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Cyclo-cross news & racing round-up, Saturday, November 28, 2009

Date published:
November 28, 2009, 0:00 GMT
  • Bart Wellens may return to cyclo-cross in Koksijde

    Wellens shows superb form
    Article published:
    November 20, 2009, 19:13 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian trains with Telenet-Fidea team, feels good

    Belgian Bart Wellens could make his return to cyclo-cross racing as early as next week, reported Friday. The two-time elite World Champion missed the first part of the season due to the cytomegalovirus and was planning to make his comeback in December, but his recuperation is going better than expected.

    Wellens is now looking at the Koksijde World Cup on November 28 as his first race back, but must first earn a selection to the team from national selector Rude De Bie.

    The 31-year-old trained with his teammates Zdenek Stybar, Kevin Pauwels and Tom Meeusen this week, and said he was able to do some attacks and felt good during the session.

    "It felt like a homecoming on the playground," said Wellens, who reviewed the session with coach Peter T'Seyen. "The feeling was really good. It was pleasant to experience that again.

    "I was able to finish three blocks of my planned training schedule. It was damned painful, but what do you expect after being completely off for about four months."

    Wellens was included in the pre-selection for the Belgian team for the upcoming World Cup, the first step in getting a shot at the Koksijde race. Team manager Danny De Bie said he wouldn't be surprised to see his rider selected.

    "A number of the Belgians are invariably back between 15th and 30th place - we assume that in his present condition, Bart would do even better, but ithe decision is obviously up to Rudy," said the manager.

    After the race in Koksijde, Wellens plans to head to Valencia with the team for two weeks, taking part in the Spanish World Cup in Igorre on December 6, then returning to Belgium for the Vlaamse Druivenveldrit in Overijse (December 13), and the World Cups in Kalmthout (Dec. 20) and in Zolder (Dec. 26).

  • Belgian riders protest Wellens' World Cup return

    Bart Wellens (Fidea Cycling Team)
    Article published:
    November 22, 2009, 11:38 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Vanthourenhout and Verstraeten to challenge Wellens' inclusion in Belgium's Koksijde line-up

    Dieter Vanthourenhout and Jan Verstraeten have signalled that they will protest the inclusion of Bart Wellens in the Belgian selection for the fourth round of the cyclo-cross World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium, on November 29.

    Belgian national coach Rudy De Bie announced the country's preliminary selection for the World Cup round this week. Wellens was named as one of eight starters, while Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) was listed as a reserve and Verstraeten (KDL Trans) not included in the ten-man long list.

    The two riders have taken exception to being pushed out of the main selection in place of Wellens, who has missed most of this season due to cytomegalovirus. The 31-year-old Telenet Fidea rider stated last week his intention to return for the race in Koksijde.

    Wellens' team manager Hans van Kasteren has defended his rider and told Belgian website Sporza that the protest from Vanthourenhout and Verstraeten was unfounded.

    "I find this regrettable," he said. "Riders like Nys, Wellens have proven that they deserve to race at the top level and space should be made for them when necessary."

    Wellens returned to training recently with his Telenet teammates Zdenek Stybar, Kevin Pauwels and Tom Meeusen and stated that he was ready to return at a competitive level

    "With all due respect for Jan Verstraeten, but he is not a World Cup level rider," continued Van Kasteren. "Bart is certainly at that level."

    Vanthourenhout and Verstraeten finished 13th and 21st, respectively, at the third round of the World Cup in Nommay, France earlier this month. The two riders will hold a press conference today to outline the basis for their protest.

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  • Stybar shoots up Superprestige standings

    Zdenek Stybar (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team) was pumped at the finsh
    Article published:
    November 22, 2009, 19:45 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Series leaders Albert and Nys praise Stybar's weekend of triumph

    Zdenek Stybar's Belgian rivals Niels Albert and Sven Nys have led praise for the Czech rider as he closed to within one point of the Superprestige series lead by claiming the fourth round of the eight race competition in Hamme-Zogge, Belgium on Sunday.

    Albert and Nys acknowledged Stybar's stellar weekend as he recorded his maiden victories in both the GvA Trofee and Superprestige cyclo-cross series on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The two Belgians now share a joint lead in the Nissan-sponsored Superprestige with 56 points, while Stybar's win on Sunday moved him up from 40 to 55 points.

    "After I won on Saturday in Hasselt I didn't dare to think about doing it again on Sunday," Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) told Sporza. "But I was feeling even better than Saturday and I saved myself for the final lap and a potential sprint today. In the final moments of the race, I was a bit scared, because after [the World Cup in] Nommay I thought wasn't sprinting very well. It obviously turned out for the best."

    Stybar's change in fortune contrasted significantly with that of BKCP Powerplus rider Niels Albert. The cyclo-cross World Champion was relegated to third at the GP Hasselt on Saturday and was dropped by the race leaders on Sunday to finish off the podium for the first time this season.

    Despite his frustration, Albert was quick to recognize the performances of Stybar throughout the weekend. "This is a big disappointment, of course. I didn't have a super day," he said to Sporza on Sunday. "But that doesn't detract anything from Stybar's victories. He was the best at both races."

    Albert's also dismissed any suggestion that the weekend's disappointments would unsettle him."'Will this weekend play on my mind?' No, next week there are another two beautiful races and tomorrow will be like any other Monday."

    Nys' second place finish to Stybar in Hamme-Zogge saw him profit from Albert's fourth place result and inch...

  • Johnson and Elliott wrap up NACT series

    Tim Johnson ( got a great start today and pulled away for the victory.
    Article published:
    November 23, 2009, 12:10 GMT
    Kirsten Frattini

    Consistency the key to title, despite the challenges

    The 2009 North American Cyclo-Cross Trophy series concluded at the Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross Cup held in Southampton, New York on Sunday. Overall men's and women's titles went to Tim Johnson ( and Natasha Elliott (Louis Garneau Chasseurs) respectively, with series co-founder Myles Romanow presenting the victors with a cheque for $1500 along with a custom-made heavyweight championship trophy belt.

    Johnson won the series with at total of 425 points ahead of teammates Jeremy Powers with 314 points and third-placed Jamey Driscoll, who scored 289 points.

    Johnson attributed a large part of his squad's success to the expanded support of Cannondale, which took on a title sponsorship role this year along with providing a truck and trailer equipped with a full-time driver and equipment to suit all weather conditions. The Connecticut-based bike manufacture joined forces with Stu Thorne owner of

    "Last year they went to a couple of events and this year they've been at almost every race we've done," said Johnson. "We have everything at our fingertips and it makes for basically anything you could ever ask for. That was a big part of our success. I think it's absolutely a big part of it. We've been able to get to all these races easier and once we are at the races we dial everything in based on conditions. Everything falls into place."

    The 10-round series kicked off on the West coast in September at the Star Crossed event, with Switzerland's Christian Heule (Rendementhypo Cycling) winning the first round. Round two's Rad Racing saw Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) take his first win of the season and the series' early lead. An untimely crash in the opening event sidelined Johnson from competing and he earned no points.

    "I definitely didn't think this was how it would turn out," said Johnson. "Anytime I start a season like this I just look forward to a couple of good rides. Crashing...

  • Wellens will race Koksijde World Cup

    Bart Wellens (Fidea)
    Article published:
    November 24, 2009, 10:57 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    Belgian coach Di Bie understands protests, but defends Wellens' inclusion

    Bart Wellens will return from illness to ride the World Cup cyclo-cross race in Koksijde, Belgium, despite protest from some of his compatriots. National coach Rudy De Bie announced Belgium's final eight-man selection on Monday evening.

    The Belgian team will be led in the November 29 race by Niels Albert and Sven Nys, with the other six places going to Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout, Erwin Vervecken, Bart Aernouts, Dieter Vanthourenhout, Sven Vanthourenhout and Wellens.

    On Saturday, Dieter Vanthourenhout and Jan Verstraeten said they would protest Wellen's inclusion in the race, as he has missed most of this season due to a virus. Vanthourenhout was originally named as a reserve, and Verstraeten was not nominated at all.

    De Bie told his reasons for nominating Wellens. “I have monitored Bart in training, helped by my brother who is his team manager. We also learned from his doctor how his tests went, and I myself spoke to Bart,” he said. “And you can hardly ignore the status that Bart has [in cyclo-cross].”

    The coach said he understood the position of the riders who had protested. “They are professionals who wish to exercise their profession. Now they see a source of revenue pass them by,” he noted. “We have discussed this over the last few days and the riders respect Wellens. But there will always be a bitter feeling, because there is not a place for everyone. That is unfortunate.”

    De Bie does not expect to see Wellens on the podium. “No, that would not be logical. If Bart can achieve a solid finish, he will be satisfied.” He added that he was not certain of Wellens' condition, noting, “It is a bit of guesswork.”

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  • Wellens returns to racing in Koksijde

    Bart Wellens feeling the pain of World Cup 'cross.
    Article published:
    November 28, 2009, 18:03 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Belgian answers his critics with World Cup performance

    Bart Wellens marked his return to competition with a 13th place finish at the fourth round of the Cyclo-cross World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium on Saturday. Although Wellens finished 1:48 down on his Fidea teammate and race winner Zdenek Stybar, the result justified his controversial inclusion in the Belgian selection for the race

    "I felt like a newcomer to 'cross racing," Wellens told Sporza. "Little things, like what to put in my sports bag, when and what to eat…that sort of thing. It's nice to be back out there."

    The race was Wellens' first major race of 2009, having missed the first two months of the season due to cytomegalovirus (CMV).

    Belgian national coach Rudy Di Bie's decision to include Wellens in the Belgian selection for the Koksijde race had raised the ire of some of the rider's compatriots. Dieter Vanthourenhout and Jan Verstraeten both protested Wellens' inclusion after they were forced out of the squad as a result of Di Bie's selection.

    Wellens' performance on Saturday proved the wisdom of Di Bie's decision as he matched the season-best performance by either of his detractors. Vanthourenhout recorded a 13th place finish at the third round in Nommay, France, while Verstraeten's best result was 15th at the second round in Plzen, Czech Republic.

    For Wellens, his performance also cleared any personal doubts he may have about his form in the lead-up to the race. The two-time World Cyclo-cross champion and 2003 World Cup winner said he doesn't expect it to be long before he returns to top form.

    "Now I feel satisfied. It was a difficult hour, but I needed it. This was one of the best courses this season," said Wellens. "For now I'm behind, but I hope that within a month I'll be back in the thick of the action at the front of the race."

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  • UCI has new cyclo-cross rules in the works

    It's a steep one...
    Article published:
    November 28, 2009, 19:15 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Changes to calendar, rankings and more are planned

    The International Cycling Union is considering a number of changes to rules for cyclo-cross, with modifications to the calendar and UCI rankings in the works.

    Peter Van den Abeele, the UCI's cyclo-cross and mountain bike coordinator, talked with the press in Koksijde during the cyclo-cross World Cup round held in Belgium on Saturday to introduce the ideas, emphasizing that no decisions have been made yet to implement them.

    "Nothing has been decided yet but we're informing everybody right now so we can gather feedback to adjust the rules where needed," Van den Abeele said.

    One of the key issues is the proximity between the MTB and cyclo-cross World Cup calendars. This year just two weeks separated the two, and the UCI has proposed to make modifications to allow riders competing in both series to have a break in between.

    "This year the World Cup round in Treviso would have been better been organized during the same weekend of the Giro di Lombardia; it would have attracted more media. In the women's race, world champion Marianne Vos wasn't there because she wanted to take a break and Sven Nys wasn't able to ride at a high level yet after riding the mountain bike season," Van den Abeele said.

    The lack of parity between the men's and women's calendars is also being examined, and Van den Abeele said next season the organisers of C1 races will be encouraged to hold races for both. "One year later, during the 2011-2012 season, we want to oblige them to have both races," Van den Abeele said.

    Another change under discussion relates to the UCI rankings, which determine a rider's position on the start line. Currently, cyclo-cross riders start with zero points in September, and riders who miss early season races are at a big disadvantage.

    A proposed new system would work much like the rankings in tennis, which use a one year rotation. This will allow riders who're not competing at the beginning of the season to keep a...

  • Stybar three for three in Koksijde World Cup

    Zdenek Stybar (Fidea Telenet) out-sprints Sven Nys for the World Cup win in Koksijde
    Article published:
    November 28, 2009, 20:38 GMT
    Cycling News

    Czech champion extends winning streak, closes in on Albert's series lead

    Czech cyclo-cross champion Zdenek Stybar claimed his third consecutive victory and his biggest win to date in the Koksijde World Cup on Saturday. Just one week after taking his first win of the season at the GvA Trophy in Hasselt, Belgium, followed by a win in the Hamme Zogge Superprestige race, the 23-year-old was on top again in the sprint.

    Stybar bested Belgians Sven Nys and Klaas Vantornout in the sprint, while world champion Niels Albert and Francis Mourey rolled in for fourth and fifth in the leading group.

    The victory was not only Stybar's third of the season and his second career elite World Cup win, it was an important step up toward his goal of winning an elite world title.

    "Unbelievable", said Zdenek after the race. "I don’t have any words for it. I’m just very happy. Three wins in a row is very special. In a few years [2012, ed.] the world championship is in Koksijde, so I look forward to it."

    Twice an under-23 world champion, Stybar has struggled in the sand in the past. But after his strong performance in Koksijde, he no longer fears the coastal 'cross races.

    "Winning here is very important because it's like breaking through a barrier," he said. "Now I don't have to be afraid of my rivals on these courses."

    The ebullient Czech rider has accumulated plenty of fans over the past few years, and back home he's sure there will be plenty of partying.

    "Last week my fans opened 12 bottles of Champagne on Saturday," he told "Sunday, after my victory in Hamme-Zogge, 15. I will tell you tomorrow how many bottles were cracked."

    There is no time for Stybar to join in the party, as he will try to gain the overall lead in the Superprestige series on Sunday in Gieten. He trails Niels Albert and Sven Nys by a slim one point margin, but is not banking on another win tomorrow.  "Four for four? Three for three is already beautiful. Nothing remains. Now I...