1999 World Under-23 Cyclocross Championship
Saturday, January 30, 1999
Lap by Lap
Report:It was -12C in Poprad for the start of the world championships. In addition there was an very cold wind which lowered the chill factor even further. The riders were easily seen because everything else was white with the heavy snow. Belgian superstar 20-year old Bart Wellens destroyed his opposition. Everyone was saying that the Belgian was "untouchable" and the rest were racing for second place from the start.
It was a triumph for Wellens after he had been runner-up to Sven Nijs for the last 2 years. His race strategy was simple yet bold. On the icy parcours which was built on a hillside to maximise spectator involvement, Wellens maximised the time he was on the bike. After half a km into the race, the other leaders were porting and running but Wellens stayed on his saddle. On the first hills he was very strong and he soon opened up a 30 second gap on a single chaser, French rider John Gadret. Wellens has observed the success that Sven Nijs has in performing gymnastic things on his bike over the obstacles while other port and run.
He explained later that he nearly didn't come to the Championships because he has had a problem with his back. So to cope with that he tried to stay on his bike as much as possible. He told the press afterwards: "I stayed on my bike as much as possible because of my back problem. It paid off. Obviously I was under pressure before the race because of it but once I took the lead, and the others were not challenging, the pressure vanished. I was enormously nervous before the race."
Fellow Belgian Tom Vannoppen completed the double for the team when he sprinted ahead of American Tim Johnson. The unlucky rider of the race was the Frenchman John Gadret who punctured at the end of the second-last lap. The puncture became a nightmare when he realised that there was no spare bike for him at the breakdown station. He was in the silver medal position at that moment and while he sorted out the problem 4 riders passed him.
He told the press later: "I will never have that chance again in my life!"
The French team coach Jean-Yves Plaisance took responsibility: "It is all our fault." He was crying as he told how the team management denied there charge a place on the podium.
The young rider (who works in the Champagne wine industry) was denied a top place in Munich in 1997 when he fell heavily in the Junior Championship.
The French and Belgian teams dominated the top 8 places. Wellens, without the close competition he has had in the last two years with Sven Nijs, lead from start to finish.
Tim Johnson from Middleton (Boston) also deserves special mention. He achieved the bronze medal without any financial support from the USCF. Last year he came 10th. This year he has dominated the American cross scene and would have been expecting some financial help from his national federation. Think again! He worked part-time and assembled some small sponsors to finance his preparation in Europe.
He is the first American to stand on the World Cyclocross Championship podium. He told the press afterwards: "For four years I have paid my own way to contest these world championships. It's the same for the rest of the American cyclocross racers. I have done it all myself. I worked for a company in Boston to raise enough cash. They also helped out with some sponsorship but I get nothing from the U.S. Cycling Federation."
21-year old Johnson comes from a MTB background. He won the US Junior cross championship at the age of 17 and has dedicated himself to cross racing ever since.
Meanwhile, Bart Wellens is being pursued by professional road teams. said that he had refused proposals from several professional teams to ride the road - in particular, Mapei - because he wanted to emulate Sven Nijs's two championships in a row record. Mapei's doctor also advised him to stay for another year in the Espoirs category.
Results, 9 by 2.68 km laps - 24.12 kms:
1. Bart Wellens (Bel) 53.47 (27.345 km/h) 2. Tom Vannoppen (Bel) 1.34 3. Tim Johnson (USA) 1.35 4. Steffen Weigold (Ger) 1.53 5. John Gadret (Fra) 2.05 6. Guillaume Benoist (Fra) 2.32 7. Emil Hekele (Cze) 2.38 8. David Derepas (Fra) 2.40 9. David Sussemilch (Cze) 2.51 10. Pascal Van Bussel (Ned) 3.06 11. Wilant Van Gils (Ned) 3.28 12. Piotr Wysmyk (Pol) 3.34 13. Stanislav Hejduk (Cze) 3.35 14. Bram Schmitz (Ned) 3.53 15. Christian Wasmer (Ger) 4.12 16. Kipcho Volckaerts (Bel) 4.19 17. Vaclav Jezek (Cze) 4.33 18. Christian Trafelet (Swi) 4.42 19. Michael Baumgartner (Swi) 5.01 20. Petr Novy (Cze) 5.36 21. Fabrizio Dall'Oste (Ita) 5.48 22. David Rusch (Swi) 5.52 23. Steve Fogen (Lux) 5.57 24. Grzegorz Bodnar (Pol) 6.01 25. Marek Cichosz (Pol) 6.10 26. Jens Reuker (Ger) 6.15 27. Roel Van Houtum (Ned) 6.23 At 1 lap: 28. Davy Commeyne (Bel) 29. Matthias Kern (Swi) 30. Marian Zovcak (Svk) 31. Michal Krystkowiak (Pol) 32. Peter Presslauer (Aut) 33. Valeriano Vandelli (Ita) 34. Tim Morley (Gbr) Abandoned: Andrew Vancoillie (Bel) Camiel Van Den Bergh (Ned) Nicolas Dieudonne (Fra) Francesco Case (Ita) Angelo Cubello (Ita) Stefano Toffoleti (Ita) Stefan Kupfernagel (Ger) Beat Morf (Swi) Juan Bello (Spa) Joseba Leon Gutierrez (Spa) Ivan Martinez Aguirre (Spa) Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Isaac Suarez Fernandez (Spa) David Bowater (Gbr) Philip Dixon (Gbr) Gavin Hardwicke (Gbr) Paul Oldham (Gbr) Dalibor Grebeci (Svk) Maros Kovac (Svk) Kentarou Eshita (Jpn) Yukinaga Kodaira (Jpn) Gusti Bausch (Lux) Tom Flamang (Lux) Attila Kun (Hun) Thomas Bonne (Den) Did Not Start: Rene Lohse (Den)
Lap by Lap: