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Cyclo-cross news & racing round-up, Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Date published:
December 23, 2009, 23:00
  • USA Cycling makes first selections for 'cross Worlds

    Katie Compton (Planet Bike) wins a record setting six championships in a row.
    Article published:
    December 17, 2009, 19:40
    Cycling News

    Elite women's, U23 men's and Junior men's teams named

    The first round of nominations to the United States National Team for the 2010 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, Jan. 30-31 was announced today by USA Cycling.

    Five athletes were named to each of the Elite women’s, U23 men’s and Junior men’s squads based on competitive performances over the course of the last year.

    After capturing her sixth consecutive US cyclo-cross national title and winning a pair of World Cups this season, Katie Compton (Planet Bike) received an automatic nomination and will lead the Elite women’s squad. Compton is currently the top-ranked female in the International Cycling Union's (UCI) world standings ahead of Dutchwomen Daphny Van Den Brand and reigning world champion Marianne Vos. Compton also tops the World Cup standings in front of Van Den Brand and Sanne van Paassen.

    After her silver-medal-performance at the world championships in 2006 and her bronze-medal ride in 2009, the 31-year-old Compton is not only an automatic qualifier to the squad, but will be the favorite heading into Tabor.

    Amy Dombroski (Schalmm p/b Primus Mootry) accumulated the most points in five out of the six US qualification races and is another automatic qualifier for the Elite women’s squad. The 22-year-old finished third at the recent US cyclo-cross national championships, fifth in the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Calendar standings and second in the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross series.

    Discretionary nominations to the Elite women’s team went to national championship silver medalist Meredith Miller (California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized), Laura Van Gilder (C3-Sollay) and Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles).

    In the U23 men’s division, 2007 junior world championship silver medalist Danny Summerhill (Garmin-Felt) earned the only automatic nomination to the team with his victory at the US national cyclo-cross championships.

    Discretionary selections to the U23 men's team went to U23 national championship bronze medalist Luke Keough (Champion System), 2008 junior national champion and 2009 Collegiate DI national champion Zach McDonald (Stevens Classic Cycle), Jerome Townsend (’s Garage) and Dave Hackworthy (Plan C).

    In the Junior men's category Cody Kaiser (California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized) was the only automatic qualifier with his victory in the US national cyclo-cross championships. National championship silver medalist Jeff Bahnson (Thule-Vandessel), national championship bronze medalist Skyler Trujillo (Black Sheep), Chris Wallace (KCCX-Verge) and Matt Spinks (Young Medalists-Team Dual Temp) all earned discretionary nominations and will comprise the remainder of the Junior men’s squad.

    The Elite men’s nominations will be announced on January 13, 2010 following the next two rounds of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup.

    US national team members for the 2010 cyclo-cross world championships:

    Elite women
    Katie Compton (Planet Bike)
    Amy Dombroski (Schalmm p/b Primus Mootry)
    Meredith Miller (California Giant Berry Farm-Specialized)
    Laura Van Gilder (C3-Sollay)
    Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles)

    U23 men
    Danny Summerhill (Garmin-Felt)
    Luke Keough (Champion System)
    Zach McDonald (Stevens Classic Cycle)
    Jerome Townsend (’s Garage)
    Dave Hackworthy (Plan C)

    Junior men
    Cody Kaiser (California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized)
    Jeff Bahnson (Thule-Vandessel)
    Skyler Trujillo (Black Sheep)
    Chris Wallace (KCCX-Verge)
    Matt Spinks (Young Medalists-Team Dual Temp)

  • UCI wants one cyclo-cross race-free weekend monthly in Belgium

    A set of stairs at the cyclo-cross World Cup in Hamme Zogge.
    Article published:
    December 18, 2009, 15:24
    Susan Westemeyer

    Organisers in other countries say there are too many Belgian races

    There are too many cyclo-cross races in Belgium, according to other countries and the International Cycling Union (UCI). The world governing body of cycling has proposed that at least one weekend per month in the country should be free of 'cross events.

    “Foreign organisers believe that the international calendar is overwhelmed by Belgium,” said UCI co-ordinator Peter Van den Abeele to Het Laatste Nieuws. "This takes away from the sport in other countries. Belgian organisers have the money to attract the top riders. Then the top riders don't ride at home, so that the sport receives little attention.”

    Van den Abeele said that he wanted to intervene, and had a plan. “I think that one weekend a month should be kept free from 'cross races in Belgium. On that 'cross-free' weekend, riders can go to other countries.”

    He had a warning for the Belgians, too. “Now they have it all. But it was like that 15 years ago in Switzerland, too. When the Belgians wanted to, they could go each week to Zürich and its surroundings. Look at what they have now. Things can change quickly.”

  • Remembering US Cyclo-cross Nationals

    Tim Johnson ( descending in third place.
    Article published:
    December 18, 2009, 19:42
    Cycling News

    Photographer Dave McElwaine shares his 'cross nats photos

    The mud and snow are barely cleaned from the jerseys and bikes of the thousands who raced at the US Cyclo-cross National Championships last weekend in Bend, Oregon. And the memories are still fresh in the minds of all who attended, including photographer Dave McElwaine, who provided many of the images of the championships seen on Cyclingnews.

    "It was the best cyclo-cross national championships that I've ever been to. USAC should be really proud," said McElwaine to Cyclingnews. "The town of Bend turned out to be the perfect blend of location and weather. The town itself was great... We had an ideal setup, the crowds were enormous, the course was fantastic and the conditions were epic."

    Relive the fun by checking out McElwaine's favorite photos. Links to complete galleries of photos, many yet unpublished, can be found for the elite, collegiate, juniors, masters and singlespeed races.

    McElwaine described the buzz that surrounded the race and racers who turned up in droves. "Racers loved it and can't wait to go back. I feel the same way."

    Fortunately, everyone will have that chance. In 2010, cyclo-cross nationals return to Bend on December 9-12.

  • Wyman takes aim at World Championship glory

    Helen Wyman (Kona) in the lead.
    Article published:
    December 19, 2009, 18:07
    Richard Tyler

    British cyclo-cross champion's 'second' season off to flying start

    Kona-FSA's Helen Wyman will head into the first of two World Cup Cyclo-Cross rounds on Sunday brimming with confidence after a strong start to what she describes a the 'second of two seasons' this year. A winner of races in Italy and Switzerland in the last three weeks, the 28-year-old Briton has begun her charge towards her major objective of the year, the World Championships.

    Wyman's first objective of the season had been the European Championships in Hoogstraten, where she finished second to Cyclo-cross World Champion Marianne Vos. The path to that result has also led to second place overall in the GvA Trofee, six points behind Czech rival Pavla Havlikova, however, as Wyman told Cyclingnews it was the European result that marked an important step in her career.

    "I'm obviously really happy with the European Championship results and it's taken me a while to get back to that place again, so that's really good," said Wyman. "There's quite an important series, the Gazet van Antwerpen series and currently I'm second in that, so that's been quite a good focus for me this year, whereas previously I've done really well in World Cups but not so well in smaller races."

    The secret to her success this year has been splitting her season into two halves, one ending with a peak for the European Championships followed by a break before working toward a second peak for Worlds.

    "We've kind of broken the season down a bit more this year and split it into two seasons. The first season, at the end of it, I went on a training camp in Portugal so I had a break where I didn't race at the weekend. The second season is a bit longer; it goes all the way to the end of February.

    "I've always been really good at riding consistently throughout the season, but this year we tried to peak for the European Championships and actually achieved it. Whereas in previous seasons it's almost been a peak, but not really – it's always been approached with a little bit of maintenance for [other races]."

    Wyman's approach is a sign of maturity and experience that has come from six seasons of racing in Europe. She acknowledges that the strength of her top rivals is one of the reasons for the shift in thinking.

    "If you're one of the best riders in the world, like [Marianne] Vos, [Katie] Compton, Hanka [Hupfernagal] or Daphne [van den Brand] you can be on the podium every week, in every race; it's not a problem for you," she said. "When you're in the next group of riders that can make [the occasional] podium it's much more difficult to consistent every week, because you're good, you're not outstanding.

    "So getting to that point were you're at the right point, at the right race, is really difficult and that was more of the focus this year; saying at the start of the season 'this is the race I will be good at.'"

    The omens are good for Wyman. Her 2009 season kicked off with victory at the Star Crossed event in Washington, her first ever race on US soil. The start of the second phase of her season has also been flush with success: a dominant victory at Italy's Ciclocross del Ponte was backed up last weekend by victory at the Swiss GP Wetzikon.

    But the next race that Wyman really wants to 'be good at' is the World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic at the end of January. Her best result in the event was fifth on debut in Zeddam, Netherlands, in 2006. The race will remain her focus for much of the remainder of this season, with this week's two World Cup rounds key to her preparation. There will be particular motivation this year at Thursday's round at Heusden-Zolder.

    "There's four [World Cups] leading up to the World Championships and the National Championships. But the two World Cups together, in December, will probably be really important for me," Wyman said. "Last year, the day before the World Cup round, my Grandfather died on Christmas day, so the next day I just wasn't prepared to race. So this year that's one that’s quite important for me to do well in and get a result to prove to myself that, it's a course I can ride well at and do well on."

  • Albert, Stybar tied in World Cup standings

    Zdenek Stybar (Telenet Fidea)
    Article published:
    December 21, 2009, 20:32
    Cycling News

    Compton holds onto lead in women's series

    Zdenek Stybar pulled himself equal on points with Niels Albert at the top of the UCI's Cyclo-cross World Cup rankings with a second place finish in Kalmthout on Sunday. However, the Czech champion will not get to pull on the series leader's white jersey for the next contest in Zolder this week as Albert leads in the number of World Cup wins this season, 3-2.

    Missing out on his chance to lead the series was a bitter defeat for Stybar, who led the snowy race in Kalmthout at the mid-way point only to see the return of Sven Nys on the penultimate lap. Stybar failed to keep Nys at bay, and was not even able to profit from the Belgian champion's fall with less than half a lap to go.

    "I cannot be satisfied," said Stybar to "Despite a bad start I was still able to the lead halfway and get a gap, but in the last two laps I made too many mistakes. I should have switched to a bike with different tires. I did the whole race on tires with a low profile and in the final laps it was no longer the ideal choice."

    The difference between the top three at the finish line was mere seconds, with each feeling as if they could have won the race. Albert was also unsatisfied after the event, since the snow left riders with one narrow track and no place to pass.

    "I was certainly one of the fastest rider on the course in the final laps, but overtaking was so difficult with only a narrow path that was passable," said Albert.

    "The differences were very small - we could have stood in any order on the podium."

    The closeness in abilities is well reflected in the World Cup standings, where Albert sits tied with Stybar at 435 points after six rounds, with Nys moving up into third ahead of Klaas Vantornout with 350 points.

    In the women's race, Daphny Van den Brand closed the gap to World Cup leader Katie Compton with her victory on Sunday, and now sits just 10 points behind with 200 points. Marianne Vos, who claimed second in Kalmthout is third with 160. Compton's third place was just enough to maintain the lead in the series, which continues on December 26 in Zolder.

  • Dunlap 90 percent satisfied with cyclo-cross comeback

    Alison Dunlap (Luna Pro Team) is a five-time national 'cross champion.
    Article published:
    December 21, 2009, 21:29
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Former mountain bike world champ uncertain about future racing

    While many cyclists were following the comeback of Lance Armstrong in 2009, another former World Champion was making her own comeback. After four years away from racing, Alison Dunlap decided to return to elite competition with a focus on cyclo-cross. She was first spotted at US Mountain Bike Nationals in July racing the short track in order to prepare for the 'cross season.

    "I had a blast and it was super fun, but it was a lot harder than I thought it would be to be competitive," said the 40-year-old Dunlap, looking back on the last six months. "It shows that the women's fields have gotten faster and stronger. It was a great challenge."

    Deciding to comeback wasn't easy, especially for someone with a competitive spirit like Dunlap. "My big concern was that I'd come back and not do well. I trained really, really hard because I didn't want that to happen."

    "I worked harder than I ever remember training, but I probably forgot a lot of things I used to do," she said. "It was great to race again. I had positive feedback from everyone. I didn't feel like I was making a fool of myself or wasting my time."

    Dunlap said it wasn't just the tougher competition that challenged her, but the amount of time she had spent away from elite racing. "I was away for four years. If I came back to race ultra endurance mountain bike races, it'd be different, but I came back to race super-intense races. While I did a lot of long, hard mountain bike rides in recent years, I hadn't been going out to do anaerobic intervals. to get that back was especially hard. I hadn't trained that system for a long time."

    The best part of being back was the excitement. "Getting to see my friends and the crowds - both were great. Winning a race and getting on the podium is in my blood. I missed that excitement."

    A little over a week after the US Cyclo-cross National Championships, where Dunlap placed fourth, we asked her the verdict on her comeback. "I'm about 90 percent satisfied. You always want to do better. I wanted be in the top three at nationals. I wanted to win the USGP, but there are some pretty tough riders ahead of me. Ninety percent of me is psyched with how it went."

    "I wanted to come back and just do 'cross and have fun at it and I could do that if I was happy with just getting top 20. Of course, I wasn't. I wanted to be back at the top. To do well in 'cross, you have to race all summer and start in March and that's not what I want to do. I either have to suck it up and do a whole season of racing or just be ok with top 20 or local events."

    When asked to compare her own return to pro racing with that of Lance Armstrong, Dunlap replied, "What he did is even more amazing - it's very impressive." Armstrong made a comeback to professional road cycling, earning a podium spot at the Tour de France after three years of retirement.

    As for returning to mountain biking, the discipline where Dunlap became world champion after a successful road career, she said doing so was unlikely. "There are probably not any plans for mountain biking. I definitely don't want to come back and do any serious mountain biking. That's too hard!"

    Whether Dunlap reappears on the race circuit next year is still to be determined. "Right now, I don't want to race ever again. Ask me in three months and it might be different." She said she doesn't know whether she'll keep racing. "To do this again next year... well, it was a big commitment."

    Dunlap was recently named as a member of the 2010 Luna team, but that doesn't guarantee her racing. "Luna is always really supportive though they're not paying me to be a bike racer any more. If I did it, I'd be doing it for the love of the sport which is awesome, but it doesn't pay my mortgage."

    Whether she races again or not, Dunlap will stay involved in cycling. She will continue running her coaching business and mountain bike camps and clinics in the summer time. "That keeps me pretty busy and makes it hard it be a full time athlete again."

    Dunlap won the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships cross country race in 2001 in Vail, Colorado.  She represented the US on the road at the 1996 Olympics and in mountain biking at the 2000 Olympics.  She retired from pro racing in 2005.

  • De Bie concerned about Belgium's 'cross future

    Nys leads Albert on a loop of the stairs
    Article published:
    December 22, 2009, 11:45
    Susan Westemeyer

    National coach fears departure of Nys and Albert could end Belgian dominance

    Belgium's national cyclo-cross coach, Rudi De Bie, says the country could relinquish its dominance of the disipline if both Sven Nys and Niels Albert leave to follow other objectives. Di Bie telling Het Laatste Nieuws, “There is no great new talent coming along.”

    Nys, 33, who won the snowy World Cup round in Kalmthout last weekend, wants to start concentrating on road racing next year. Current World Champion and World Cup leader Albert, 23, is considering a switch to mountain biking with an eye to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, as well as riding on the road.

    “It would be very unfortunate if Niels actually leaves,” said De Bie. “We would then lose the near-certainty of victory. I see no one with the super talent of Nys and Albert. Foreign riders will then be well placed to take more wins.”

    Future Belgian winners might include Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout, and Bart Aernouts, De Bie said, noting however, that they are “good 'crossers, but not big winners.”

    Some younger riders to keep an eye on are Tom Meeusen, Vincent Bastaens, Jim Aernouts and Joeri Adams, “a quartet with potential, that can go far with hard work, but they don't have the raw talent of Nys and Albert.”

    According to Di Bie, fewer wins would mean less popularity for the sport as well,  “The public is only interested in real winners,” he said.

    De Bie stated his hope that Albert's prospective disipline switch would remain hypothetical. “Let us hope that this is one of Albert's typical statements and that we do not see him leave,” De Bie said, adding, “Of course he may dream of winning the Giro di Lombardia, but it is a different story to realise that dream.”

  • Eckmann takes second place in Middelkerke

    Junior national champions David Kessler, Yannick Eckmann and Michael Dessau.
    Article published:
    December 23, 2009, 21:55
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Euro 'Cross Campers shine just days before Zolder World Cup

    Euro 'Cross Camper Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Development Team) scored a second place behind Belgian Gianni Vermeersch at the Noordzeecross in Middelkerke, Belgium, on Wednesday. Eckmann's performance bodes well just days before the Campers will take on the next Cyclo-cross World Cup in Zolder.

    "It was a tough, hard race with a very fun course," said Eckmann to Cyclingnews. "I had a good start and found myself chasing the eventual winner. Then we were together, and I attacked a few times.

    "But the level is very high here and I didn't get away. I need to work on my accelerations out of the corners. I'm good coming in to the turns, but coming out, it's all about acceleration." Eckmann is a German residing in Boulder, Colorado. He is expected to earn his US citizenship in time to race as an Under 23.

    Riders who are part of the Euro 'Cross Camp are presently spending up to two weeks in Europe getting a taste of international 'cross racing. The performance of Eckmann and the other riders is making camp director Geoff Proctor proud.

    "It was a good first effort for some of our juniors like Skyler Trujillo (Black Sheep Jr. Cycling), Chris Wallace, and Joshua Lehmann, and a strong effort for Yannick and David Kessler (11th). Yannick rode a very smart race, outriding and outwitting two of the four in the lead group," said Proctor to Cyclingnews. It takes awhile to adjust to the racing here, and I'm encouraged by where our juniors are right now. [They are] building the confidence for Saturday's World Cup."

    Among the elite riders, alumni campers Jeremy Powers and James Driscoll (both rode in the first and then the second group, too. "It was great to see," said Proctor. "And Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) had a decent race [He finished eighth. - ed.]."

    Not every racer was putting it all on the line though. "Danny Summerhill had more of a training kinds of a race day, but Brian Matter (Team Gear Grinder) and Travis Livermon (Champion System/Cannondale) definitely stepped it up and looked good," said Proctor. "Our Under 23s were racing mixed in with the best in the world, and they all rode hard. It was a good day to work out a few bugs logistically and another brisk day in Belgium with intermittent sun and a stiff onshore breeze."

    "Yannick's second place today to go with Danny Summerhill's third place in Lichetervelde this past Saturday are great indicators of what this Camp can achieve," said Proctor. "Good results feed off themselves. We've had some podiums over the years, but this year has started pretty well.

    "Equally important are the gains in character I see in the riders. My experience has been that it's the mental side of the game that gets the most play when you're over here." Proctor added that the fitness gains count, but it's the character building that contributes most to improving results.

    "Each day of the 'Cross Camp, I try to focus the riders on a character trait. Some days we discuss them; other days we don't have time, but I want them thinking about a new one each day. At the end of the day, these are the life skills they can take with them."