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Cyclo-cross news & racing roundup for October 10

Edited by Laura Weislo

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in cyclo-cross. Feel free to send feedback, news and releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com.

Vervecken has mixed luck in America

By Laura Weislo in Southampton

The World Champ plays around
Photo ©: Laura Weislo
(Click for larger image)

World Champion Erwin Vervecken headed West from his hometown of Herentals, Belgium to the Long Island town of Southampton to take part in one of two C1 cyclo-cross races on the North American calendar. The race served as a good opportunity to pick up the ever valuable UCI points, some nice pocket change, and, as it turned out, some hard racing against a strong field. Battling against what Vervecken calls "the two towers", Kona-YourKey Mortgage team-mates Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks (both of whom are over 194cm/6'4"), Vervecken had a mix of good and bad luck on the weekend.

On Saturday, Vervecken was met by three of his supporters who flew over from Belgium to "see his first win of the season", and local fans who brought along a plastic statue of a cow painted up in the colours of the Belgian flag. When asked to pose for a photo with the animal, Vervecken went one step further and saddled up on the beast, making for a prime photo opportunity.

Once on the course, Vervecken seemed to have both luck and the power to match any attacks that Trebon, Wicks, or Leer/Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld's Tim Johnson could throw at him. While Trebon had a crash and two mechanicals, and Johnson dropped off and fought his way back into contention several times, Vervecken and Wicks had nearly flawless races, and in the end, the Fidea Team rider was able to capitalise on Wicks' over-excited early sprint to take the victory with ease.

"It was tougher than I expected," Vervecken told Cyclingnews. "I'm not satisfied," he later wrote on his self-designed website, cyclocross.be. "The legs were not at all well, I also had cramps from the heat on the last laps and my stomach was a mess." The Belgian vowed to improve the next day, but the "tropical heat" continued, much to his dismay.

On Sunday, however, the Belgian's luck turned as suddenly as the coastal weather. Battling through the summer-like conditions at the beginning of the race, Vervecken was having no trouble matching the "two towers", but as the winds shifted and brought in cooler winds from the coast, a stick got lodged in between Vervecken's fork and tyre, and he had to get off the bike to fix it before setting off in pursuit. This gave Wicks and Trebon a 100m gap, something he found difficult to close until they reached the more technical part of the course, where he was able to regain the leaders.

"I was all set for the last lap, where I knew I had to pass Trebon, then Wicks attacked me and it happened: derailleur in the wheel and race over," Vervecken wrote. With a broken derailleur on the last lap, there was no chance for him to continue racing. "It sucks, because I was better today than yesterday," he concluded.

Vervecken summarised his weekend as unsatisfactory: "Saturday winning in a sprint against Barry Wicks, someone who I normally am minutes ahead of, Sunday breakdown, but I also didn't have good legs. The heat was taxing, the speeds enormously high (averages of above 30) and getting away was very difficult. Therefore, the goal at which I aimed (two wins) has failed."

Compton to Belgium, Bessette to follow

By Laura Weislo in Southampton

Compton will go to Belgium
Photo ©: Marco Quezada
(Click for larger image)

US Champion Katie Compton got a small taste of Belgium in the Southampton 'cross races in Long Island, where supporters of World Champion Erwin Vervecken added a bit of 'Euro' flavour to the proceedings last weekend, but Compton won't have to settle for second hand Belgian culture, as she will soon be heading overseas to get the experience first-hand. Compton, who had to start from less than ideal positions at both of the last two World Championships, will be heading across the pond for the first World Cup in Kalmhout, Belgium.

"First I'm heading to Cincinnati," Compton told Cyclingnews that she'll take on the two Ohio races this weekend rather than the Granogue, Massachusetts event. "Then I'm heading to a handful of World Cups, hoping to get more points for a better start position for worlds."

"It will help me a lot to get a better feel for how people race over there, and to check out the competition," Compton said, adding that World Road TT Champion Hanka Kupfernagel will be hard to beat.

How long Compton will remain in Belgium is to be decided, but she plans to be back in the US in time to defend her championship title before going back across to get more preparation for the World Championships in Treviso, Italy, at the end of January. "I'll play it by ear see how I'm riding and decide the schedule later," Compton said. "Trying to work out logistically - it's hard. Me and my fiance - he's my support staff - we have to work out the logistics of where to stay, when to travel... we're still planning it out."

Her main competition in New York came from Canadian champion Lyne Bessette, who will focus on winning the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross for the second year in a row before heading over to Belgium for the busy holiday 'cross schedule. "I'm going to Gloucester," Bessette indicated where her next race would be. "We live in the area, my husband [Tim Johnson] is from there and it's his home-town race."

Bessette will take on the USGP
Photo ©: Marco Quezada
(Click for larger image)

"I'm going for the USGP again this year, but the competition is fierce. I think it's great. There are a lot of great women out there - the Luna girls, Katie, and now Alison Sydor is racing 'cross. She was fifth in Las Vegas - she's a very smart rider. She'll tag along not doing anything and then she'll sprint you. She reminds me of Mark McCormack as a rider. A lot of experience, she's been racing for 20 years."

After the USGP wraps up in early December, Bessette will have a rest and then head to Belgium for the string of races in Belgium that fall near Christmas - at least six UCI races all within easy driving distance of each other. The proximity is something that doesn't often happen in North America. "The bad thing is our country is too big - it's not our fault!" she said. The USGP has just six weekends in three locations: Kentucky, New Jersey and Oregon, which means plenty of travel time.

"There are so many people interested in cross - the series wants to please everybody," Bessette said. With only six races, if she wants to win, she cannot afford to miss a single race or have a bad day - something that adds a bit of a challenge to winning. "Maybe we need to have eight races - two out west, two east - it would give people an extra chance to compete in the series."

Superprestige kicks off in Ruddervoorde

The Neerpelt podium
Photo ©: AFP
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Belgium's Superprestige series kicks off in Ruddervoorde this weekend, a town outside Brugge, not far from the coast of this cyclo-cross crazy country. In its 26th year, the series, now sponsored by Nissan, has been dominated by Rabobank's Sven Nys in recent years. Nys has won seven of the last ten years, coming in second during the 2004-2005 season to his nemesis, Belgian Champion Bart Wellens. His Rabobank team-mate Richard Groenendaal won in 2000-2001 and 1997-1998.

The Ruddervoorde course, with its sandy pits, steep embankments and paved finish will favour the speedy legs of Nys, but he will face strong competition from the Fidea team, which can challenge with either Wellens, World Champion Erwin Vervecken, or possibly Czech rider Zdenek Stybar. Nys and Wellens have taken turns winning in Ruddervoorde over the past six years, but they'll have to watch out for the young Palmans-Crans rider Niels Albert, who took the win in the opening Belgian race in Erpe-Mere.

Nys already has two wins this season, having handed Albert and Wellens defeat in the GP Neerpelt and GP Shimano, but the riders will have the unusual situation of having to race after a weekend off. There was no UCI racing in Belgium or the Netherlands because the weekend was held open for the World Cup in the USA, which never got off the ground. Erwin Vervecken took his first win in the USA in Southampton, and could give his team the boost it needs to overcome the power of Nys if he can overcome the jet-lag of his trans-Atlantic flight.

  • October 14 Super Prestige #1 Ruddervoorde
  • November 04 Super Prestige #2 Hamme-Zogge
  • November 18 Super Prestige #3 Asper-Gavere
  • November 25 Super Prestige #4 Gieten
  • December 09 Super Prestige #5 Veghel-Eerde
  • December 30 Super Prestige #6 Diegem
  • February 03 Super Prestige #7 Hoogstraten
  • February 16 Super Prestige #8 Vorselaar

Against odds: MIT Cyclo-cross campaigns for consecutive national title

Sonya Cates
Photo ©: mitcycling.org
(Click for larger image)

Cyclo-cross hardly comes close to the fast, efficient elegance of the team time trial, for which the Team Massachusetts Institute of Technology cycling team is best known. Intrigued by 'cross, two years ago, its members started racing in earnest, and made their way to the top of the podium at the 2006 Cyclo-cross National Championships.

"National Champion" and "MIT" don't often fall in the same sentence in terms of collegiate sports, but it makes perfect sense once you strip away training metrics and reveal what makes these cyclists tick. Wendy Booher examines the collegiate 'cross team as its season gets underway.

One of the most prolific teams in collegiate racing, MIT Cycling forged its reputation as a force to reckon with in the team time trial by emphasizing efficiency over power. For the 2006 road season, the team meticulously engineered standard techniques for all race and pre-race situations plus staged weekly TTT specific training and designed homemade equipment with empirical fitting. Its finely tuned efforts yielded results at the 2006 Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conferences where the women placed first and the men placed second. The women went on to clinch the third podium position at nationals in both 2006 and 2007 while the men placed fifth in 2006.

Not every school has a wind tunnel like MIT, however. MIT's Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel is usually reserved for student projects, research and instruction, and not for the use of a club sport like cycling. The tunnel is available for commercial research and development for a fee, which is something the CSC professional team took advantage of before the 2006 season. Luckily, MIT Cycling was afforded a rare wind tunnel test visit through Mark Cote, a team member and research assistant at MIT's Center for Sports Innovation and Technology. The resulting data likely contributed to MIT's TTT successes.

Cyclo-cross on the other hand, is practically the antithesis of the grace and fluency of the TTT. Aerodynamic profiles be damned; cyclo-cross demands a power and pain tolerance that defy calculation – how very un-MIT. However, forget about hackneyed, overdone clichés about MIT's legacy "nerd-ness." Do, however, consider for a moment the magnitude of groundbreaking innovation that emerges from MIT, ranging from urban planning and aeronautics to gene therapy, and suddenly it becomes personal, especially when those technologies apply to bike lanes, faster time trials and regrettably, new methods of doping.

Jason Sears
Photo ©: mitcycling.org
(Click for larger image)

MIT's 4,000 graduate students largely fuel the engine driving all that innovation. Luckily, an inspired few have applied that same intellectual drive and motivation to another one of their passions and the result is a cycling team that frequently enjoys the view from the podium in four disciplines. Based on student body size, colleges are categorized as Division 1 or II.

With nearly 10,000 students, MIT falls into Division II status. Few D II schools can boast a team that competes in road, track, mountain biking, and cyclo-cross, and even fewer schools consistently have racers who routinely place in the top five. To write the team off simply as "overachievers" would be unfair – even untrue since the ability to accept failure drives innovation, and MIT doesn't hand out PhD's for shoddy work.

What sets the MIT cycling team apart from nearly every other collegiate team is a constant, self-possessed pressure to seek out solutions rather than stay mired in conflict.

Read the full feature here.

Toyota supports another USGP

The US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross has picked up another sponsor for the series event, this time car manufacturer Toyota, which has signed on as the title of the USGP Portland Cup (December 1-2). Portland Metro Toyota Dealers will support the race, which will serve as the final stop in the six-race national series marks the fourth consecutive year Portland will play host to the USGP. This is the second USGP event to be supported by Toyota, after the Kentucky branch stepped in as presenting sponsor of next week's opening event.

"The local Toyota dealers are proud to sponsor the final weekend series of the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross - the Toyota Portland Cup," said Russ Humberston Jr., of Beaverton Toyota. "There is a tremendous excitement for the sport of cyclo-cross here in Portland and we are glad we can help bring the best cyclo-cross racing in the US to town."

The USGP Toyota Portland Cup will be held on the same course that was used for the 2004 National Championships and should be a challenge for the series finale.

"It's relatively flat and offers spectators a wide open view of almost the entire course from the infield at Portland International Raceway," said Brad Ross, local organizer for the USGP of Cyclo-cross Toyota Portland Cup.

"As in the past, we expect that having our race in December means that the weather is going to play a huge role in the outcome here," added Ross. "When it's muddy - and it's always muddy - the rider who handles the slippery, muddy technical sections the best is the person who will win the race."

The USGP kicks off October 27 - 28 in Louisville, Kentucky with the Papa John's Derby City Cup presented by Toyota. The second stop will be the Mercer Cup presented by Knapp's Cyclery in West Windsor, NJ on November 17-18. The series will then return to Portland, Oregon for the fourth consecutive year for the Toyota Portland Cup final races December 1-2.

More information on the USGP will be released in the coming weeks. For more information on the USGP, visit www.usgpcyclocross.com.

US racers to flock to Granogue

When the MAC Cyclo-cross series starts its internationally-ranked series on October 20, nearly 500 racers will be chasing the Holy Grail of Mid-Atlantic dirt racing - the coveted Pink Flamingo trophy signifying victory at the legendary Granogue 'Cross. Held on the front yard of the sprawling hilltop estate of one of America's richest industrialists, the picturesque Granogue course is universally recognized as one of the best anywhere. From sticky mud to high-speed asphalt, the course has enough technical challenges to test the complete set of 'cross skills.

The race's history only adds to its legend. It was here last year that Katie Compton made her UCI debut. That debut culminated several months later in a silver medal at the World Championships for the affable Compton, who grew up just a few miles away and graduated from nearby University of Delaware.

On the men's side, it's easy to list the top elite riders who have competed at Granogue. "All of them, every year" laughs Verge MAC Media Director Ken Getchell. "Every domestic-based pro comes to this race every year. There are too many points, and there is too much prestige for them to miss it."

On October 20, the legend of will grow again as the racers from around the world compete with America's greatest cyclists -- and new names are entered into the history books as champions of the Granogue 'Cross. For more information about the Granogue 'Cross, including directions and pre-registration, see BikeReg.com. While there, don't forget to also enter the following day's Wissahickon UCI C2 Cyclo-cross, the second round of the 2007 Verge MAC Cyclo-cross Series.

De Stad Cyclo-cross Van Kansas series announced

The home of the US Cyclo-cross National Championships is undergoing a boom of interest in the sport, and now race organizers have announced a six race cyclo-cross series to be held near the Kansas City Metropolitan area.

The first race of the series is scheduled for October 14th, 2007 in Lawrence, Kansas. Promoters Gerard Arantowicz and Chris Locke are making preparations for the 6th annual Chris Cross International held at the scenic Clinton Lake State Park on October 14, 2007. "We expect a big crowd in preparation for the National Championships held in Kansas City in December. The local 'cross scene is buzzing here in the Midwest. People are ecstatic to have Nationals once again since the 2000 event and are eager to start the 07 cyclo-cross season," said Arantowicz.

Subsequent events will be held in Riverside, Leavenworth and Shawnee.

October 14: Chris Cross, Lawrence, KS November 3: Riverside Cross Festival, Riverside, MO November 4: Riverside Cross Festival, Riverside, MO November 24: St. Mary's Cross, Leavenworth, KS December 9: Kansas State Cyclo-cross Championships, Leavenworth, KS January 6: Grote Prijs Shawnee, Shawnee, KS

For further information on the series go www.kansascitycross.com.

HRS/Rock Lobster 'cross team

The Santa Cruz, California based HRS/Rock Lobster cyclo-cross team has announced its roster for the 2007-2008 season. With riders at almost every level of the sport, the season goal is to be the dominant team in San Francisco Bay area events and have a strong presence at the UCI final in Portland, as well as the Nationals in Kansas City.

Team roster: Elite men: Joshua Snead, David Wyandt, Aaron Odell, Aaron Kereluk, Ben Dodge, Dean Poshard, Joe Walsh, Michael Hernandez, Nick Purtscher, Jeff Patton, Rob Evans.

Elite women: Stella Carey, Sarah Kerlin, Amrita O'Leary, Bettina Hold.

Masters 35: Men: Evan Adams, Sean Coffey, Max Clifford, Matt Jordan, Tim Watson, Dan Harting, Steve Itano.

Masters 45: Steve Gile, Billy Hall, Larry Bullard, Alan T. Ott, Tom Sullivan, Scott Calley, Paul Sadoff, Frank Kalcic.

Masters Women: Julie Brothers Single speed: Stella Carey, Simon Vickers, Brent Chapman. Men's B: Loren Soltes.

Team mechanic: Ryan Bontrager Publicity: Brent Chapman Director sportif: Paul Sadoff. Team captain: Stella Carey

Upcoming UCI Cyclo-cross races

  • October 13: Gran Prix of Gloucester 1, Gloucester, MA (USA) C2
  • October 13: Grand Prix de la Région Wallonne, Dottignies (Bel) C2
  • October 13: Java Johnny's - LionHearts' Cross, Middletown, Ohio (USA) C2
  • October 13: TOI TOI Cup, Hlinsko (Cze) C2
  • October 14: Bio Wheels / United Dairy Farmers Cyclo-cross, Cincinnati, Ohio (USA) C2
  • October 14: Challenge de la France Cycliste 1, Sarrebourg (Fra) C2
  • October 14: Gran Prix of Gloucester 2, Gloucester, MA (USA) C2
  • October 14: Int. Radquer Fehraltorf, Fehraltorf (Swi) C2
  • October 14: Superprestige, Ruddervoorde (Bel) C1

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