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Cyclo-cross News & Racing Round-up, Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Date published:
March 30, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Stybar ices the cake with World Championship win

    Look at this! Rainbow bands!
    Article published:
    January 31, 2010, 19:00 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian's prepare to deliver Czech star 'home' to Flanders

    With a blistering performance in the snow and ice of his home country Czech Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) brought home the biggest win of his career to secure his first elite World Cyclo-cross Championship win on Sunday in Tabor.

    Stybar's win came nineteen years after the last Czech win at the world championships when Radomir Simunek Snr - father of the eponymous rider of the BKCP-Powerplus team, Radomir Simunek Jnr - won the World title in Gieten, Netherlands in 1991.

    "Hopefully it will not take that long before my country can celebrate the next world title," Stybar laughed afterwards.

    The 24-year-old Czech had to pull off a great ride to claim victory in Tabor and at the end of the first lap his task was made all the more difficult when he suddenly dropped from first to twelfth position with a puncture.

    "I knew that I was in the form of my life and I was prepared that ,despite bad luck, I would still be able to close the gap on the leaders. I had a plan in my head. At first I tucked in behind the French rider Francis Mourey, but I knew that I would move up. I knew accidents could happen and all race long I was riding on the edge. That way I couldn't have any regrets after the race."

    After receiving a fresh bike, Stybar bounced back from 12th position and three laps later launched a fierce attack to which none of his rivals was able to respond.

    "Once in front I didn't know what the gap was. When looking at the big screens I only saw myself; it was only later I received information from people along the course."

    His World title comes just a week after his overall win in the International Cycling Union's (UCI) World Cup and makes the 2009-2010 season the best of his short but successful career. Racing on home soil as one of the top favourites brings along a lot of pressure but the Czech dealt perfectly with it by passing the baton of responsibility to Belgian champion Sven Nys.

    "I wasn't stressed....

  • Inspired Czech squad top Worlds medal tally

    Stybar's image was reflected in the crowd's banners.
    Article published:
    February 01, 2010, 6:17 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé and Richard Tyler

    Belgian coach concedes elite Czech squad unbeatable

    While Zdenek Stybar led the Czech charge in the elite men's race at the 2010 World Cyclo-cross Championships, his was just one of a number of stellar performances by riders from the host nation this year in Tabor.

    Behind the new World Champion came a steady stream of his compatriots, with Martin Bina, Martin Zlamalik, Radomir Simunek, Kamil Ausbuher, Ondrej Bambula and Petr Dlask all active during the race. The top-ten performances by Stybar, Bina, Zlamalik and Simunek in the elite race came just 24-hours after Tomas Paprtska's triumph in the junior men's race. It was a strong showing across the entire Czech selection.

    During the first two laps of the elite men's event, Radomir Simunek was riding near the front and even led the race for a period. The son of the last Czech world champion (Radomir Simunek Snr, in 1991), he had high hopes of a good performance in Tabor but health problems affected his race. During the third lap Simunek lost position as he swapped bikes and never returned to the front of the race, eventually finishing in eighth place.

    "It was very good but I didn't have a good day. My foot was a big problem but I was a bit sick too. I didn't get enough air with this cold weather. The crowds screamed me forward early on and they made me do more than was possible," Simunek told Cyclingnews.

    While Simunek went backwards during the race his compatriot Bina had a bad first lap and had to fight his way back into the race from a distant 18th position. "During the first lap I stumbled over the hurdles and went down," Bina told Cyclingnews.

    By the time Bina reached the front of the race during the fourth lap Stybar had just gone clear. Bina never let go of a top-five position and eventually battled with Belgian star Sven Nys for the remaining podium spot. Despite the cold weather both riders dug deep as they attacked one another in the closing laps before Nys prevailed in the final sprint.

    "With three laps to...

  • Mixed results for the strongest ever US line-up

    American champion Tim Johnson (USA) moved up dramatically in the field to 14th place
    Article published:
    February 01, 2010, 14:00 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    National champion Johnson top finisher in Tabor

    The US line-up in the Elite Men category of the 2010 Cyclo-cross world championships was regarded as the strongest selection ever but the results of the team didn't come out as well as expected. The top US finisher in the Elite Men's category was national champion Timothy Johnson.

    Johnson fought his way up after a messy start and finished fourteenth, 2:28 behind winner Zdenek Stybar. "I'm happy, but I wanted top 10 so I wish I was happier," Johnson said.

    Hurt by a poor starting position, Johnson had to fight through traffic in 28th place on the first lap. "The start was a mess, it was just like a pinball game. In the second corner my bike got stuck in Jonathan Page's bike," the US champion told Cyclingnews.

    From the second lap on there was more space and Johnson clocked the tenth fastest time of that lap to move into 22nd. "I always moved up. I saw Page again during the second lap and further into the race I passed riders like Erwin Vervecken, Niels Albert and Kevin Pauwels; they weren't happy with the course," Johnson added.

    When asked how he managed to continue moving up Johnson explained that staying upright was a factor but he also had a good word for compatriot Luke Keough who raced the U23 event on Saturday.

    "I didn't crash or have any mechanicals. I switched to a fresh bike once to get rid of the weight from the snow and ice but that was it. I have to thank Luke Keogh too. He lent me some sheet-metal screws for my cleats and they allowed me to blast past other riders when running on the ice," Johnson said.

    Johnson could have benefited even more from the ice had the UCI not decided to cover the course in sand in order to make it less slippery. "It was too bad they changed the course. They move the race to different locations but they don't accept the circumstances that occur on those locations," he said.

    During the last laps Johnson was in contention for eleventh place but the race ended a...

  • Albert soldiers on after defeat at cyclo-cross worlds

    Niels Albert (BKCP Powerplus) back in his plain team kit, wins in Maldegem.
    Article published:
    February 03, 2010, 18:11 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian back on track after Sunday's disappointment

    Just three days after Belgian Niels Albert bid farewell to his title as World Champion in Tábor, Czech Republic after a resounding defeat at the hands of Zdenek Stybar and the icy championship parcours, the Belgian sped to victory in the Parkcross Maldegem in his home country.

    With Stybar trailing in for seventh, Albert insisted that he wasn't out for revenge after his time in the rainbow bands was ended.

    "Last year when I came here as the new world champion, I was 13th. It's normal that Stybar wasn't in the mix."

    After Albert's domination of the early part of the 'cross season, he suffered a broken rib at the hands of an unruly spectator during the Belgian Championships. But after pulling out of the world championship race, Albert blamed his poor performance less on the injury than the fact that he simply didn't like the course.

    In Tabor, it seemed his heart wasn't in the race from the first lap - he was already 14th at the end of the first lap, and two laps later, he was seen shaking his head when he passed the pit zone where his manager Christophe Roodhooft was present. A journalist asked if that wasn't too early to give up.

    "No, I was doing all I could and I noticed that I was only going backwards. Then you have to make the conclusion. Of course Christophe wanted me to continue, and I was also thinking about the fans who traveled all the way to the Czech Republic to support me. But I was riding between riders who normally aren't of my level," Albert said.

    Albert quickly hid in his camper and took his time to digest his defeat. After being freshened up, a friendly Albert talked with the press on the past year, the race and the future ahead. 

    "My year is over," Albert said of his world title. "I won't be losing any sleep about this race, but it did bring some stress along."

    After starting the season with a bang by dominating September and October, Albert lost the fight for...

  • Stybar breaks Nys' Superprestige streak

    World Champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea)
    Article published:
    February 14, 2010, 15:08 GMT
    Cycling News

    World Champion battles past Albert to win in Vorselaar

    World Champion Zdenek Stybar has become the first rider other than Sven Nys to claim the overall Superprestige title since 2004 with a spectacular victory in Vorselaar today.

    Coming into the series finale Stybar was tied with Belgian Niels Albert for the overall classification, both on 95 points, with Nys a distant third on 86.

    For Nys to take his record 8th straight series title, he would have needed a miraculous race to make up the 9 point deficit. Instead, Nys' chance at a podium finish was ruined by a last-lap crash in an icy corner with Albert's teammate Radomir Simunek.

    With Albert on the attack, Stybar waged a courageous comeback at the front of the race after a slow bike change dropped him out of the lead group. He reached Albert on the last lap, and the pair battled elbow to elbow with race and the series on the line. Each rider took risks to pass the other until finally Stybar surged to the front and held his position uncontested to the line.

    "It was all or nothing," said Stybar. "I had to change bikes after my wheel was damaged after a crash. I had to take a lot of risks on the last two laps. I am now completely wrecked, but I won!"

    It was only Stybar's second race win in the 2009-2010 series after he bested Nys in Hamme-Zogge. Albert won three rounds: Hoogstraten, Gavere and Diegem, but his fifth place finish in Zonhoven cost him dearly.

    Nys also won three rounds in Ruddervoorde, Gieten and Zonhoven, but a mechanical in Diegem that prevented him from finishing the race spelled an end to his storied run in the Superprestige. He still holds the record for series race wins with 51 and overall series wins with 9.

    Stybar's Superprestige series victory marked the third major title of Stybar's 2009/2010 season, following his triumph in the overall World Cup series and the World Championships last month. The Gazet van Antwerpen trophy now remains the only major series Stybar is yet to secure in his...

  • Szczepaniak brothers positive for EPO at cyclo-cross Worlds

    The Szczepaniak brothers show their medals
    Article published:
    March 11, 2010, 15:30 GMT
    Cycling News

    Polish top two in Under-23 race provisionally suspended

    Polish brothers Pawel and Kacper Szczepaniak, who finished first and second in this year's under 23 cyclo-cross World Championship, have returned positive results for EPO, in controls carried out at the event which took place in Tabor, Czech Republic in January.

    The International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed on Thursday that the brothers' positive results came from targeted urine tests carried out following the under-23 World Championship race. The two had been targeted after suspicious blood profiles were revealed as part of their respective biological passports.

    Arnaud Jouffrey of France now stands to inherit the title of under 23 World Champion should the counter-analyses confirm the presence of EPO.

    Kacper, 19, the younger of the two brothers recently signed for the Telenet-Fidea team. According to Belgian media the team has called a press conference for Thursday evening. Its rider Tom Meeusen placed fourth in the race and could be moved into the silver medal position.

    At the World Championships the Szczepaniaks got away on the second of seven laps with fellow Pole Marek Konwa. Pawel, 20, took the lead on the fourth lap, and never gave it up. He finished 20 seconds ahead of his brother Kacper, with French rider Arnaud Jouffroy finishing in third place, one second later.

  • Kacper Szczepaniak attempts suicide

    The U23 men's podium: Kacper and Pawel Szczepaniak (Poland) and Arnaud Jouffroy (France)
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 10:15 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Father prevents son's death after positive doping test

    Poland's Kacper Szczepaniak has reportedly attempted to commit suicide, after he was last week provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for a failed doping test.

    Kacper's elder brother Pawel confirmed to Het Laatste Nieuws that his sibling had attempted to end his own life, but had been stopped by their father.

    Kacper, 19, finished second to Pawel, 21, in the under 23 World cyclo-cross Championship race on January 30, however, both tested positive for EPO in a doping control conducted at the event and are likely to be stripped of their medals.

    Het Laatste Nieuws also reported that Hans Van Kasteren, the manager of Kacper's professional team Telenet-Fidea, believes a Polish coach had encouraged the two to dope.

    "I've plenty of information to figure out who the man is," said Van Kasteren. "We never approve [of doping], but it doesn't take much to understand why those guys could not resist the temptation. In Poland, their father has a monthly salary of just 250 euros, while Kacper with a [top] team could earn 2500 euros [a month]."

    The Szczepaniaks will remain provisionally suspended pending disciplinary action by the Polish Cycling Federation. Results of their B samples are also pending.

  • Rabobank-Giant Off Road Team completed

    Mike Teunissen (Netherlands) clears the hurdles of the junior men's race
    Article published:
    March 30, 2010, 18:17 BST
    Cycling News

    Five young riders signed

    Five riders have joined the Rabobank Giant Off Road Team to complete its 14-person roster: Gert-Jan Bosman, Lars van der Haar, Mike Teunissen, Emiel Dolfsma and Michiel van der Heijden.

    Richard Groenendaal, director of the cyclo-cross division of the team, welcomed the arrival of the young racers. "We want a good future for these riders," said the former cyclo-cross World Champion, who will use his experience to help guide their fledgling careers.

    Current Rabobank racers Gerben de Knegt and Bart Aernouts will have four new, young teammates for the next cyclo-cross season. The 17-year-old Emiel Dolfsma and 18-year-old Lars van der Haar,will bolster the team's cyclo-cross squad along with Mike Teunissen and Gert-Jan Bosman, both 17, who also have ambitions on the road.

    The 18-year-old Michiel van der Heijden, who finished second at the 2009 European mountain bike championships and is a multi-time Dutch national champion, will begin racing with the team in October.

    "The advantage of our team is that the riders can move to the Rabobank (road) Continental Team," said Groenendaal. "They are all young and have yet to find their way as cyclists. Cycling is primarily for fun and gaining experience. The first or second years, riders do not have to opt for a certain discipline. The (Rabobank) programs offer young riders the chance to combine disciplines."

    Groenendaal worked all last winter during 'cross season with van der Haar. "Such cooperation was good for me. I learned a lot from Richard," said van der Haar. "He knows all the courses and techniques and knows what choices I should make. I've also found that my base is not good enough. This summer will be for working hard."

    "It has always been a dream of mine to ride for Rabobank. In a good team you can encourage each other and then it works very motivating," he said.

    The new signings are joining existing Rabobank-Giant Off Road team members including...