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Cyclo-cross news & racing round-up, Thursday, January 7, 2010

Date published:
January 07, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Albert says frozen Zolder course is too dangerous

    Niels Albert during the sixth World Cup round in Kalmthout, Belgium
    Article published:
    December 24, 2009, 10:00 GMT
    Cycling News

    Threatens to skip the race after test ride

    The World Cup cyclo-cross course at Zolder this coming weekend is too dangerous due to the icy winter weather, according to World Champion Niels Albert, who said he may skip the race.

    Albert gave the course, the site of the season's seventh World Cup race, a ride on Wednesday, but stopped after only going halfway around. "It is very dangerous," he told Het Belang van Limburg.

    The course is slippery and still partially frozen. “I do not want to break my legs here."

    "If the course is still like this on Saturday, I will not start. No way. My colleagues will share that thought," he continued.

    "No one is going to take any irresponsible risks. You could risk your career here."

    Otherwise the 23-year-old likes the course and would like to ride it. "Zolder is a very nice course, one in a thousand," he noted. “But as the trail is now, we really cannot ride it. When I rode on the bridge, I had an ice rink under me. And if you fall, your bones will break like dry twigs.”

    Race organisers have a plan in place to solve the problem, a machine will will blow hot air on the trail. “Everything is ok,” they said. “The next days will be less cold. And remember that the riders complain very quickly.”

  • Organisers confident Zolder course will be good to ride

    Niels Albert during the sixth World Cup round in Kalmthout, Belgium
    Article published:
    December 25, 2009, 15:34 GMT
    Cycling News

    Salt used to thaw World Cup 'cross course

    Race organisers are confident that the World Cup cyclo-cross race can be held Saturday in Zolder, despite the winter weather which has had a hold on northern Europe. They received special permission to use salt on the course, which runs over the motorsport race track.

    Earlier this week, World Champion Niels Albert said that he would not ride if the course was still so icy. He called it very dangerous, and added “I do not want to break my legs here” after going only halfway around the course on a test ride.

    Salt is not usually allowed because it could damage the track, but the publicity generated by Albert's remarks convinced the mayor of Heusden-Zolder and the race track management to allow it be used.

    “We have deployed three salt trucks and plowed the snow away. These measures has been effective and the course is ice-free,” race organiser Koen Monu told Sporza.

    “Strewing the salt was the ultimate answer. We tried it first with a machine that blows hot air, but it only thawed in places, and was still frozen a few metres away.”

    The weather forecast is also helping, with temperatures due to climb well above freezing over the weekend, and no precipitation predicted.

    “It snowed a little here Friday morning, but it has stopped and the temperature is now 2°C,” Monu said Friday afternoon. “I am already confident.”

  • Zolder race proves tough for Americans

    American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) looked a little muddy.
    Article published:
    December 26, 2009, 21:14 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Page best finisher in 14th

    After being out of contention for much of the race, American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) worked his way back toward the main chase group that was fighting for third place on the final lap. It took Page time to recover from a hectic start that included some pile-ups.

    "A lot of us got screwed in the first corner," said Page. "I opted to be patient and not try to get back right away, avoiding blowing up my engine. I jumped from group to group, using the strength of the strongest riders in those groups, meanwhile keeping an eye on where I wanted to go, which was the first chase group."

    Page managed to make it up to where he wanted to be, but then his luck turned against him and he crashed on the final lap.  The crash meant he lost contention with the leaders though he still finished 14th. After the race, Thijs Al asked Page if he was ok, noting how close the American was to having to make a trip to the hospital.  The outcome of Page's crash could have been much worse.

    "It was my own fault. I was going too fast. I was in a delirium," Page said after recovering at the finish line.

    When asked if he could nonetheless derive a morale boost from his performance, Page said, "I'm aiming for the top-five. That would be morale-boosting. The start is all important. When you're in the top-five early on, it's better. Then you don't end up in the pinball."

    American Jeremy Powers had a tough time on the fast, but demanding Zolder course. He abandoned the race after a hard crash during the third lap.

    "I crashed on the descent - that long one," Powers said, describing a slope where many riders went down. Due to injuries on his left thigh it's unclear whether Powers will be able to start in Diegem on Sunday.

    Powers' teammate Jamey Driscoll had more luck. "Except for a crash - less worse than Jeremy's but in the same location - it was ok," Driscoll said. He was in the mix for a top-20 results up until his crash...

  • Vos continues rise up cyclo-cross rankings

    Marianne Vos took out the elite women's race.
    Article published:
    December 29, 2009, 10:56 GMT
    Cycling News

    Third-place Vos blows opposition away

    Marianne Vos continues to show her all-around strengths in women's cycling. She used a win in last weekend's race in Zolder, Belgium, to move to third place in the World Cup rankings, putting her in striking distance of leader Katie Compton.

    It was the first World Cup win of the season for the 22-year-old, who has been named Dutch female cyclist and sportswoman of the year.

    For the fourth year in a row, she was not at home for Christmas but preparing for a race. “We spent a wonderful Christmas Day in the camper, “she told “I think that's better than sitting in a hotel.”

    In last Saturday's race in Zolder, Vos took off in the first lap and never looked back. She set a blistering pace in that first lap, the only woman to break the seven-minute mark. “That's usually not my approach, but I felt strong,” she said.

    Vos believes the season could get even better for her in the coming weeks. “Daphny van den Brand (currently second) is doing well again. (Leader) Katie Compton is fortunately not as strong as at the beginning of the season.”


  • Wellens skips GP Sven Nys

    Bart Wellens (Telenet Fidea)
    Article published:
    January 01, 2010, 13:45 GMT
    Cycling News

    A short break before the Belgian Championships

    Bart Wellens has decided to skip the first race of the year, the GP Sven Nys in Baal, Belgium, on New Year's Day. The 31-year-old said that he wanted to rest up before the Belgian cyclo-cross championship.

    "In consultation with my doctor and friend Peter 't Seyen I decided to do something to slow down so I can start completely fresh with the appearance of the Fidea Cyclocross course in Tervuren and the Belgian championship in Oostmalle,” he said on the website of his Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team.

    Wellens has missed much of the current season, suffering from a cytomegalovirus, returning to riding only the end of November. Since then he has raced seven events, twice finishing fifth.

    The Tervuren race is on Sunday, January 3, with the Belgian Championship one week later, on January 10.

  • Boom returns to cyclo-cross on Sunday

    Lars Boom (Rabobank)
    Article published:
    January 02, 2010, 12:00 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Dutchman's rivals wary of former World Champion

    Former cyclo-cross World Champion Lars Boom will return to 'cross competition on Sunday at the Grand Prix Groenendaal in St Michielsgestel, in his native Netherlands. The event will test the 24-year-old's form prior to a start at the Dutch Cyclo-cross championships in Heerlen, one week later.

    A three-time winner of the Dutch 'cross championship (2007, 2008 and 2009), Boom followed his most recent triumph with a successful transition to the road that included a stage win at the Vuelta a España. In announcing his participation in the two cyclo-cross events last month, Boom said he will use the races as part of his preparation for his 2010 Spring Classics campaign.

    His absence from the cyclo-cross scene this year has given other riders hope of breaking Boom's stranglehold on the Dutch national title, though, as his compatriot and Rabobank teammate Gerben de Knegt told Sporza, his rivals will be wary of challenge posed by the 2008 World cyclo-cross Champion.

    "It's a case of waiting to see what sort of form Boom is in. Perhaps he will be good, but maybe not," said De Knegt. "For him, cyclo-cross will be a stepping stone to the Spring Classics. But of course Boom has already proven that he is an excellent crosser. He hasn't won the World Championships for nothing."

    De Knegt will himself head into the Grand Prix Groenendaal and the Dutch Championships after a string of high finishes. The most recent of which was fourth place in GvA Trofee round in Baal on Friday. The results have given him confidence to declare himself favourite for the Dutch, but played down the importance of the race in the scheme of his 2009/2010 season.

    "It's not forbidden [for Boom to come back for a few races]. If I were him, I would do it," he said. "I am the favourite for the national title, but if Boom has a better day, so it shall be. My season doesn't depend on the Dutch title."

    De Knegt finished fourth in the 2009 Dutch...

  • 2009 Reader Poll: Compton makes it three in a row

    Katie Compton (Planet Bike) descending with a 30-second gap.
    Article published:
    January 07, 2010, 18:03 GMT
    Peter Hymas

    Vos finishes a strong second amongst female cyclo-crossers

    For the third straight year Katie Compton finished at the top of the best female cyclo-cross racer category of the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, befitting the American's domination of the 'cross season. Compton closed out the year leading the UCI and World Cup standings, the first time an American has topped either classification.

    Compton has been undefeated on American soil, starting in Cross Vegas and culminating with her record-setting sixth consecutive US national championship in Bend, Oregon.

    While racing in Europe, Compton won the first two World Cup rounds in Treviso, Italy and Nommay, France and podiumed in the next three.

    The 31-year-old American also won Belgium's Superprestige Gavere for the third straight year with a dominating performance in thick mud over reigning world champion Marianne Vos.

    Vos, runner up to Compton in the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, started her 'cross season late after needing a break from her road campaign, but the Dutchwoman has proved a formidable opponent to Compton. The two-time world 'cross champion bested Compton in three consecutive World Cups, winning Koksijde and Zolder and finishing second to Daphny Van den Brand at Kalmthout.

    Vos, 22, narrowly out-polled Compton in 2006, the year of her previous world championship, but wearing the rainbow jersey this season was not enough to best Compton for our readers. Perhaps a third World Championship in Tabor at the end of January will buoy her chances in the next edition of the Reader Poll, but Katie Compton, too, has her sites set on the rainbow jersey, in what would be a fitting conclusion to her best-ever cyclo-cross season.

    Best Female Cyclo-crosser
    1. Katie Compton: 5827
    2. Marianne Vos: 4138
    3. Hanka Kupfernagel: 1125
    4. Katerina Nash: 821
    5. Georgia Gould: 604
    6. Daphny Van Den Brand: 502
    7. Helen Wyman: 454
    8. Natasha Elliott: 344
    9. Pavla Havlikova:...

  • 2009 Reader Poll: Nys tops men's 'cross poll yet again

    Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) en route to victory.
    Article published:
    January 07, 2010, 21:09 GMT
    Peter Hymas

    Belgian champion bests world champ Albert

    Another year, another win for Sven Nys. While the Belgian champion's performance this season has not quite been vintage Nys domination, nonetheless Cyclingnews readers conferred top honours in the men's cyclo-cross category to the 33-year-old Belgian for the sixth straight time and eight of the previous nine polls. Bart Wellens, in 2003, has been the only other male to win the category.

    Unlike the previous year, in which Nys led all major cyclo-cross classifications (UCI, World Cup, Gazet van Antwerpen and Superprestige) at year's end, he led none of the standings at the close of 2009. However, Nys has proved time and time again that he can't be counted out of any 'cross race he enters.

    After ignominiously DNFing at the opening World Cup in Treviso, Italy, Nys podiumed at the next six World Cup events, including a dramatic victory in the snow at Kalmthout, Belgium, after overcoming a disastrous first lap.

    Nys has seven other wins this season, including two Superprestige victories at Ruddervoorde and Gieten. He podiumed at the first five Superprestige races of the season, but a broken derailleur in the sixth at Diegem unfortunately dropped him from the series lead. Despite relinquishing the series lead to Albert, Nys reached an illustrious milestone with his win at Gieten, the 50th Superprestige victory of his career.

    Nys has been at his best when Mother Nature has been at her worst, with wins in the ice and snow at the Noordzeecross and Scheldecross as well as his first World Cup win of the season at Kalmthout. Perhaps that bodes well for what is expected to be a frigid World Championship in Tabor, Czech Republic.

    There's been no curse of the rainbow jersey for world champion Niels Albert, other than finishing as runner up to Nys in Cyclingnews' men's 'cross poll. The 23-year-old Belgian has been dominant this season, racking up 12 wins on his way to leading all four 'cross classifications (UCI, World...