Special Edition Cyclo-cross News for January 27
Edited by Laura Weislo and Ben Abrahams
Third time's a charm for Albert
By Brecht Decaluwé & Gregor Brown in Treviso
After three years of trying, Albert finally
has the rainbow jersey.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
It took Niels Albert two minutes before he had a gap on the bunch, and after
that the Belgian was never seen again. Walking over the finish line with his
bike in the air, the 21 year-old finally has the title he's been chasing for
three years and the jersey he wanted so badly.
The French squad played a tactical race for the other podium spots with Aurelien
Duval managing to jump away in the final lap for silver - the second French
medal in Treviso thus far. Local rider Cristian Cominelli sent the Italian crowds
mad when he sprinted past Jonathan Lopez for bronze and the first Italian medal
of these Cyclo-cross World Championships.
"I'm very happy that I finally won the title because that's why I stayed in the U23 category. Now, I hope that I can repeat this in the elite race one of these years," Albert described his desire for a world championship title in every category – pulling off the 'Simu-trick' – a feat that has only been accomplished by the great Czech Radomir Simunek. "To win the world title in this setting – on a fantastic course, in a country with a great cycling history – is great."
The Belgian didn't provide much entertainment to the spectators who love to
see a tight race, although he felt he showed some patience in Treviso. "Deliberately
I didn't start too fast and positioned myself in third place right after the
start. Thijs Van Amerongen pulled very hard on the first section's slopes, but
when he lost his speed I took over at full speed for some reason. From then
on I didn't look back.
Continue to full results, report and photos of the U23 race.
Jouffroy conquers La Bandie
By Brecht Decaluwé and Gregor Brown in Treviso
Arnaud Jouffroy (France)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
In the sun-drenched city of Benetton and Pinarello, the junior riders battled
for their rainbow jersey, and forty minutes later Arnaud Jouffroy turned his
favourite role into a gold medal. The French champion screamed out in joy when
he crossed the line, clearly delighted that he could live up to expectations.
"This is a dream come true. It was my last chance on the title in this category
and I didn't want to blow it," Jouffroy said. He enjoyed a small lead over the
chasing duo when going into the last lap, but the dream almost shattered into
pieces when the 17 year-old hit a barrier with his knee halfway through the
last lap. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) and Lubomir Petrus (Czech Republic) were able
to come back but stayed on Jouffroy's wheel.
"I felt a lot of pain, but in my head I had forgotten it and then gave all I had," the new junior world champion explained.
Despite being a junior rider, Jouffroy is hoping for a career among the big guns. "I have no idols – maybe Niels Albert – but I hope to become a professional rider eventually," the newly crowned world champion said. "Next year I will step up a level as I become an U23 rider and I hope I will be selected for all the World Cup races and the World Championships. I hope that I can continue my improvement – technically, I improved a lot this year. I will keep focusing on cyclo-cross – it's my passion.
Continue to the full results, report and photos from the Junior men's race.
Race favourite Boom leads struggling Dutch squad
By Brecht Decaluwé in Treviso
Lars Boom (Rabobank) celebrates
Photo ©: Isosport
The top favourite to win the elite men's race on Sunday is Dutch champion Lars Boom. While Boom remains calm but confident in that role and claims he would be happy with a top-five result, his team-mates aren't feeling too good.
Veteran Richard Groenendaal, world champion in Sint-Michielsgestel 2000, has doubts over his form. "Like I feel now, it doesn't make sense to start on Sunday," Groenendaal said. The 36 year-old Dutchman explained he came over to Italy with a virus in his blood, but felt better on Thursday. The first training on Friday felt worse than expected though.
"I thought I was better. After an effort on the bike, riding about five laps, the sensations aren't promising. I'm mainly bothered stomach aches, and I'll have to wait to see how the situation develops," Groenendaal said after the official training on Friday afternoon. The experienced rider is named in the official line-up of the Dutch team, but Groenendaal will decide on his participation on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
Compatriot Gerben De Knegt has had a troubled season, and is mainly aiming for a good race in Treviso. "My season was spoiled by sore knees," De Knegt told Cyclingnews. "I feel that I can follow the best riders, but I can't do it whole race long."
Nevertheless, De Knegt's contract has recently been extended so the Dutchman will continue to feature in his Rabobank outfit with big guns Sven Nys and Boom in the 2008-2009 season.
Thijs Al, Wilant Van Gils and Maarten Nijland are the other participants in the six-man Dutch selection.
Page: I thrive on the big day
By Brecht Decaluwé in Treviso
Photo ©: Russ and Nancy Wright
On Friday evening Cyclingnews caught up with 2007 Worlds silver medallist Jonathan Page in his Treviso hotel room, where he was getting ready to search for an Italian restaurant. The American overcame an injury-plagued season last year to rebound at the Worlds, and this year his season has been nearly as bad despite his being healthy. But Page thinks he's now poised to have a repeat resurgence in Italy.
The American hasn't had a good first half of the season, and was annoyed by the high expectations from his new Sunweb-Projob team. Matters finally came to a head in November, when Page made it clear at the Superprestige in Gavere that he was mentally exhausted.
After that race, Page and Sunweb team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen had a talk, and eventually both parties decided to re-negotiate Page's two-year contract with the Belgian professional team. From then on, the American's form has progressed steadily; first from bad to reasonable, and in the last month before the Worlds his performances and results were good, with an eighth place in last week's World Cup in Hoogerheide.
"Right now I'm mentally fine, much clearer in the head," said Page. "Maybe some have written me off and maybe I can turn that in my favour. I'd like to think that riders have more respect for me and do expect me to do well on Sunday."
Often a rider for the big occasions, Page's relatively fresh physical state stands to benefit him in the season's most important race, where he is capable of riding above his normal level. Contrast this with a rider like Sven Nys, who has been at the top of his capabilities all season long and seems to be having trouble holding that form.
"The bigger the race, the better I am," said Page. "I put pressure on myself. I focus on the task ahead and I thrive on the big day; it's the big show!"
The dry and fast course in Treviso isn't comparable to the muddy meadows of Belgium last year, but Page likes what he's seen on the practice run. "On Thursday I rode the course and I like it," he said. "I didn't race the World Cup in Treviso last year, so I can't compare. I was back home on the home trainer with my arm in a sling."
Page was referring to the physical setback he encountered last year after a crash during the warm-up of the first World Cup of the season in Aigle, Switzerland, where he tore two tendons and ruptured a muscle.
"A tough course favours the strongest riders," he added, "and I would've been up to my value on a course like that. I don't dislike the course though, it's just different than what we're used to in Belgium. In Treviso it will be more of a lottery than on other courses, so I need some luck. I think that a big group will remain together for a long time.
"Hopefully I'm featuring in that group and I'm not the guy who's going back and forward just behind them," Page smiled, thinking of the many occasions this year when he's been in such a position. "The main goal will be to avoid mistakes. If you slide in a corner then you can lose ten positions just like that."
Compton still a question mark
By Gregor Brown in Treviso
Katie Compton won her first World Cup in November
Photo ©: Mark Legg
American Katie Compton was a prime candidate for a medal in Treviso until a mysterious muscular ailment put doubts on Sunday's race for her. Second in the 2007 Cyclo-cross World Championships, the US champion is pessimistic about her chances this year.
"Saturday, I will stay near the hotel for rest and recover, and then on Sunday I will see how it goes. For me the preparation is not very good at all," Compton said somberly. "I will do the best I can. If I can ride and have a good day that is a bonus."
The 29 year-old visited the parcours along lake Bandie Friday, but only to visually inspect it and not to ride. She gave her impressions of the conditions and the course.
"Here in Italy it is like Colorado conditions, it is dryer and not quite as muddy and humid as Belgium," stated Compton from the team's hotel. "It is not typical 'cross whether, but it is winter and it is still cold enough."
Compton surveyed the course and found it to be a wide-open, fast route.
"I have checked out quite a bit of it – it looks fast, it looks hard. That hill [at km 1.5 of 26% - ed.] will definitely be a hard one," she described.
In addition to the packed dirt climb there is the finishing grade of nine percent over 1000 metres. "It will be a spot where gaps could form, but there will be places to close them as well. I think the grass is packing down and it is getting a little more slick, so I think tyre selection and tyre pressure will be big factors. I would run a higher pressure because the mud is not long enough. I think high pressure – especially on the uphill finish – will be good for less rolling resistance," she concluded.
Compton made her predictions about who she thinks will be the strongest competition. "Hanka [Kupfernagel (Germany)], [Marianne] Vos, Daphny [Van Den Brand (Netherlands)]. It depends a lot on how Daphny is doing."
"For the men, Mourey [Francis Mourey (France)] is riding well and is good on fast course. However, Sven [Nys (Belgium)] is always very strong too. It is really a wide open course."
Ian Field making USA plans
By Gregor Brown in Treviso
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
Great Britain's Ian Field completed his penultimate season as an Under 23 cyclo-cross rider on Saturday at the World Championships in Treviso. After a less than satisfactory finish, Field is looking forward to heading stateside to hone his 'cross skills next season, with an eye on improving his performance in Hoogerheide in 2009.
"I think I finished 22nd, I was hoping for a bit better but I got taken out on that first drag while everyone else zoomed away," a rather fresh looking Field noted after completing the La Bandie parcours in 20th. "I rode the World Cup here last year, and I know the only place you can really make up time is that drag to the backside [kilometre six] and then climb to the top [of the 26% section, kilometre 11.5]. I was cruisin' and then giving full gas on those places. I managed to catch up easily; I was catching groups."
The fast parcours certainly were not as suited to a rider like Field, who has a background in mountain bike racing. "I am a mountain biker, so I have not got too much speed. ... I was hoping for better because I got 16th last year, and I was hoping for top 15 or top 10. However, you can't take into account crashes. It is the kind of course where, even if you are stronger than someone, if a rider gets on to your wheel it is very hard to drop them.
"I totally died on the last lap," he continued. "I was catching the group for 17th, but they were going too strong. [Niels Albert] is just in a class of his own."
Instead of making his start in Belgium as a top 'cross racer, Field plans on crossing the Atlantic to race in the United states for the coming season. "It is also my last year to race as an Under-23 rider. Next season, I hope to go to the USA to race a full 'cross season there. It is not like being thrown into the deep end in Belgium, but the competition is still really good. Hopefully the Americans will be seeing a bit more of me."
He plans to cut his teeth in the popular Northwest racing scene. "I plan on staying in Portland, Oregon, and riding for an American team." Top elite USA rider Tim Johnson confirmed Field's talents, and was encouraged by younger rider's plan.
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