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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, February 4, 2013

Date published:
February 4, 2013, 21:00
  • Floods risk forces changes to world cyclo-cross race programme

    A a temporary dam has been built to keep the Ohio River back
    Article published:
    February 1, 2013, 14:36
    Cycling News

    All races to be contested on Saturday

    The organisers of the UCI Cyclo-Cross world championships in Louisville, Kentucky have confirmed that all the races will be held on Saturday due to a risk of flooding on the course on Sunday.

    The revised race schedule was decided after meetings between the local authorities, organisers and the UCI. It means that the four titles will be contested on one day, at the following (local) times. The tight schedule means the medal ceremonies will be held at the end of the racing, following the Elite men's race.

    Forecast data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects that high water levels in the Ohio River will cause Beargrass Creek to flood the low lying areas of Eva Bandman Park in Louisville, in the early hours on Sunday morning and that water level will continue to rise for the subsequent 48 hours.

    Extraordinary measures are currently being done to ensure that the races will still be held in their entirety. All Sunday tickets will be honored at the gate on Saturday which will open at 8 a.m.

    "We have had some crazy weather this week - from tornados to snow... upstream there has been heavy rain and the Army Corps of Engineers is predicting the river will flood the course by 1am Sunday morning," technical director Joan Hanscom told Cyclingnews.

    "The Parks Department has taken extraordinary measures to build a temporary dam to keep the river back for Saturday. What they've done has been nothing short of miraculous. But mother nature can't be held back entirely."

    "All of the Sunday tickets will be honored on Saturday - the gates will open at 8am rather than 9. USA Cycling will be issuing refunds for any unused Sunday tickets."

    Race Schedule for Saturday February 2:

    Junior men: 9:45am
    Elite women:11:00am
    U23 men:12:30pm
    Elite men: 2:30pm.

  • Page in search of "magical" Saturday at 'cross Worlds

    USA Champion Jonathan Page was out for some motorpacing today
    Article published:
    February 1, 2013, 18:02
    Peter Hymas

    US champion gets pre-race boost as Fuji steps in with bike sponsorship

    For an uncomfortably lengthy stint of the current cyclo-cross season, Jonathan Page faced the grim prospect that perhaps something which had previously been a given in his years in the elite ranks, a start at the 'cross world championships, would not come to fruition. And this of all years, the first time in the history of the cyclo-cross world championships that not only would the event take place outside of Europe, but on American soil in Louisville, Kentucky.

    Adding insult to injury is the fact that Page is the only American to ever stand on the podium at the conclusion of an elite men's cyclo-cross world championship, a milestone achieved with his silver medal performance at the 2007 Worlds in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium.

    "It became quite apparent that there could be a world championship in America without Jonathan Page," Page told Cyclingnews. "It's not that I wasn't trying, I was sick from late October into almost the middle of December. Basically there were two respiratory infections, and I had to go on antibiotics two times in a row and that's just never good. I could not afford to stop racing so I would go to the races and suffer, but I wasn't even in the same race, so to speak."

    The season had already commenced under trying circumstances as Page had lost his title bike sponsor and scrambled to make ends meet with secondary sponsors. Still, Page found some success in his usual early season block of racing in the US with a pair of second place finishes plus six other results in which he was never worse than eighth, but after traveling to his residence in Oudenaarde, Belgium, for another European campaign, the results were nowhere to be found, curtailed by health issues.

    But Page is nothing if not resilient, particularly with his back against the wall. Come late December the only means for Page to ensure an automatic Worlds team selection was to place top-15 at a World Cup. Jeremy Powers, Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson seemed to be locks for the automatic bids earned by being the top-three ranked US riders on the UCI standings, and at this point Page wasn't planning on attending US nationals in mid-January, where the winner would also earn an automatic bid.

    Flickers of form began to flourish with a 12th place result on December 22nd at Belgium's GP Rouwmoer, but the following day provided the elusive automatic bid - a 15th place finish in Namur, Belgium at the fifth round of the World Cup. Six days later he finished fifth at the Versloys Cyclo-cross and on New Year's Day he notched another top-10 with a ninth place at the GP Sven Nys.

    Then Page received a lifeline to contest the US 'cross nationals in Wisconsin, setting into motion a season-salvaging string of events. "After my bicycle company [sponsorship] went through we were in some serious financial difficulties, so it wouldn't have been financially responsible of me to come back [to nationals]," said Page. "I wasn't planning on it, but ENGVT and Bob Downs of Planet Bike pitched in, they got me to the start line and I didn't have to worry about any financial burdens. I couldn't say enough and thank them for what they've done."

    Resplendent in an ENGVT skinsuit, the 36-year-old Page soloed to his fourth elite national championship win on a frigid, icy parcours, a long nine years since he'd previously earned a stars-and-stripes jersey. "This is the most satisfying victory of the four [elite] nationals wins. Myself and my family went through a lot this season and it feels good and gratifying to finish in the top spot. It's good for the whole family and the people who've supported me. It's a thanks to them, more than anything."

    More good news arrived this past Wednesday, as Page, who rode to his fourth national title on a bike with its logos taped over, announced that he'd received bike sponsorship from Fuji, who'll support him through Worlds to the end of this season (Page still has eight races in Europe to contest following the world championships).

    "On Saturday, about one hour before the race in Cincinnati, Miray [Galvez], the representative from Fuji, called me up and asked what I was looking for. I told them and then I wanted to see if they could do the turnover time and we agreed that we should try to figure it out. Then I went bike racing."

    And race he did, finishing fourth at the Cincinnati Kings International, just 23 seconds down on 2012 world champions Niels Albert.

    "They called me back and said they'd like to do it and yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), I got some bikes." Page now has an arsenal of Fuji Altamira CX 1.0s, Shimano-equipped and utilising cantilever, not disc, brakes.

    Following a block of frigid training post-nationals in New Hampshire, where Page, his wife and three children resided at his mother's house, Page and family arrived in the Louisville area last Sunday, one week prior to his world championship event.

    "Planet Bike pitched in again to help keep the family together, otherwise it would be a long time that I would be away. Once again, they came to our rescue." With his family gathered in Louisville, the Pages were able to celebrate their youngest daughter Pearl's second birthday on Thursday together as a family.

    "So far I'm very happy, the people here are very nice. The city of Louisville seems to be behind it, I've had an interview with the local television channel. All and all it's good. It's fun to go out and look at all the pretty horses and ride around in the countryside."

    Page is the only member of the US's elite men's Worlds team who's never raced turned a pedal in anger at Eva Bandman Park, the venue for this weekend's historic 'cross world championship. His teammates Jeremy Powers, Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Danny Summerhill and Jamey Driscoll all contested the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross weekend this past November, with Powers winning both days and Trebon, Summerhill and Johnson all finding the podium as well. Indeed, Powers estimates he's done 500 to 600 laps at the venue in recent years. Nonetheless, Page has been in Louisville since Sunday and has conducted his own recon of the Worlds venue.

    "It depends on the weather, of course. I like the looks of the course and I'm just happy about being in America and racing the world championships is very exciting," said Page. "I'm optimistic. I've been pretty much healthy and have got nothing but good thoughts. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain."

    Page speaks of "magical day", those rare outings every cyclist dreams of where the bicycle seems to pedal itself, such as the American experienced during his legendary 2007 'cross Worlds. "I know it normally the day before whether I'll have a good day or not," said Page. "I didn't have a magical day at nationals and haven't really had one this whole season, so I've saved it for the big day on Sunday [The race has moved to Saturday. - ed.], that's the way I'm thinking of it."

  • Rescheduled 'cross riders rolling with the punches

    This river is the problem.  It is projected to rise enough to flood parts of the park hosting 'cross Worlds on Sunday.
    Article published:
    February 1, 2013, 21:36
    Cycling News

    Racers adjust training for big day on Saturday at 'cross Worlds

    Expected flooding has caused a headache for the organisers of the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, and they were forced to move the elite men and women's races from Sunday to Saturday, but it seems most of riders whose events were shifted a day earlier are taking the situation in stride.

    The change is not because of harsh weather in Louisville, but because of the heavy rains to the north earlier in the week. The water is still draining into the Ohio River basin, slowly raising the level of the water at the riverside Eva Bandman Park course. It began creeping in overnight on Friday, and is expected to start engulfing the VIP tent by midnight on Saturday.

    Czech contender Katerina Nash previewed the course early Friday morning and said she was glad the riders were notified in plenty of time to adjust their training for the day.

    "It's not a big deal for the racers," Nash told Cyclingnews. "It's better to be safe than sorry - it's better to have the race."

    Nash has been in Louisville all week and has trained on the course in the changeable conditions: from mud earlier in the week to snow and ice this morning, but isn't sure what to expect for her 11:00 am start on Saturday, other than that the high water table will ensure it will be soggy.

    "It's pretty frozen today, so it was good to test it now in case it does freeze for tomorrow. Whatever happens, I don't expect it to be dry, so I feel well prepared for racing in any conditions."

    American Katie Compton also said the change was "a bit of a surprise", but was actually happy to get the race out of the way sooner.

    "I'm kind of happy to have the race a day earlier since waiting to race is hard too," Compton said. "The only thing it really changes is today's ride. I'll do everything I normally would to prepare for racing on Saturday now. Seeing that the weather has been so crazy all around the US the last few weeks, its not too surprising the river is going to flood the area.

    "I'm pretty good at being flexible and rolling with the punches. We all have to deal with the same changes so I don't think it's too much of an issue for the racers. I think the worst part is the shortened weekend and less time to enjoy it."

    Although riders compared the conditions early Friday to the US 'cross national championships, where there was a layer of ice underneath melting mud, Tobin Ortenblad, who will race the U23 event for Team USA, was not expecting things to stay the same.

    "I was a little nervous riding on the ice, but after being out there, it's a bit like riding sand and wasn't so bad," he said. The skies were clear on Friday, and although the temperatures were well below the freezing mark, the course was slowly thawing out.

    Unlike Madison, Wisconsin, where the US championships were held, the recent summer-like temperatures that preceded the cold snap means the earth is warmer below the surface.

    While the temperature is expected to stay below freezing overnight, it will slowly creep up as more clouds roll in. At race time it will be near zero (Celsius) with a 50 percent chance of snow.

    Although some riders from overseas earlier criticized the course as being too fast, it is clear that mother nature is intent on throwing up a challenge for the riders and race organisers.

  • Belgium's cyclo-cross dominance under threat

    Junior world champion Mathieu van der Poel has been undefeated thus far in the 2012-2013 'cross season.
    Article published:
    February 2, 2013, 01:08
    Laura Weislo

    Dutch take over development categories

    Belgium may be the historical heart of cyclo-cross, but its neighbor to the north may be poised to take its place in ‘cross dominance if the younger riders’ categories are any indication.

    The Netherlands has won more medals in the UCI cyclo-cross world championships junior men’s event than any other nation in history, and, taking into account only the past ten years, its under 23 men have surpassed the Belgians in the medal count.

    In addition, the Dutch women have dominated the medal count over the 13-year history of their event, netting six gold, three silver and six bronze medals.

    Its only problem now is keeping the top riders from following the example of Lars Boom and moving to a more lucrative road career.

    Coming into the 2013 event in Louisville, Kentucky, three Dutch riders are returning world champions: Marianne Vos, junior Mathieu van der Poel and the two-time U23 champion Lars van der Haar, who moves up to challenge for the elite men’s title.

    Vos has five ‘cross elite titles to her name, the first earned at age 18, and also happens to be fully capable of combining the discipline with a high level of success in road, track and - this year - mountain biking. Yet, even as reigning Olympic and road world champion, the 25 year-old from 's-Hertogenbosch still gets nervous before a championship event.

    “At the start line, everybody is the same, anyone can win and the championships of the past don’t count anymore,” Vos told Cyclingnews. “I do get nervous, but that’s what I like, that’s what I do it for.”

    How the Dutch have crept up on and are perhaps beating the Belgians at their own game comes down to the good training provided by the country’s cycling federation. By now, Vos knows exactly what she has to do to be in race-winning shape, and that knowledge gives confidence.

    Although cyclo-cross loses its popularity the farther north one travels from Belgium, the federation still puts ample support behind the discipline, and the proximity to the ‘cross hotbed allows riders to get more competition.

    “We have a good national team, we have good facilities and races from the youth categories on. I think that helps to develop the sport in Holland. It’s not as big as in Belgium, but it’s not so far away that we can’t take advantage of that,” Vos said.

    The growth of ‘cross in the Netherlands can be witnessed by the numbers in the youth and junior categories. Van der Haar is one of the most successful riders of the program, and although he is technically eligible to race in the U23 class for this championship, he chose to take on the added challenge of the elites after dominating the past two espoir seasons.

    Having new talent in the elite races has been a boon for the Dutch team, and van der Haar is committed to sticking with ‘cross.

    “I see myself staying in ‘cross,” he told Cyclingnews. “I am not interested in road - I don’t like it that much, I find it boring. I do road races in the summer, but I do it all as preparation for 'cross. I wouldn’t like it if I had to be good in the road. I only have to be good for one month for the [road] nationals, and then it’s all prep for ‘cross.”

    He also sees the Dutch surpassing the Belgians in terms of development, and one of those talents is the defending junior champion van der Poel.

    One of the most exciting talents to hop a barrier, the 18-year-old son of former road Classics specialist turned ‘cross world champion Adri van der Poel is also the grandson of legend Raymond Poulidor. His pedigree and dedication to the sport has resulted in something perhaps unprecedented in ‘cross: an undefeated season.

    How does he do it? Van der Poel can’t answer, he says, “I just race like I should, and live for the racing, so maybe that’s why I am that good.”

    It is clear that van der Poel’s dominance isn’t the result of a lack of competition, either. His lap times on the World Cup courses have been on par with the fastest elite men. However, he is not planning to skip over the U23’s and move up next season.

    “I’ve never done an elite race, but we’ve compared some lap times and then we can see that the step should be easy to make, but we will see that next year when we race the U23s.”

    Belgium may still be the dominant country in the elite men's 'cross category, but in a few years the situation could be very different. The visit of 'cross Worlds to the USA has heightened the popularity here, and will only serve to add more competition from outside Belgium to the field.

    The visit of the world championships to the USA is something that is good for the sport, says Vos, but not one that riders should see as an unnecessary burden. “It’s good to see all the Americans so excited about their championship. But in the end it’s the same, it’s the cyclo-cross Worlds, everyone is on the same course and then it doesn’t matter where it is.”

  • World ‘cross champions praise American experience

    Louisville cyclocross fans were out in big numbers today
    Article published:
    February 3, 2013, 01:05
    Laura Weislo

    Wild fans recreate Belgian energy in Louisville

    What they lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm. Lining the course of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships from the early morning junior race through the late afternoon elite men's event, screaming themselves hoarse, clanging bells and blowing horns, crowds in Louisville may have been a sixth of what Belgium produced in Koksijde for last year’s event, but many of the competitors praised the American fans for their non-partisan support, and the ebullient atmosphere they created.

    Although American Katie Compton was one of the top favourites to win a world title on home soil, she suffered a less than ideal first lap and had to settle for a distant second place. Marianne Vos (The Netherlands), who beat Compton, may not have realized that her exploits - five straight world championship victories as well as road and Olympic titles - have earned her great respect and admiration over here, and equally ear-splitting cheers from the fans.

    “I have to say, the Americans were really cool and cheering for me, too,” Vos said with a smile. “Becoming world champion is an amazing feeling, it’s different because it’s the first time overseas, and that makes it special.”

    Klaas Vantornout, who rode to second behind his Belgian teammate Sven Nys in the elite men’s race, was equally impressed by how the fans supported every rider.

    “When I rode the course before the race, the atmosphere was great. It was special. It was another atmosphere like Belgium. The people supported everyone, and it was very nice to ride here.”

    Nys was impressed with the amount of support and respect he got from the American fans in the week that he was here, and enjoyed the race-day enthusiasm.

    “There was a good atmosphere, everyone was yelling for all the riders, and that’s what we want for the world championships,” he said.

    “I felt before the race that I got respect from all the fans over here, and I felt really calm and that’s what I needed to win this race.

    “For me it’s the best race of my career! The race itself was a European – it was hard, technical and it was a nice world championship race. It was difficult until the end.”

    Nys has been working to help promote the sport internationally, and this year joined the UCI’s new athlete commission. He acknowledged that hauling a team’s worth of gear across the Atlantic for one day of racing was a lot of work for every European country, but thinks it will be worth it.

    “I hope a lot of cyclo-cross fans saw this race and the young guys are now motivated to also do ‘cross. It was little stressful for the riders to do all this in one day, but that is what we want, to promote the sport.

    “For me it’s special, I’m not the youngest anymore. I try to do a lot of things for ‘cross, to promote our sport. To win here is maybe more special than to win in the home country. Maybe here, there were five, six thousand people, but I felt that the respect I got here that it helped me a lot.”


  • Miracle workers rescue cyclo-cross Worlds from flood

    What was the course is now part of the Ohio River.
    Article published:
    February 3, 2013, 21:00
    Cycling News

    Louisville crews held off the mighty Ohio River

    It was a scenario nobody could have predicted: maybe it was global warming, vengeful Belgians poking voodoo dolls or simply the winds of fate, but the Ohio River was going to flood the venue for the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville, there was no doubt.

    The cause was an unusual storm system that dumped heavy rain in the northeastern United States where normally there would be snow in early February. The water was coming from hundreds of miles upstream, slowly but surely swelling the river and pushing it up the banks and into the carefully planned, UCI-approved circuit at Eva Bandman Park.

    Without quick thinking, without teamwork and without rapid deployment of all available resources, the racers would have needed snorkels and fins to race at the scheduled time on Sunday. But thanks to the city of Louisville, its Mayor, Parks Department and Metro Sewer Department, the mighty Ohio was held back by what can only be described as The Great Wall of Louisville.

    Three feet wide, three feet deep and four feet tall, the sand-filled bins were erected along the water’s edge in the lowest lying section of the course, keeping the water at bay during the four championship races on Saturday. In the end, four worthy champions who were crowned, the bigger than expected crowd of 10,000 had a blast, and USA Cycling’s Micah Rice was overjoyed that the event had been pulled off so well.

    “I think that considering the hand we were dealt on this event, it couldn't have gone better. It was a heck of an event today and I could feel the excitement from the fans and riders alike,” Rice told Cyclingnews

    Still sporting mud on his coat courtesy of a post-race bear-hug by Louisville local Andrew Dillman, who raced the U23 event, Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation deputy director Marty Storch was clearly enjoying watching the elite men’s race after two intense days of reacting to the sudden prediction of floods.

    Storch explained that the initial forecast on Wednesday was for a river height of 15 feet, 9 inches. The crews went down to the lower part of the course and marked the elevation on trees and decided the race would be fine. But then, the prediction changed on Thursday at 1pm - to a level almost two feet higher for Saturday, even higher on Sunday.

    “I walked down in the woods and looked where 17’6” was, and decided we were absolutely going to be in trouble. That’s when I called the UCI, and Micah Rice and said we need to have a meeting.”

    The team met, formulated a plan to hold back the water for Saturday’s racing, and decided to reschedule the Sunday elite races to Saturday in order to be safe.

    “We were looking at 19’8 [for Sunday. When it peaks out on Monday or Tuesday the entire basin will be flooded. We could not have raced Sunday. In some areas it would have been waist high. I feel very good about the decision that had to be made. It would have been horrible if we hadn’t,” Storch told Cyclingnews.

    “It wasn’t just me, there were a lot of people who made this happen. If Metro Sewer Department (MSD) didn’t step in, if my crew, the volunteers and the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t step up, we wouldn’t be here. That’s what it took to avoid a catastrophe. That’s the best part, nobody ever panicked.”

    He was able to call upon the MSD, which is responsible for the watershed control, and mobilize a team of crews to begin erecting an impromptu, temporary dam built from fencing and wooden posts, each bin filled with 1750 pounds of sand.

    Even with the wall, the course had to be altered slightly to remove the lowest portion, and several inches of mulch spread on the sloppiest part of the course. It was all in the name of pride so that Louisville could put on a top notch, world-class event.

    “It’s been a lot of sleepless nights, but now I’m feeling really good about it, and I’m able to enjoy it and relax.”

    Rice was also proud that the USA showed it can not only put on a professional event despite all adversity, it could attract a wildly enthusiastic crowd of knowledgeable fans. “I definitely think it was a worthwhile investment and from my conversations with the UCI I feel it has opened doors for more international events in the future. I am really proud of American Cyclo-cross right now!”

  • Owen rues missed opportunity at 'cross Worlds

    Logan Owen moved up dramatically on lap three
    Article published:
    February 4, 2013, 00:06
    Peter Hymas

    US junior champion finishes just shy of podium

    If there was a gold medal offered for heart, resilience and determination from Saturday's junior men's cyclo-cross world championship few would dispute that American Logan Owen would be the recipient. The eight-time US junior 'cross champion had carefully crafted his season so as to be at his physical and mental peak for a 40-minute slugfest against Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel, but circumstances within both the opening minute and closing laps culminated in heartbreak for the 17-year-old American.

    Ranked second in the world and a third place finisher in this season's World Cup, Owen was a favourite in his own right for a medal on home soil, but he finished fourth, four seconds shy of bronze medalist Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic).

    "It's really disappointing because I know I'm so much better than that," said Owen. "It's not what I wanted but you can't do anything about it."

    A near false start followed by a crash in the opening minute put Owen in a deep hole, but he'd clawed his way to a podium finish in the second World Cup round in Plzen, Czech Republic after being dealt a similar hand in the opening seconds.

    "At the end of the red lights I thought the last red light was the green one, so I was getting ready for it," said Owen of his start line miscue. "And as soon as I saw it appear I didn't look at the color and I went, then stuttered. So I stopped, then it went green and I got swarmed.

    "I was mid-pack and then moved up on the [first] straightaway, just powered it, got to like fifth place behind the Belgians. Then some German kid came up on the inside and took me out in the corner down there. I moved back to mid-pack then I had to battle from about 20th to the group racing for third."

    Riding with a bloodied left knee from his crash with Germany's Marco König and roaring along amidst a thunderous wall of sound from the partisan crowd at Eva Bandman Park, Owen proceeded to move back into medal contention after two remarkable laps. While van der Poel and Dutch teammate Martijn Budding had a lock on gold and silver, with two laps to go Owen made contact with the riders vying for third place: Belgium's Yannick Peeters and Nicolas Cleppe plus the Czech Republic's Adam Toupalik.

    Then disaster struck.

    "The chain problem started with about one and a half to go in the woods," said Owen. "My chain came off and I had get off and unwrap it. That's when all the Belgians and the Czech kid got about 10 seconds on me. I pulled it back in one lap, got right back up there, but the next thing I know the Czech kid had attacked the Belgian kid. I dropped the Belgian kid and was just chasing the entire last half lap.

    "I was closing it in, closing it in, and I just ran out of room. If we had one more lap I think things would have been different, but it was just too many things for me to overcome today and I did my best with what I had.

    "It's kind of like the Seahawks game," added the Washington native. "They come back, get really close to winning, and winning for me at this point was third place, and have it taken away right at the end."

    Nonetheless, competing in a historic cyclo-cross world championship on home soil was a memorable experience for Owen.

    "I couldn't hear myself think," said Owen of the crowd noise. "It was great having everyone out there. It was just so motivating. If I didn't have that crowd here I don't think I could have done what I did today."

    "I'm proud of him," Marc Gullickson, USA Cycling's Mountain Bike & Cyclo-cross Program Director, told Cyclingnews. "He rode well and he rode his heart out. He put himself in a hole right there at the start. I've seen him do that before in Plzen when he gifted those guys a minute at the start and still got third. In this case I had confidence he'd come back, and he did, but by the time he got back to those two Belgian guys it was so late in the race. Then he dropped his chain and it's tough to come back from a mishap like that at the end of a world championship.

    "He'll learn from it, he's a super-tough guy and he'll be back. It's too bad he missed his opportunity here."

    The sense of disappointment was palpable in Owen as he fielded questions on the race course, a short distance past the finish line, wondering what might have been.

    "I'm happy with third place in the World Cup overall, that's pretty cool, but I really wanted a podium here at Worlds. I feel like I let a lot of people down. I'll come back next year even stronger."

  • Dutch top medal count at Louisville 'cross Worlds

    Marianne Vos (NED) with a gap on lap two
    Article published:
    February 4, 2013, 20:57
    Laura Weislo

    Three gold medals won out of four

    Having won three of the four races in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, plus a silver and a bronze, the Netherlands led the medal count for the second consecutive year.

    Aside from Marianne Vos's sixth rainbow jersey in the women's race, the Dutch were top two in the juniors with Mathieu van der Poel and Martijn Budding, won the U23s thanks to a tenacious ride by Mike Teunissen, and Lars van der Haar was third in the elites.

    In addition, van der Poel and Budding were top two juniors in the World Cup this year, and although van der Haar's early exit from the U23 ranks left the door open for Belgium's Wietse Bosmans to dominate the World Cup and UCI rankings, van der Poel will graduate to the espoirs next season.

    It's a resurgence for the neighbors to the north of the heart of cyclo-cross, Belgium, but Dutch coach Johan Lammerts is concerned that his pipeline of talent in the younger ranks will be siphoned off by the more lucrative road racing scene.

    It's happened in the past: previous Dutch world champions include Lars Boom and Boy van Poppel - both of whom left ‘cross for the road, leaving the Belgians to stack the Worlds ‘cross podium in the elite men's ranks.

    What is the Dutch federation doing to build so much success in ‘cross? Coach Johan Lammerts couldn't pin it down. "We've been working hard on it. I don't do it myself. I have tons of people who were working towards this event," he told Cyclingnews. "Maybe the competition is a little less, or maybe we have better riders, but they work hard - they train hard."

    The team came to the USA well in advance of the championships, which helped them recover from the jetlag in time, but Lammerts also think the wild swings in weather benefitted the Dutch.

    "We adapted quite good to the weather circumstances. That is something that we have in Holland, this kind of variety in weather."

    Yet the success came not only in Louisville, but throughout the season, especially for van der Poel who went undefeated for the entire year. At 18, he turns laps as quick as the elite men and looks poised to be the Dutch equivalent of Eric De Vlaeminck, who handed Belgium a record seven elite men's ‘cross titles, six of them consecutive.

    "In the past five years with the younger categories we do every well, and the women of course with Marianne Vos we are dominating. I just hope those younger riders keep riding in cyclo-cross because sometimes they switch to the road and it's disappointing sometimes for me. On the other hand it's understandable.

    "In Belgium cyclo-cross is quite big, and with that comes money. That makes the difference.

    "It is popular in Holland, but it could improve, and our success here is important for next year's world championships [in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands]. We've been working hard to do extra marketing for the sport. The only thing I can do is the technical aspect, and hope that those results get more sponsorship and more attention from the media."

    Lammerts can count on van der Haar to remain in the discipline. The 21-year-old winner of two consecutive U23 rainbow jerseys has vowed to stick with ‘cross. He moved up to the elites a season early to get more of a challenge, and his tenacious, punchy style earned him the nickname "Jack Russell" (after the terrier) by Sporza commentator Michel Wuyts.

    Van der Haar was pleased to show in Louisville that he's more than just a sprinter who chases after the wheels of the other riders with his ride in the mud this past Sunday.

    Of his nickname, he said, "It's funny - I am small, and I do like to get on the wheel and not let go, so it does fit a bit. But at the end of the season I was on the front too, so maybe I'm turning into a pit bull."