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First Edition Cycling News, Friday, December 30, 2011

Date published:
December 30, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Pauwels, Compton maintain top positions in latest UCI 'cross rankings

    Kevin Pauwels has been a force to be reckoned with this season.
    Article published:
    December 20, 2011, 22:31 GMT
    Cycling News

    Van der Poel continues to lead junior men's standings

    Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) and Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team) remain atop the latest cyclo-cross standings, released today by the UCI.

    Despite having an uncharacteristic stint in the previous two weeks in which he's finished off the podium in all four races he contested, Pauwels nonetheless managed to keep his number one ranking with 2,270 points, a slender 10 points ahead of second-placed Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet).

    The top-ten was largely unchanged with world champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) retaining his third place position with 1,790 points while Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), who returned to competition this past weekend after being sidelined by a broken wrist, stays in fourth at 1,574 points.

    The only change in the elite men's top-10 was Klaas Vantornout (Sunbweb-Revor) moving up one position into sixth, while compatriot Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team) dropped one position from sixth to seventh.

    Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) remains the top-ranked North American rider at 11th overall with 924 points.

    Belgium continues its dominance of the men's nations rankings with 6,104 points, 3,144 ahead of France and 3,314 in front of the Czech Republic.

    US champion Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team) continues her reign at the head of the elite women's rankings, the position she's held all season. Compton returned to Europe where she won both the Scheldecross and Vlaamse Druivenveldrit followed by a third place finish in the Namur, Belgium-hosted UCI World Cup round.

    Reigning 'cross world champion...

  • Pauwels extends contract with Sunweb-Revor

    Kevin Pauwels has been a force to be reckoned with this season.
    Article published:
    December 23, 2011, 19:34 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian will switch focus to mountain bike after 'cross season

    Belgian cyclo-cross star Kevin Pauwels renewed his contract with the Sunweb-Revor team. The two parties extended their relationship for two additional years.

    "Kevin Pauwels' term at our team was going to end in 2013. We extended and upgraded his contract until 2015. There was a lot of interest from other teams, but now he gets the deal he deserves after his recent performances. From now on, he's not only part of the big four on the bike but also financially," team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen said on TV-channel VT4 just ahead of the start of the cyclo-cross race in Diegem, Belgium on Friday evening.

    "This is a great deal for our team. Now our future is secured. It wasn't easy to set this up, but if it was possible, we had to try and keep him. We're happy and he's happy," Mettepenningen said.

    Since Pauwels' move from Telenet-Fidea to Sunweb-Revor last year, the coy Belgian has blossomed into a top cyclo-cross rider and was recently rewarded with a top spot in the UCI cyclo-cross rankings.

    "It's great that I could sign the deal. Jurgen came up to ask me if I wanted to extend my contract. I'm good here so there's no reason not to sign that deal," Pauwels said.

    Mettepenningen also said that after this cyclo-cross season Pauwels will focus on the mountain bike, attempting to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

  • Albert delighted by Diegem victory

    Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) takes the win in Deigem
    Article published:
    December 24, 2011, 14:21 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian returns to form to give himself an early Xmas present

    Having been ruled out with a broken trapezoid bone in his hand for four weeks, Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) returned into action at the Gazet van Antwerpen round in Essen on December 17 and the World Cup round in Namur one day later. With two second places he achieved much more than expected. Less than a week later he completed his comeback to the top of the cyclo-cross scene with a clear victory in the dark cross in Diegem on Friday evening.

    “Before last weekend I certainly didn’t expect this but it turned out I was alright," he said. "While warming up today there was humor; I felt relaxed. I picked out this race to be good and I succeeded. I feel like racing. I’ve got a bag full of confidence and I hope to offer my entourage some great moments. From now on the only things that matter are the championships.”

    In two weeks Albert hopes to successfully defend his Belgian cyclo-cross title in Hooglede-Gits. It’s the same location as the 2007 cyclo-cross world championships, where Niels Albert finished as runner-up in the Men's Under 23 category behind Lars Boom (Rabobank).

    “The national championships are close. I checked out the weather forecast and there’s no frost expected. It’ll be a very muddy affair. It’s my chance to make up my season and put the team back on the map,” he said. Three weeks later there’s the world championships in Koksijde, Belgium. That race is held on a sand course, which are his preffered underground conditions. "Whenever there’s a sand section in a course I feel like a kid on the playground. I tend to ride well through the sand which showed today,” he...

  • UCI hopes for international growth in cyclo-cross

    Men's podium: Niels Albert, Sven Nys, Klaas Vantornout
    Article published:
    December 28, 2011, 10:13 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian domination bad for the sport?

    While the popularity of cyclo-cross in Belgium and the USA is strong, the lack of growth of the winter cycling discipline outside of these countries is of concern to cycling's governing body, the UCI.

    The UCI's off-road discipline manager Peter Van den Abeele decried the lack of international stars and international interest in cyclo-cross in an interview with De Zondag.

    "Out of the four disciplines I manage, cyclo-cross is only third," Van den Abeele said. "Mountain bike has 400 international races, cyclo-cross has about 150. It's big in only two countries - Belgium and the USA - but elsewhere it doesn't move. There should be six World Cup rounds outside of Belgium and two in three but it's almost the other way around."

    Currently, the podiums of all the top races are dominated by Belgians, and riders from other countries who rise to the top quickly leave the circuit for the more lucrative road scene: most recently Lars Boom, and perhaps in the future, Zdenek Stybar.

    Should the Czech world champion have followed Boom's example and curtailed his 'cross racing this season, there would no non-Belgian riders on any of the podiums of the three major series: the UCI cyclo-cross World Cup, the Superprestige Series and the Gazet van Antwerpen (GVA) Trophy. Van den Abeele sees this as a major problem.

    "There's the super high level in Flanders (Belgium). Riders and organizers are super professional, and that is a huge hurdle for the others. Try to climb over that as a non-Belgian," Van den Abeele said.

    "Secondly, there's the fact that cyclo-cross isn't an Olympic sport so there are no budgets and no investments. The result is that in Flanders everything is possible and...

  • Stybar not saying goodbye to 'cross

    Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep Cycling Team)
    Article published:
    December 28, 2011, 21:17 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Scaling back a possibility for the future

    Cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep Cycling Team) may not actually be ready to give up his focus on the discipline in favor of his road career in the 2012-2013 season. Contrary to previous reports where he indicated he might scale back his off-season racing, Stybar clarified after the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy race in Loenhout that he will not say goodbye to cyclo-cross entirely.

    "I didn't expect them to make such a big news item out of it," Stybar said in Loenhout of the reports based upon his previous comments. While former world champion Lars Boom has reduced his own 'cross schedule to just a few races per year, Stybar said he hasn't decided exactly how much he will race in the next 'cross seasons. "Everybody has his own approach. I'll do it my way," Stybar said.

    "Cyclo-cross is my life, my true love. This is certainly not my last cyclo-cross season but it might become a bit less. It's no farewell," Stybar said.

    "I didn't make a decision yet but I'll have to take it at some point. I have the chance to ride in a big team with the best people and the best riders in the world. Then you don't have to doubt too much. Next year I go for it."

    In the meanwhile, Stybar has bounced back from fatigue and has resumed his podium position, and is expected to fight to retain his rainbow jersey. He denied, however, that Omega Pharma Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere is putting any pressure on him to do so. "No, that's not true. I'll do everything I can to win it though," Stybar said.

    By racing cyclo-cross until February his 2012 road season is already in jeopardy. The 2013 season will be the first to make conclusions about his capabilities and future chances in for...

  • Boom supports Stybar in road career

    Dutch champion Lars Boom and world champion Zdenek Stybar on the attack
    Article published:
    December 30, 2011, 11:40 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Dutchman has no regrets of his own

    The controversy about the possible departure from top notch cyclo-cross rider Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep Cycling Team) often ends up at comparisons with that other former cyclo-cross star Lars Boom (Rabobank). The tall Dutch rider is currently riding a short cyclo-cross stint that should lead him to his sixth consecutive national title but nothing more. That approach seems necessary to avoid a burn-out halfway the road season. Former cyclo-cross world champion Boom feels Stybar should go flat-out for a career on the road, just like he did two years ago.

    “It’s a good decision for him as he’s a good road rider,” Boom said. “It’ s a risk though because he’s earning good money in cyclo-cross. He has to look at it as an investment.”

    Stybar hoped that combining the muddy meadows and the road was possible, but this season his somewhat moderate results and lack of punch seem to make him doubt. “Now he’s performing less good because of his training range on the road,” Boom said.

    The departure of another non-Belgian top cyclo-cross rider seems to turn the discipline into an even bigger Belgian affair. The lack of non-Belgians might represent bad publicity for the cyclo-cross discipline. “The cyclo-cross world is mostly a Belgian thing so that’s normal,” Boom said.

    Boom is one of the few riders who knows what it is to ride against the Belgians. The biggest races of the year are mostly held on their turf and for the local – often intoxicated – fans a foreigner is the perfect target. “It might...

  • Pauwels, Albert out of Leuven 'cross race with illness

    Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb - Revor)
    Article published:
    December 30, 2011, 15:07 GMT
    Cycling News

    Meeusen and Vantornout also suffering

    A number of riders will be missing from today's cyclo-cross race in Leuven, Belgium, as a series of illnesses are sweeping through the peloton. Kevin Pauwels, Niels Albert, Tom Meeusen and Klaas Vantornout have all had to cancel their appearances.

    Pauwels was hit by intestinal problems overnight, his team said. “Thursday he was still alive and well, but this night he suffered from diarrhea. Fortunately he doesn't feel sick otherwise.” 

    Like Pauwels, Albert didn't want to take any risks for the rest of the season. However, he has had a cold all week and now “the only cure is rest.”

    The Belgian champion was not happy to miss Friday's rest. “Leuven is almost my home, I live only 20 kilometres from the course.  Many of my fans live in this region.”

    Vantornout also has a bad cold, and missed Thursday's race as well. Meeusen has come down with a flu “in my whole body.  I have no strength and I feel awful.  I need to slow down.”

  • Vos takes over lead of women's UCI 'cross rankings

    Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) wins the World Cup round in Zolder
    Article published:
    December 30, 2011, 20:11 GMT
    Cycling News

    Pauwels extends lead over Nys in men's standings

    Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) extended his lead in the elite men's UCI 'cross rankings over compatriot Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) while for the first time this season Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) tops the elite women's standings, a position held in all the previous rankings by Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team).

    Pauwels' position was strengthened by his victory in the sixth round of the UCI World Cup in Zolder on Tuesday with a narrow sprint victory over world champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step). Pauwels also finished second at Superprestige Diegem last Friday which contributed to his points total of 2,380.

    Nys remains at second overall in the standings with 2,290 points. Nys finished third in the Zolder round of the World Cup after a crash entering the finishing straight prevented him from contesting the sprint against Pauwels and Stybar.

    Stybar holds third overall with 1.950 points while Belgian champion Niels Albert remains in fourth at 1,494.

    Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) remains the highest-ranked North American rider at 11th place with 924 points.

    The top five of the elite men's nation standings remains unchanged with Belgium in its familiar position atop the rankings at 6,164 points. France holds second with 2,972 points, 43 points ahead of third-placed Czech Republic.

    The red hot Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) has been on a tear of late and her series of victories, coupled with Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team) not contesting any races since the previous rankings were released, has moved the Dutchwoman into the lead for the first time this season. Since the previous rankings tabulation, Vos won the Zolder...