Recently the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that the North American Cyclo-cross Trophy Series (NACT) and the Verge New England Championships Cyclo-cross Series (NECCS) were facing suspension for not applying for a UCI inscription (Art1.2.026). While the two series were to be banned, the individual races were allowed to continue as UCI events. The NECCS bounced back from the sad news with the publication of the 2011-2012 calendar and the desire to have eight of these races grouped into a UCI-sanctioned series.
Both NACT organiser Brooke Watts and NECCS organiser Adam Myerson claimed they were unaware that the never-before enforced UCI rule would suddenly be applied. However, Peter Van den Abeele, the UCI's Off-Road Manager, told Cyclingnews on Friday that all US series received a warning last summer.
“We sent two pages with calendar stipulations, procedures and guidelines for the upcoming season. In that document the rule was written down. I can't imagine that the race organisers figured: 'hey, there's a document from the UCI but I'm not going to read it.' The NACT and the NECCS didn't react. That was the first warning and this is a major warning. According to the rule, the individual races would lose their UCI status too but we didn't want to go that far,” Van den Abeele said.
For Van den Abeele, NECCS organiser Myerson’s reaction seems somewhat strange as he feels that he should have been aware of the rule. “I never had a problem with Adam Myerson when he was member of the UCI cyclo-cross commission. He was there when we discussed calendar topics and already at his time the Series topic was mentioned. The organisers from the USGP contacted us right away to ask about the rule. They have the right attitude and it's no surprise the same people are organizing the world championships in 2013,” Van den Abeele said.
Van den Abeele also said that the claim that this UCI rule has not been enforced in the past is not correct, and he referred to the reduction of the Superprestige Series from twelve to eight races back in 2000. It also worth noting that the UCI cyclo-cross World Cup has been composed of a maximum of 8 rounds for the past 2 years.
“In the past few years we've been nonchalant about this rule in the US in order to allow the sport to grow but we want to avoid proliferation. The US organisers had different advantages at the beginning compared to the European organisers [initially there was lower prize money but the same number of UCI points on offer for C1 races in the USA]. The next step is now, with an eye on the upcoming UCI cyclo-cross world championships in the USA, and it's time to think more about quality rather than quantity.”
Cyclo-cross is not the only discipline where organisers are going to be expected to raise their standards. “We're going to be more strict in the mountain bike scene too,” Van den Abeele warned.
Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) is among the riders who risks missing out on Sunday’s fourth round of the Cyclo-cross World Cup in Igorre, Spain as a result of an air controllers’ strike in the country. The Belgian has been training on Majorca this week ahead of Sunday’s race.
“Sven’s plane was supposed to take off at midday on Saturday,” Nys’s wife Isabelle told Sporza. “That flight has been delayed until 8pm, but it’s not certain if that will go ahead. Otherwise, his last chance would be a Sunday morning flight.”
Spanish air traffic controllers went on strike on Friday evening to protest against increases in working hours and austerity measures passed by the government on Friday. The Spanish government has since declared a state of alert, meaning that air traffic controllers who refuse to work can be charged with civil disobedience.
Nys is thus reliant on the dispute reaching a speedy resolution, although it is anticipated that the disruption will last until at least Sunday morning. He has already ruled out the possibility of travelling to Igorre by car and ferry.
“Sven was thinking about going to Igorre by boat and road, but he has abandoned that plan,” Isabelle Nys explained.
Klaas Vantornat (Sunweb) also risks missing the race as he is currently unable to fly from Belgium to Spain as a result of the industrial action.
The Telenet-Fidea team, meanwhile, has opted to take to the roads to get to Igorre. Bart Wellens, Rob Peeters and Kevin Pauwels were training in southern Spain this week, and the trio are to spend much of Saturday making the nine-hour drive north to the Basque Country with team manager Danny De Bie. Similarly, BKCP’s Niels Albert and Dieter Vanthourenhout are driving the 650km from their training base of Benicassim to Igorre.
World champion Zdenek Stybar was already set to miss the race through injury but he is nonetheless himself stranded at a training camp in Spain and unable to return home. “One piece of bad luck never comes by itself,” he said. “It was already hard enough to leave the training camp and now this… For now, I can only wait.”
Boonen, De Jongh, Museeuw, Boogerd and Vervecken support Move to Improve
Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen) won the second edition of the charity cyclo-cross event 'Boonen&Friends' around the Silver Lake in Mol, Belgium.
The 'Boonen&Friends' cyclo-cross race collects money for the project 'Move to Improve' which supports people with physical disabilities caused by brain damage. Last year they raised 40,000 Euros at the event.
The extreme cold of the last week turned the course into a toboggan-run but that didn't keep the riders from racing. Last year's winner Maarten Wynants (Quick Step) finished second ahead of Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step). The all-star race was won by triple cyclo-cross world champion Erwin Vervecken.
The Belgian won ahead of Dutch former professional and Sky directeur sportif Steven de Jongh and former CSC-Tiscali rider Koen Beeckman.
Tom Boonen, who has been training for the start of the 2011 season after a year wrecked by injury, started with a bang. He led the field from the start but quickly noticed the course was rather slippery and dropped back. After a flat tyre for last year's winner Wynants, the road to victory was paved for Vanspeybrouck. The latter is a former junior Belgian cyclo-cross champion.
Vervecken had to work hard for his victory in the all-stars race which was held just before the pro's race. De Jongh fired away after the start and for a long time it seemed he would win the race of retired cyclists. “Everybody expected me to win because I retired only recently.
When De Jongh created a gap right after the start I didn't think I would be able to close it down. I died twice during the race but in the end I managed to catch him,” Vervecken told cyclo-cross.info.
Big names like Michael Boogerd, Johan Museeuw, Eric Vanderaerden, Tom Steels and motorcross star Stefan Everts felt far less comfortable on the frozen course and finished at long distance from winner Vervecken.
Museeuw had a severe crash. He went over the handle bars and crashed in the snow. The former Spring Classics specialist abandoned the race little later.
Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) was due to arrive in Igorre, Spain for the fourth round of the cyclo-cross World Cup by private plane on Sunday morning. The Belgian had been left stranded at a training camp on Majorca on Saturday after a strike by Spanish air traffic controllers.
“Sven is taking a private plane with Gerben de Knegt, Bart Aernouts, Thijs van Amerongen and Sven Vanthourenhout on Sunday,” Nys’ wife Isabelle told Sporza. “He initially wanted to go by car and boat to Igorre, but he decided against that plan as he didn’t want to get to the start exhausted.”
Meanwhile, Telenet-Fidea riders Kevin Pauwels, Rob Peeters and Bart Wellens have reached Igorre by car after travelling from southern Spain on Saturday. Niels Albert and Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP) have also arrived in the Basque Country after driving from Benicassim.
World cyclo-cross champion recovering from knee injury
World cyclo-cross champion Zdenek Stybar has been given the green light to begin training next week and hopes to be back in action just after Christmas.
The powerful Czech rider was worried he would require surgery to resolve a knee problem that has affected him for several weeks but that has now been ruled out.
“I'm very relieved the MRI scan has shown that I don't need surgery. However I need to build up very gradually and long endurance rides to regain fitness aren't possible yet.” he explained on his website.
“For now I'm still looking at the end of December. With the diagnosis I received today that should be attainable. Next week I leave for Spain, perhaps Mallorca.”
Stybar won the first two rounds of both the World Cup and the Superprestige series and looked set to again dominant the cross season. However he has struggled with the injury since mid-November and treatment failed to resolve the problem, forcing him to take time off the bike.
He missed the recent World Cup race in Igorre, Spain and so lost the overall lead and has also slipped to third in the Superprestige series.
Because of his injury and time out of competition, he is expected to focus on the world championships in St Wendel, Germany at the end of January.
Defending champ picks Todd Wells as dark horse to win
Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) is optimistic about his chances of defending the stars and stripes jersey despite coming down with an illness just days prior to the start of the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships to be held on Sunday in Bend, Oregon.
"I'm trying not to think about it too much because if you spend all your time worrying about being sick and worrying about what could happen then that takes time away from trying make it the best day you can," Johnson told Cyclingnews.
"Being sick at any time sucks but at least it is still early in the week and I can still get some riding in. The weather has been bad with snow on the ground so it's not like everyone else is getting in tons of miles outside. I can only do what I can."
Johnson highlighted the tough competitors that he will battle against during the elite men's 60-minute race, starting with his two teammate Jeremy Powers, who recently won overall series titles at the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross (USGP) and the North American Cyclo-cross Trophy (NACT) and Jamey Driscoll, who won two events at Jingle Cross. He also picked out former national champions Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) and Todd Wells (Specialized) as a pair of favourites.
"I have more than enough of a fight on my hands with Jeremy riding so well and Ryan and Todd being right there," Johnson said. "It's tough because we got done with a series like the USGP where you put in so much time and effort with traveling and you do everything to make it happen.
"Then we switch over to just one day, an all-out effort for just one hour like nationals. It's so much more compressed and there is so much more at stake in a short period of time.
"The list is really tight with Jeremy, Todd, Ryan and Jamey," he added. "But I think Todd may have been hiding a little bit of form for some reason or another and I expect that to pop out and give us a whole lot of trouble. The way that Ryan is riding, I'm sure that he is 100 percent fit and will be a whole handful."
Notably absent from the start list is the 2007 UCI cyclo-cross world championship silver medalist Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) who has won the national title on three previous occasions. He is currently racing and living full-time with his family in Oudenaarde, Belgium. He announced earlier this season that he would not be making the trip back to the US for nationals this year.
"It's too bad that he's not here," Johnson said. "I talked to him about it in Koksijde and asked him if it was true that he wasn't coming home and he said he wasn't. It's too bad because he's done a lot for American 'cross by wearing the jersey for as many years as he did.
"He's done well at Worlds and has been a guy that you can never take for granted because he is always going to push you to the limit. I think it's really too bad that he's not here and I hope he comes back next year. I think US 'cross needs him here."
Racers will contest the national title on a new course in the Old Mill District near downtown Bend. Organiser Brad Ross lengthened the circuit and included several challenging introductions including two sets of stairs. Johnson is expecting prime muddy cyclo-cross conditions due to the thawing of a recent bout of snow and cold temperatures.
"It looks like it will be in the 40s [Fahrenheit] with a 30 percent chance of precipitation," Johnson said. "There is snow on the ground now but after 1,800 racers do five laps each it will probably be similar conditions to last year. It will be frozen and icy through Saturday and then turn into a mud slop on Sunday.
"I like it when it's really muddy and when it's a difficult course physically, tactically and technically," he said. "I'm definitely not the role of favourite because Jeremy showed himself to be that guy this past weekend in Portland. After the battle that we had, I think he is my number one favourite to be the biggest guy to battle with on Sunday."
Johnson recently returned from a European 'cross campaign that included the Superprestige Asper-Gavere and the UCI World-Cup in Koksijde.
For the first time in many years, Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Revor) led a high-level cyclo-cross race. With only three laps to go in the fourth round of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy in Essen, Belgium, on Saturday, the Belgian had a gap of 11 seconds on a high-profile chase group. Eventually Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) neutralized Vanthourenhout's attack and he ended up finishing sixth. After the race, Vanthourenhout was pleased to see he was finally getting back to a place in the 'cross peloton where he once belonged.
"During the first laps, I had an oversupply of energy and halfway through the race, I took the initiative. Once I was leading, I went full gas and in a state of euphoria, I probably overdid it," said Vanthourenhout.
"When they caught me, I punctured and in the last two laps, I paid for my efforts."
Vanthourenhout, a former U23 cyclo-cross world champion, was expected to be the successor of Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet). However, the 2004-2005 season was the last one in which he which he showed such potential. That's when Vanthourenhout finished as runner-up in the general classification of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy and captured a bronze medal at the world championships in Sankt-Wendel.
From the 2005-2006 season onward, his progress seemed to be going backwards, and Vanthourenhout failed to live up to the high expectations. After a miserable last season, Vanthourenhout is feeling the pressure to deliver results so that he can renew his contract with the Sunweb-Revor team.
"The team wants me to obtain a certain position in the general classifications before they can guarantee a new contract," he said to Cyclingnews. "It doesn't seem realistic to me. To achieve that goal I should win a couple of rounds. I've already resigned myself to the fact that outcome isn't going to happen. That doesn't mean I'm no longer planning to show off this jersey though."
The 29-year-old Belgian spent four years with the road teams of Patrick Lefevre, but after spells with Rabobank and Sunweb, Vanthourenhout is now forced to look for a new squad. At the same time, Vanthourenhout made clear he was focused on getting back in form rather than finding a new team.
"I haven't talked with anybody. My manager Bob Verbeeck deals with that anyway. I've missed the first half of the season. I want to make up for that during the second half without setting specific goals; it just has to be good overall. We - my coach Paul Van den Bosch and I - did all we could to make it happen. The last few days I was feeling good and also during the reconnaissance," Vanthourenhout said.
During the past couple of years, questions were raised about whether Vanthourenhout had the mental strength to deal with the pressure that comes with cyclo-cross at the highest level. "Mentally I'm very strong. I've had a lot of bad luck, but despite that I still have the ambition and the motivation to continue working. Today's performance is good for the confidence," Vanthourenhout said.