouldn't have won it even though he's a teammate. He deserves to be on the podium but the other guys don't," Wellens said. He described the crash as inevitable and said how he felt afterwards. "The quad touched that block, and I couldn't get away anymore. Afterwards I had a lot of pain in my neck and couldn't throw my bike," Wellens explained.

During the race, a fence fell on the course under the weight of the huge crowd almost crashing on Wellens, which when added to the crash of Wellens and Nys with the plastic block, things weren't running that smooth today. The organizers had placed a double fence and stewards around the course but their efforts proved to be in vain.

Cyclingnews asked Mélanie Leveau from the UCI about the problems with the fencing. "There were too many people around the course," she said. With this knowledge the organizers from next year’s worlds in Treviso know what they will have work on, as they expect 80,000 people in bella Italia!

How it unfolded

One of the crowds' heroes Bart Wellens (Bel) managed the best start, followed by Gerben De Knegt and defending world champion Erwin Vervecken. Favourite Sven Nys started off in tenth position. Camiel Van Den Bergh used all his energy to get some advantage but then disappeared from the front as Gerben De Knegt moved forward.

Things really started in the second lap when Nys, Vervecken, and Wellens gained some ground. Then the crashes started. De Knegt started with a slip, but then there was a major crash at the front near the finish line. Reportedly, a motorbike knocked a ballustrade into the course in front of Wellens, who crashed. Nys hit Wellen's downed bike and crashed, too.

Nys recovered quickly and joined Vervecken, Jonathan Page (USA), Radomir Simunek, Jr. (Cze), Richard Groenendaal (Ned) and Christian Heule (Stevens) in the lead. The pace dropped a bit as nobody seemed to know what was happening today. Another Belgian Davy Commeyne (Bel) crashed hard by hitting a post; he had to abandon the race.

Groenendaal didn't wonder about the bizarre development and attacked the front group, quickly gathering a few seconds on Nys, Vervecken, Page, and Simunek. The defending world champion slipped coming out of a corner, and again Nys went down after someone else's mistake. A few moments later, the UCI-leader crashed hard on a hidden root and went over the handlebars. Groenendaal extended his lead after these crashes.

Groenendaal had seven seconds on Page and Enrico Franzoi (Ita) who came back from nowhere.

Men's elite podium
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Groenendaal was joined in the lead during the fourth lap by Franzoi, Page, and Simunek. The world champion from 2000 got away again but after a crash by Groenendaal in the fifth lap, he was caught by Page and Franzoi. A few moments later, he dropped off the pace after switching bikes in the pit. Defending champion Vervecken was 15 seconds down on the lead by then.

While Wellens kept moving forward through the bunch Nys was lost.

With three laps to go Vervecken, Page, and Franzoi were together in the lead, but when Franzoi got stuck in the sand, the lead group was down to two riders: Vervecken and Page.

With two laps to go, the two leaders had a gap of five seconds on Franzoi, Groenendaal, and Kevin Pauwels (Bel). De Knegt and Wellens were 19 seconds down.

Page and Vervecken hit the ultimate lap with five seconds on Franzoi and seventeen on Wellens. Vervecken slipped a bit early on this lap, but he bridged up to the American again. Page attacked on the climb using a little gear, surprising Vervecken but he didn't get away.

Finally, it was Vervecken who attacked the former US national champion on the last climb. Page lost a few metres and was unable to bridge back up to the two-time world champion. Vervecken had three seconds coming into the final straight, and even though Page did all he could to close the gap, Vervecken grabbed his third world title.

Page claimed the first-ever medal in the elite men's race for the US, and Italian champion Franzoi was extremely happy with the bronze medal. Favourite Wellens finished fourth while a disappointed Nys finished eleventh two minutes back from winner Vervecken.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP

Images by Mitch Clinton/www.clintonphoto.com

Images by Brecht Decaluwé/Cyclingnews.com

Images by Russ and Nancy Wright/www.abbiorca.com

Images by Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews

Images by John Pierce/PhotoSport International

Images by Mark Legg

Results

1 Erwin Vervecken (Belgium)                1.05.35
2 Jonathan Page (USA)                         0.03
3 Enrico Franzoi (Italy)                      0.16
4 Bart Wellens (Belgium)                      0.25
5 Kevin Pauwels (Belgium)                     0.32
6 Richard Groenendaal (Netherlands)           0.35
7 Gerben de Knegt (Netherlands)               1.12
8 John Gadret (France)                        1.26
9 Christian Heule (Switzerland)               1.35
10 Thijs Al (Netherlands)                     1.40
11 Sven Nys (Belgium)                         2.04
12 Sven Vanthourenhout (Belgium)              2.22
13 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy)              2.46
14 Maarten Nijland (Netherlands)              2.57
15 Klaas Vantornout (Belgium)                 2.57
16 David Derepas (France)                     3.02
17 José Antonio Hermida (Spain)               3.04
18 Lukas Flückiger (Switzerland)              3.25
19 Arnaud Labbe (France)                      3.27
20 Marek Cichosz (Poland)                     3.31
21 Simon Zahner (Switzerland)                 3.43
22 Maros Kovác (Slovakia)                     3.54
23 Ryan Trebon (USA)                          3.59
24 Petr Dlask (Czech Republic)                4.05
25 Bart Aernouts (Belgium)                    4.22
26 Alessandro Fontana (Italy)                 4.34
27 Robert Glajza (Slovakia)                   4.46
28 Rene Birkenfeld (Germany)                  4.56
29 Steve Chainel (France)                     5.42
30 Milan Barenyi (Slovakia)                   5.49
31 Davide Frattini (Italy)                    6.01
32 Joachim Parbo (Denmark)                    6.16
33 Unai Yus (Spain)                           6.33
34 Philip Dixon (Great Britain)               6.39
35 Keiiti Tsujiura (Japan)                    6.47
36 Marco Bianco (Italy)                       6.51
37 Rob Jebb (Great Britain)                   7.17
38 Gusty Bausch (Luxembourg)                  7.29
39 Kashy Leuchs (New Zealand)                 7.34
40 Wilant van Gils (Netherlands)              7.41
41 Isaac Suarez Fernandez (Spain)             7.58
42 Frederick Ericsson (Sweden)                8.16
43 Erik Tonkin (USA)                          8.25
44 Vaclaf Metlicka (Slovakia)                 8.36
45 Mariusz Gil (Poland)                       9.06

One lap down

46 Dariusz Gil (Poland)                       
47 Andrzej Kaiser (Poland)
48 Greg Reain (Canada)
49 Oscar Vazquez (Spain)
50 Peter Presslauer (Austria)
51 Masanori Kosaka (Japan)
52 Mike Garrigan (Canada)
53 Atsushi Maruyama (Japan)
54 Barry Wicks (USA)
55 Jan Chrobak (Czech Republic)
56 Thorsten Struch (Germany)
57 Tristan Schouten (USA)   

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