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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, December 19, 2011

Date published:
December 19, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Albert to return to cyclo-cross in GvA Trofee, World Cup

    Superprestige Ruddervoorde winner Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus)
    Article published:
    December 16, 2011, 19:59 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian champion hoping for top 10 in Essen and Namur

    After one month away from the cyclo-cross circuit, Belgian champion Niels Albert will make his return at the GVA Trofee - GP Rouwmoer
    in Essen and the UCI World Cup round in Namur this weekend.

    Albert was hit by a car while training and suffered a broken bone in his hand on November 15, but is not nervous about coming back to top competition after four weeks away.

    "I've missed cyclo-cross," Albert told "I love riding in the field and above all missed the atmosphere around the whole thing and the fans."

    Albert said he isn't expecting to keep up with the best riders, but is not afraid to test himself. He has set a measure of success for the weekend. "If I can make the top 10 in Essen and repeat that in Namen, my weekend will be more than successful," Albert said.

    "I especially want to see where I stand and not pin myself to a certain place in the results."

    "With this weather it will be incredibly heavy in Namur. I'm still fresh, so maybe I will have an advantage in that I can recover quickly."

    Albert is hoping that he can build his form over the Christmas and New Year's races, and win one of the rounds to build toward the Belgian championships where he will defend his national title.

    "The national championships in January will be incredibly important. I am confident that I will be on top form."

  • Orange Babies Cyclo-cross Team steps up for African mothers with HIV

    Frank Groenendaal runs the Orange Babies Cycling Team
    Article published:
    December 16, 2011, 20:46 GMT
    Christine Vardaros

    Dutch team's cause inspired by manager's HIV experience

    "When I was diagnosed with HIV, they gave me from six months to five years to live," said 45-year old Orange Babies Team Manager Frank Groenendaal. "That was eighteen years ago."

    Now Groenendaal stands strong as both the manager and racer of a Netherlands-based professional cyclo-cross team that promotes a cause close to his heart. Orange Babies is a non-profit Dutch organization that supports HIV infected women and their babies in Africa.

    Among Orange Babies' many services are helping pregnant mothers to prevent the passing of HIV to their unborn children, providing the mothers with baby formula, developing and supporting education programs, and setting up clinics for further treatment and prevention.

    While cycling teams typically promote "for-profit" businesses, Orange Babies Cycling Team took the chance to venture into rarely tapped territory – a non-profit as title sponsor. This was not the original plan but rather it came about just after the team was formed as a resulting merger of three existing teams:, Merida and Champion System-LBS.

    When deciding which sponsor should assume title role of the newly formed team, Groenendaal found it such a tough decision to choose amongst the current sponsors that he ultimately decided to go with an outside company. At his good friend's suggestion of Orange Babies, Groenendaal immediately took to it as the organization's mission is something he could completely put his support behind.

    "I am very proud that we can promote Orange Babies through this team. It is a small organization that's giving help right at the spot where it is needed. And it's very effective. While in Africa, infected people – including pregnant women - are literally thrown out of the community because everyone is afraid of HIV. In South Africa, I heard that more than 20% of the people have HIV which I find incredible."

    According to Groenendaal's personal experiences, HIV stigma may...

  • Recharged Wellens wins in Essen

    Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea)
    Article published:
    December 17, 2011, 22:45 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Time off pays off for Belgian 'cross star

    On Saturday afternoon, Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) captured one of the most surprising wins of the cyclo-cross season. The fists from the 33-year-old Belgian went through the air a couple times when he finally reached the finish line of the GP Rouwmoer in Essen, Belgium, after a tough battle through the muddiest course of the European season so far.

    Wellens won the fourth round of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy, his first big win in two seasons. Luck was on the side of the veteran racer in Essen as cyclo-cross star Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) abandoned while leading the race during the penultimate lap due to a mechanical.

    Wellens' win came after five hectic weeks in which he twice thought about ending his career. After another lackluster performance during the World Cup round in Igorre, Spain, Wellens had opted to skip weekend of racing.

    "Did I believe in it? The people around me believed in it. [After Igorre] I didn't feel right anymore. I'd gone very deep, and I was arriving at the races with fear in the back of my mind; I wasn't able to dig deep," Wellens said.

    "Although many people blamed me for not riding last weekend, I needed that to get back on the right track. I felt I was going better, and today everything went my way. Before the race, I stated that winning in Essen would be a miracle... I needed a super day and the big four [Nys, Albert, Stybar and Pauwels] needed to have some sort of problems. This win is very nice, but maybe it's not good that I won right away. I have to thank a huge amount of people which I will not do by name because I would forget some of them, and I don't want to do that," Wellens said.

    A little later, Wellens got more specific and named physiotherapist Albert Volders. "He's a guy of the old school. When a rider feels pain and shouts,...

  • Stybar ashamed of Essen 'cross results

    Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) rides to a 6th place finish.
    Article published:
    December 18, 2011, 10:18 GMT
    Cycling News

    “No explanation” for difficulties this season

    Things are going from bad to worse for Zdenek Stybar.  The cyclo-cross World champion finished14th in Saturday's GVA Trofee race in Essen, Belgium, nearly three and a half minutes behind winner Bart Wellens.

    “Shamed about my race today, before so many supporters. I'm sorry for them. I have no explanation about my results:( “ he tweeted.

    He recently attended the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team meetings and presentation but skipped the team-building in favour of training on Mallorca and working on his fitness.  “I hope we’ve now found a good balance. I’m not expecting miracles, but I do hope that I’ll race with a better feel. Actually, it couldn’t get much worse...” he wrote on his website last week. He has put the blame on his full road season in 2010.

    It didn't work out, though. He got the fastest start on Saturday and was up with the leaders until not only falling out of the lead but falling further and further back.

    “Mentally it was really tough today,” he said, according to his website. “It's been a long time since I've thought about quitting. The fans kept me in the race. I have to thank them for their support.

    “I love cycling in this area,” he continued. “I have a lot of fans here. As far as the race goes: I'm going to forget about it as quickly as possible. I have to keep believing that there's nothing wrong and that I just keep having a bad day. Right?”

    Stybar will try his luck again on Sunday at the World Cup race in Namur.

  • Powers heads south for warmer weather training camp

    Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) takes his second win of the weekend and earns the USGP Championship
    Article published:
    December 18, 2011, 22:00 GMT
    Neil Browne

    USGP overall winner prepares for US Nationals and Worlds

    After a successful weekend of racing in Bend, Oregon, at the Exergy USGP which netted him back-to-back wins as well as the overall Exergy USGP series victory, Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) decided to head to the southeast for a short training camp before his next block of racing.

    "This time it's a little bit earlier than last year," said Powers. "Because this year there's more racing in the States and (cyclo-cross) nationals is pushed to January, so I'm down here to train in Athens, Georgia, for the warmer weather."

    Powers will have company as he's staying at the home of Kenda/5-Hour Energy's Phil Gaimon. In tow is his coach Rick Crawford, who will be driving the scooter for some motor pace training. "We're going to beat it down!" Powers said ecstatically regarding his upcoming southeast training block.

    The Rapha-Focus rider describes his cyclo-cross season so far as going, "according to plan" which includes the aforementioned wins in Bend and the overall USGP victory, but also wins at Nittany Lion Cross, the Gateway Cross Cup and a 10th place finish at the first World Cup race in Plzen of the Czech Republic. He credits that to taking breaks and some good fortune.

    "I've also been really lucky to not have had any mechanical issues - everything came together really well. And winning the USGPs back-to-back was really nice." Other than being lucky and not suffering with mechanicals or injury, Powers also gives credit to better energy management.

    "It's not going out and doing things like I used to do. There's been a refinement every year as I've gotten...

  • Albert more than happy with two second-place finishes

    Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) on his way to second
    Article published:
    December 19, 2011, 16:43 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian 'cross champion successful upon return from injury

    Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) astounded himself with his successful return to cyclo-cross racing this weekend following a one-month injury lay-off. “I had not really expected to be on the podium twice,” the Belgian national champion said.

    He lost a month of the season when he was hit by a car whilst training, suffering a broken wrist.  Albert returned to racing this past weekend, finishing second in both the GVA Trofee-GP Rouwmoer and the World Cup race in Namur.

    “I would have been satisfied with two top-ten results,” he said, according to the Belga news agency.  “These results, and especially the way they were achieved, are so formidable.  They are proof that I worked during my inactivity.”

    He delivered an exciting duel with eventual winner Sven Nys in the finale in Namur on Sunday.  “In the descent before the finish, I was not fast enough with my pedals, and Sven sat on my rear wheel. When he accelerated, I couldn't keep up.  But it went better in Namur than in Essen, which is more than hopeful.”

    Albert will continue racing over the holidays to build up to the Belgian championships in January.

  • Stybar regains confidence with fifth place finish in Namur

    Zdenek Stybar (QuickStep) covered in mud.
    Article published:
    December 19, 2011, 19:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Saturday's poor showing just “a bad day”

    Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) is happy again after finishing fifth in Sunday's World Cup cyclo-cross race. After declaring himself “ashamed” of his poor showing Saturday in Essen, he then proceeded to “cycle the doubts away” the next day.

    He finished only fourteenth in Essen, and afterwards said “Shamed about my race today” and that “I have no explanation about my results.”

    However, things went much better in the mud in Namur, and Stybar regained his confidence as the reigning world champion finished only 32 seconds down on winner Sven Nys.

    The Czech purposely held back the first part of the race, making his move on the sixth lap. Catching the leaders, he stayed with them and even launched an attack of his own, which his rivals quickly countered.

    He faded on the last lap but was not disappointed with the race. “The doubts are gone,” he said on his website. “I'm happy that I can race at my normal level. I shouldn't think about skipping any 'crosses now.

    “Yesterday?  That must have just been a bad day.”

    The world champion went on optimistically, “I think I'm back on track now and will get a little better with each race. That's what I hope at least. In any case I have my self-confidence back.  I'm already looking forward to Friday's race in Diegem.”

  • Video: Johnson evaluates sole 'cross focus

    Tim Johnson ( racing his Cannondale Super X Disc prototype in Los Angeles
    Article published:
    December 19, 2011, 22:25 GMT
    Laura Weislo

    American hoping for a turn around after deliberate slow start

    Tim Johnson's cyclo-cross season has been unusual: normally by mid-December, the former US champion would have a dozen victories and top European results to his palmares, but until November 27 this year Johnson had gone winless.

    This year was supposed to be different: the 34-year-old gave up his road season this summer to focus all of his efforts on cyclo-cross, but so far the pay-off hasn't come, and Johnson has struggled to achieve the kind of results that put him 17th in the world at the end of last season.

    It was an intentionally slow start to the year, however, and the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld rider is feeling motivated to make the most out of the remainder of the season.

    "The idea of not doing as much road was ... instead of racing for 11 months out of the year and doing it kind of mediocre at times, I wanted to focus on 'cross so I could try and be better during the season," Johnson told Cyclingnews at the Exergy USGP finale in Bend, Oregon last week.

    "I still have 10 races to go this year, and almost all of them at the World Cup level. I've got a lot to do, and I still have motivation and energy to do that. In years past I didn't have that."

    Johnson admitted that it has been mentally difficult to come away from the early part of the season with only two wins and a handful of podiums.

    "I was planning on it, but it was still tough to deal with," he said. Next year he will continue to focus on cyclo-cross, but add in some more road racing and start his season a bit stronger. "Instead of coming into form in November, hopefully I can enjoy a little bit better of an October."

    Currently in Belgium for the World Cup, Johnson didn't have his best day in