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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

News for February 5, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

UCI Cyclo-cross rankings

By Jeff Jones

Following the World Championships last weekend in Monopoli, the UCI has updated its cyclo-cross rankings for Elite Men. Newly crowned World Champion Bart Wellens (Bel/SpaarSelect) has moved to within striking distance of the number one spot, which is currently held by Mario De Clercq (Bel/Palmans-Collstrop). 25 year old Wellens bunny hopped over both Richard Groenendaal (Ned/Rabobank) and Sven Nijs (Bel/Rabobank) as a result of his success on Sunday, however De Clercq still has 52 points advantage.

In the nations rankings, Belgium maintained its grip on its status quo after placing five riders in the top five in Monopoli. With 6,543 points compared to the Netherlands' 2,670 points, it's clear that no-one is going to displace Belgium as the top dogs of 'cross in a hurry. Further down the list, a notable improvement came from France which moved into fourth place ahead of Switzerland and the USA, courtesy of a good performance by Francis Mourey at the World's where he finished 6th.

Rankings as of February 2, 2003

Individuals

1 Mario De Clercq (Bel)                1,649.00 pts
2 Bart Wellens (Bel)                   1,597.00
3 Sven Nijs (Bel)                      1,525.00
4 Richard Groenendaal (Ned)            1,491.00
5 Ben Berden (Bel)                       974.00
6 Erwin Vervecken (Bel)                  798.00
7 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel)              577.00
8 Gerben De Knegt (Ned)                  558.00
9 Tom Vannoppen (Bel)                    550.00
10 Jiri Pospisil (Cze)                   546.00

Nations

1 Belgium                              6,543.00 pts
2 Netherlands                          2,670.00
3 Czech Republic                       1,556.00
4 France                               1,160.00
5 Switzerland                          1,132.00

Full rankings

Monopoly in Monopoli: Verbruggen can't see change

The Belgians' dominance in the discipline of cyclo-cross is an unavoidable result of the regional nature of the sport, says UCI boss Hein Verbruggen. Speaking on Belgium's Radio 1, Verbruggen said "We must not have the ambition that cyclo-cross will conquer the world. Cyclo-cross is doomed to stay popular at the regional level."

Verbruggen doesn't see cyclo-cross fitting into his "globalisation" model of cycling. He added that he "wasn't cheering" about Sunday's Belgian clean sweep. "It is difficult to sell the sport to sponsors and TV."

"I firmly believe that cyclo-cross is a sport that has a hard core of fans in eight Western European countries. But therefore we must not want to make it a worldwide spectacle."

Few could deny its popularity in Belgium though: An estimated 750,000 (900,000 in the last 15 minutes) Belgian viewers watched the entire Elite Men's race on TV, which represents a 58.3 percent market share. That's an increase of 100,000 over last year, when the World's were held in Zolder, Belgium. Similar increases were also noted in the U23 Men, Elite Women and Junior Men's races.

Verbruggen also said that he wasn't interested in expanding it to other European countries, such as Scandinavia. "From Poland onwards, it's always very cold," he said. Also ruled out was the possibility that it become an Olympic sport. "Cyclo-cross doesn't require snow and ice, therefore it couldn't be part of the Winter Olympics. And for the Summer Games, cyclo-cross also can't be considered, because ultimately it is a winter sport."

Thus for the time being, the Belgians remain kings of the sandpit.

More down than up for Quick Step

The Quick Step-Davitamon team enjoyed some success at last in the Tour of Qatar, with Servais Knaven winning the final stage of the five day event. But other than that, it's been an unlucky start to the season for the new Belgian team that grew out of the ashes of Mapei-Quick Step.

After Kevin Hulsmans and David Caña both suffered broken bones while training, there came the injuries of Laszlo Bodrogi and Frédéric Amorison during the Tour of Qatar. Bodrogi was caught up in a crash on stage three and it was first feared that he'd fractured his pubic bone. However, it's now been confirmed that he is only suffering from contusions to the pubic zone, and he will return to training after a one week stop.

Amorison opted not to start Stage 4 after experiencing pain in his right knee due to tendonitis. Although the abandonment was a preventative measure for Amorison, it is a worrying start to the year.

Swiss home for Freire

As a number of riders have done before him, Spanish sprinter Oscar Freire will make his home in Switzerland. The Rabobank rider from Cantabria has now got a house in Coldrerio, near Mendrisio and the Swiss/Italian border. There he'll be able to train with Rabobank teammate Robert Hunter, as well as Daniele Nardello and Stefano Garzelli.

Olivier to MBK-Oktos

25 year old Léniac Olivier will ride for the next two seasons for French Division II squad MBK-Oktos, according to L'Equipe. Olivier rode for Jean Delatour last year, but was not retained by the team. He makes his debut in the Etoile des Bessèges this week.

05 Orbitel is go

Colombian team 05 Orbitel has begun its season with a week long craning camp in Medellin, which will finish this Sunday, February 9. The Division II squad directed by Raúl Mesa features 16 riders this year, including new signings Hernán Buenahora, Carlos Contreras and Félix Cárdenas. All three of these cyclists have had experience riding for European teams, and they will serve to bolster an already strong national squad.

Other new riders for 05 Orbitel include Jorge Humberto Martínez and Hebert Gutiérrez, who have shown themselves to be very combative riders in the past few years.

The team's ambitions this year remain focused on Colombia's two big stage races, Vuelta a Colombia and Clásico RCN, but director Raúl Mesa also hopes to do a smattering of international races in the months of April and May. The team's big ambition is to gain selection for the Vuelta a España in September through good results early in the season.

Team roster

2003 BMX World Titles in Perth

The 2003 BMX World Championships will be staged at Perth's Burswood Dome, from Saturday, July 19, to Sunday, July 27. The UCI endorsed championships will see 2000 of the world's best BMX cyclists test themselves around a tough 350 metre indoor track designed by local Perth rider, Scott Taylor. The field will be comprised of 800 internationals and 1200 Australians, making this the largest field for a BMX world championships since their inception over 20 years ago.

Events that will incorporated into the Championships include:

2003 Pacific Oceania International (19 & 20 July)
2003 Red Bull King of Dirt Competition (23 July)
2003 World Championships (24 to 27 July)

An average of 6000 spectators is expected at the Dome for each of the seven days of the championships.

BMX has been an important breeding ground for some of Australia's best sprinters, including Robbie McEwen, Graeme Brown and Rochelle Gilmore.

André Noyelle dies

Dual gold medalist at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, André Noyelle, has died at the age of 71. The Belgian won the individual road race in 1952 as well as being part of the Belgian team that won the nations prize. During a 14 year professional career that followed, Noyelle won around 40 races, including the GP Pino Cerami, GP Fourmies and Championship of West Flanders. He died in a hospital in Poperinge, Belgium after a long illness.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)