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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, February 2, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Belgian 'crossers surprise with excellent teamwork

By Bjorn Haake and Brecht Decaluwé in Hoogerheide, Netherlands

The Belgian dominance was striking
Photo ©:
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The Belgian cyclo-cross men's team surprised fans and opponents at the World Championships in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands, on Sunday when its members raced as a cohesive team. The riders' combined efforts gave Belgium first and third place, with Niels Albert and Sven Nys. Belgian infighting had marked previous, recent World Championships.

Leading up to the event, things looked to be business as usual, when Belgian Bart Wellens said he wouldn't chase after Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic), his Fidea teammate. But Nys emphasized at the post-race press conference that things had changed since the World Cup race in Zolder.

"Bart [Wellens] and I did an interview there, and we realised that we needed to form a coalition against Boom. We kept repeating that message, and it was picked up. All went (according) to plan, and our normal teams didn't matter anymore today," said Nys.

"We raced as a country, and I'm proud that I helped to achieve that coalition. It's something you can't do on your own," Nys said. "It was so different. The atmosphere was great within our team."

Instead of preparing separately for the World Championships, the Belgians stuck together. "We did everything as a team. There was a good atmosphere," Nys said. It was a new feeling for him. "In ten years, I haven't experienced that. We usually rode as individuals. Now we've got a good mixture of guys in their thirties - and young talents."

Albert went onto the podium
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The tactic was simple. "We just wanted a Belgian to win," Nys said. That tactic was not what the Dutch home team had expected, as they faded quickly. "The Dutch team wasn't strong as Boom only had Thijs Al to help him. The co-operation in our team was really special. Klaas Vantournout for example tapped my shoulder and told me he would attack to make sure I would be able to cover him," Nys said.

"Bart Wellens and I were talking during the race. That's unbelievable as we have been major rivals during the past ten years. The good thing is that during the upcoming weeks, we will all be fighting each other again," Nys said as he spoke of the last few weeks of cyclo-cross racing coming up.

Newly crowned World Champion Albert said the team was the real star this year. "We had a lot of fun in the hotel rooms the last few days," said Albert. "My goal in the race was to make sure a Belgian won the race. If I wasn't able to win, I would've helped the others."

There was no chasing down teammates and Nys, who dominated the 'cross season in the winter, tried to do his job, although he wasn't strong enough today to stay with Stybar. He still made it clear that he would have just sat on Stybar's wheel if he could have. "Then, if he had caught Albert, I could have still won."

The home crowd was less satisfied with the outcome, and some left early, unwilling to watch Albert cross the line in first. Nonetheless, the loyal Belgian fans made themselves heard and waved their flags.

Time will tell if the Belgians will continue to apply their new recipe for success: Win, work together and have fun at the same time.

Déjà vu for Vos

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hoogerheide, Netherlands

Vos smiles with gold.
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The elite women's World Championship cyclo-cross race on Sunday seemed awfully familiar to winner Marianne Vos. She gave her Dutch fans something to cheer when she won the final sprint against German Hanka Kupfernagel and American Katie Compton. Vos was racing in her home country, as she did in 2006 in Zeddam, when and where she won her first cyclo-cross World Championship.

"I hope the Worlds will be held in Holland again soon," joked Vos, happy with her win.

"There were a lot of similarities, although back then I was more of an outsider. The top-two were the same back then. I told myself not to think about it, but I did it anyway," Vos said.

Vos launched her attack with 200m to go and her sprinting skills proved too much for her two challengers, who had used up much of their energy trying to get rid of her throughout the rest of the race. Vos had hung tough onto Kupfernagel's wheel as the German did a sort of one-woman time trial to bridge the pair back up to Compton, who had escaped early in the race.

"I was confident when we entered the road with the three of us, even though the finish is always a little further than you would think at first," Vos said.

Consistent Compton earns second 'cross worlds medal

Katie Compton became the first two-time world championship medallist in American cyclo-cross history after she finished in third place at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Holland on Sunday. Compton won bronze behind Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and runner-up Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) in a final three-up sprint finish.

The trio had separated themselves from the remainder of the 35 finishers. Compton took control early on, mounting a 17-second lead on her competitors just one and a half laps into the four-lap event. But, by the end of the third lap, a determined Kupfernagel had closed the gap while Vos hung tightly to the German's wheel. Entering the final, paved 200-meter stretch to the finish, Vos led out the sprint and managed to keep ahead of Kupfernagel and Compton.

For Compton, the bronze medal caps off perhaps the most successful season for an American cyclo-cross racer. Throughout her 2008-09 campaign, she won three UCI World Cup races, placed second in another and won the USA Cycling elite women's national championship - all before finishing on the podium in Hoogerheide.

As the silver medalist at the World Championships in 2007, Compton entered the race as one of the favorites, along with Kupfernagel and Dutchwoman Daphny van den Brand. But as Vos emerged as a contender throughout the day, the orange-clad Dutch squad developed an advantage in numbers. With van den Brand in the first chase group behind the leaders, Vos was largely able to conserve her energy in the breakaway and save it for the finishing sprint.

"It was frustrating, but it was a good ride," Compton said afterwards. "It's been a good year, and the bronze is nothing to be disappointed with. There were tactics, but I rode a good race."

Compton's finish was the best of the American women, who all finished in the top 20. Despite miscalculating the finishing lap, Rachel Lloyd placed 11th. Mountain biker Georgia Gould crossed the line in 13th place and Sue Butler and Laura Van Gilder finished 17th and 19th respectively.

Powers fastest of the American men

By Brecht Decaluwé in Hoogerheide, Netherlands

Jeremy Powers finished, more or less unexpectedly, as top American finisher during the elite men's race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands. US National Champion Ryan Trebon pulled out after a crash and fellow compatriot Jonathan Page could not produce a top result, while Powers kept his composure and finished an anonymous 35th place.

The Massachusetts-based Powers had a long cyclo-cross season and like most non-European riders, he's ready to take a break. "It's not the result [35th] that I wanted, but being at this point in the season, it's something I can build upon.

"I'm 25 years old and I've got plenty of chances left," said Powers. "At the end of the race, I was in a group with [Richard] Groenendaal and for him, it's over. It's the coming of a new wave." It was the last race for former World Champion Groenendaal.

With 69 riders still together, the first lap was extremely hectic. Powers made his way through all the shouting and pushing. "During the cross in Tervuren, I learnt from Stybar how I can protect my position," he said. "You must be aggressive and stick on the wheel in front of you. As soon as someone threatens your position, it's a matter of moving to the side. That way you're showing that you don't want to give your spot away."

Thinking of the newly crowned World Champion Niels Albert, Powers shared a story. "This morning I was riding back from the course, and he passed me while motorpacing. I hooked up with him, talking a little. I said hello and told him who I was."

"He replied by saying that I probably knew who he was. By now many more people know who he is," Powers laughed.

The fast and furious course in Hoogerheide seemed like it would be perfect for Trebon, but the tall Kona rider pulled out despite a good start. "I crashed into the TV camera boom that was across the course," said Trebon." I hit it, then crashed on the pavement, landing on the same knee that I crashed on the day before."

"I had a decent first lap going and was feeling pretty comfortable in the group, but I guess that happens," said Trebon.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite men's and elite women's cyclo-cross World Championships.

One day at a time for Lapthorne

By Greg Johnson

Lapthorne had great support by his team Sparkasse but in the end decided to switch to Rapha Condor
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
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Staring into the eyes of adversity, a courageous Darren Lapthorne has sported a brave face as he returns to professional cycling. Lapthorne is making his return to the peloton following the worst of tragedies.

Having broken into the European peloton in 2008, it was always destined to be a big year for Darren Lapthorne. The journey would, however, take a tragic twist in late September. Just days after receiving a concerned call from his parents, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading (DFAT) would inform the Lapthorne family that the former Australian Open Road Champion's sister, Britt, who was travelling through Croatia at the time, had been declared a missing person. It was a call that would lead to the grisly discovery of Britt Lapthorne's body floating off a resort in Dubrovnik, Croatia, weeks later.

Darren had immediately ceased racing and training efforts when news of his sister's disappearance surfaced. His German squad Team Sparkasse fully supported Darren's dash to Croatia, where he would be joined by father Dale in the search for Britt.

"As soon as I heard my sister was missing I informed my team: they were great, they also supported me and told me to get down there straight away, that family is the most important thing," he said. "I still had a few races that my name was down for, but it was absolutely no problem, Team Sparkasse supported me. I didn't even think about riding when I heard my sister was missing.

"I was prepared to stay in Croatia for as long as it took to find my sister," added Lapthorne. "If that had been a few weeks, like it was, or even longer, like years, cycling is definitely not that important. The priority was to find my sister, I wasn't thinking about the bike at all."

Read the complete feature.

Wiggins grabs gold with Garmin

By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar

British rider Bradley Wiggins gets the gold jersey
Photo ©: AFP
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Bradley Wiggins opened his first season with Team Garmin-Slipstream by winning gold in the six-kilometre time trial at the Tour of Qatar in Doha. The Briton led over the line to claim the overall classification and the golden leader's jersey.

"There are some really important time trials coming up for us this year – the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France – and to get the first one like this is fantastic, for JV [General Manager Jonathan Vaughters - ed.] and everyone. It's what this team is all about," Wiggins said to Cyclingnews. It was the Briton's first victory on the road since the Duo Normand two-man time trial in 2007.

Garmin had sent Ricardo Van Der Velde to the front early in the time trial but the Argyle-clad team used up two more of its eight men – William Frischkorn and Martyn Maaskant – before the finish – with Wiggins leading Hans Dekkers, Kilian Patour, Michael Friedman and Huub Duyn over the line.

"There was no plan," said Wiggins to explain why he led the group over the line. "To be honest, we did not expect to win it, just to get into the top three or five would have been a good result."

The next five days of the Tour of Qatar are sprinters' stages thanks to their flat profiles. The time bonuses on offer will mean that Wiggins will likely lose his gold jersey by the end of stage two.

"It will be difficult with [Mark] Cavendish, [Tom] Boonen and riders like that. If we can get Hans Dekkers in the results somewhere, great, but this [team time trial] was the big one for us.

"We will have another go at the team time trial at the Tour Méditerranéen. We will have [David] Millar, Ryder Hesjedal there for that one."

Garmin won the team time trial of the Giro d'Italia and Tour de Georgia in 2008.

Wiggins turned professional in 2001. He rode for Team Columbia in 2008 and will next race at the Tour Méditerranéen and Paris-Nice.

Rabobank sharpens Classics form in Qatar

By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar

Team Rabobank will aim to sharpen its skills for the Spring Classics at the Tour of Qatar, February 1 to 6. The Dutch team will have to do without its captain Nick Nuyens, who returned home on the eve of the race to be with his wife and their soon-to-be-born baby.

"We don't have a sprinter and there are a lot of sprinters here. However, I want to see our team in the race and we need to show ourselves and work like a team," said Directeur Sportif Erik Dekker to Cyclingnews.

The race started on Sunday with a team time trial and continues over the next five days with stages designed to suit sprinters.

Rabobank came to the sprinters' stage race with one-day riders more suited to the Classics, like Belgian Nick Nuyens and Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha. However, the team is down to seven of its original eight after Nuyens flew home.

Dekker will continue with this group of riders in the team's next races: Ruta del Sol next week, Paris-Nice, Omloop Het Volk and Northern Classics.

"We have a very strong team and this [Tour of Qatar] is meant to help build form and not for the classification. Many of the stages could be decided by cross winds, but I would like to have the team up front to simply show the competition that we are here and have a strong team."

Team Rabobank finished fourth, four seconds behind Garmin - Slipstream in the opening six-kilometre team time trial.

Furlan: Qatar like Tour de France

By Gregor Brown in Doha, Qatar

Angelo Furlan is ready for his first test of the year at the Tour of Qatar. The Italian Lampre sprinter considers the stage race an important indicator for sprints in big events like the Tour de France.

"For many sprinters, it is the first event of the year and it's becoming more and more important because all the best sprinters are here, minus two or three. Any finishing order you see on a stage could be the same as what you would see at the Tour de France," Furlan said to Cyclingnews.

The Tour of Qatar, February 1 to 6, started Sunday with a team time trial of six kilometres – won by Garmin - Slipstream. The following five stages are mostly flat, sprinters' stages that challenge the riders with the cross-winds.

"Here the teamwork becomes even more important, even if there are no climbs. It is important the directeur sportif reads the direction of the wind and that the team battles the trains of Columbia, Quick Step and the other sprint trains. We have some good men to do the job, like Lorenzetto, Mori, Righi, Bandiera and Sapa."

Furlan joined Lampre for the 2009 season. He spent the previous two seasons with French team Crédit Agricole. Last year, he won a stage in the Etoile de Bessèges and the Tour of Poland.

"There is nervousness because it is the first race of the year and you want to head home with good results. A win would be the best, even if we know that that the world's best are here."

Furlan competed in the Tour of Qatar for the first time in 2008. His best result was a fourth in stage four.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage one of the Tour of Qatar.

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