Turning a new Page
The story of Jonathan Page's current season is an interesting one; the story begins with high hopes, a minor crash, then a major downturn, a risky return and two hopeful runner-up positions. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé talked to the determined American about his season so far, and his future plans.
It all started with a minor crash during his warm up before the first big race of the season, the world cup event in Aigle - right next to the UCI headquarters - on October 1st. Page described the mishap that put a major wrench in his season's plans, "It was a stupid little crash really. I was only going a mile per hour or so. I was purposely being cautious as I checked out the slippery turns."
"The problem was that I fell from a sloping downhill onto a flat ground. My front wheel slipped out and I fell just right (or wrong as it turns out) on my forearm/elbow. My shoulder dislocated. I blacked out for a few seconds, put my shoulder back into place, and then blacked out for a few more seconds."
Eventually, Page was brought over to hospital where the doctor misdentified his injury as a simple dislocated shoulder. "So I would just have to wear a brace for 3 weeks and then I'd be alright to race again. I figured on 2 weeks or less... But 2 weeks later, I couldn't pick my arm up myself yet, and when I tried to do the physical therapy that I was supposed to be able to do, my shoulder came out of joint every time and it was incredibly painful."
"My wife noticed that my arm and back were getting increasingly more bruised." Page continued, "I went to see a specialist and was surprised to hear that I would need surgery as soon as possible to repair a completely torn tendon. Two days later I went to surgery and there they found that I had not just one but two completely torn tendons (the two major ones) and had ruptured 8cm of muscle," Page explains about the minor crash and the major downturn.
The long, bleak winter
From that moment on, Page was told to stay out of competition for at least three months. He explained to Cyclingnews how he took care during that period "After a week of not being able to do anything really, I started training hard and then harder as my morale got better and better. Since I wasn't able to race, I was able to have a huge training camp and I think when I come back to racing, it is going to be very good for my form."
But training through this kind of rehabilitation has its own hardships. "It wasn't easy, especially during the weeks when I had to sit on the trainer, and I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to compete again this season or not - but I had a lot of support. It's been really nice in a tough situation."
"On the negative side, more than half of my income comes from start and prize money. I've been unable to race for more than 2 months. In addition, I have to pay my hospital and doctor bills out of pocket since I am still waiting for my visa papers (and insurance card that would come with those papers)."
"I have no road team for 2007 and have just my current situation with Cervélo and Adidas as individual cash sponsors for cross in 2007-2008. It is not enough to live on without start money and as I've seen this year, start money is far from a guarantee." Page was quickly losing hope that anything would come out of talks with possible new sponsors.
Page, in financial straights, and desperate to get attention from potential sponsors, decided to start at the US National championships in Providence, Rhode Island. "I will start to race at my National Championships if I cannot get a team to race for. This is very early and risky, but at this point it might be the only way to get my name out there again," Page explained to Cyclingnews.
Due to his lack at UCI-points Jonathan had an awkward starting position on the fourth row. In the front row was Ryan Trebon (Kona) – the hot (and tall) prospect who dominated the USA cyclo-cross scene this year. Trebon decided to attack the race right from the start, and while Page managed to move up through the pack steadily, when he got to the front Trebon was long gone.
"Honestly, in the beginning I was disappointed that I had only managed 2nd place, but on Sunday I realized that I ought to be happy… and proud," Page declared on his blog. One week later it was clear that Page was on the way back up again when the Belgian Morgan Blue – BSI team announced they would support Page for the rest of the cross season. "I hope I will get back to the form I had in the first few races of the season," Page said to Cyclingnews.
That early season form was impressive - three out of three top ten finishes. After his injury, his comeback in Europe started fairly well with an ninth place in Wachtebeke; but waned during the two next races in Veghel-Eerde and the world cup event in Hofstade where Page struggled with his bad starting position and finished only 13th and 18th. Something was wrong, and it was something that injured riders nearly always face during their comeback: the fear of crashing and ruining all their hard-earned hope.
The fear came to a head at GvA-trophy event in Loenhout. Before the race, his friend and mechanic Franky Van Haesebroucke knew that Page was scared; the muddy course was slippery as hell , a course he didn't like… crashes would happen everywherre. Page started off great, but gradually moved backwards through the bunch, until we couldn't see him anymore, and eventually abandoned the race… "I quit the race because I got scared… it is a simple as that," he declared afterward.
But the next day, Page seemed to put all of that behind him in Middelkerke on a course where last year Page managed a third place behind Sven Vanthourenhout (Rabobank) and Gerben De Knegt (Rabobank). The race, which is close to the North Sea, was quite cold and windy, hard and fast but technical, a course suited him. Right from the start Page managed to get himself in the leading group and he didn't fall from the top five at all during the second half of the race.
Eventual winner Bart Wellens (Fidea) managed to sneak away but the fight was on for second place. During the last lap, Page rode over the course like a mad man to battle it out with three Italians – and he didn't look scared at all. Eventually he grabbed a great second place ahead of Italian champion Enrico Franzoi (Lampre). Page proved that occasionally giving in to one's fear can have positive results. "Abandoning yesterday's race was the best decision I ever made; I admit I was scared yesterday but today I wasn't scared at all, I'm not afraid anymore," a smiling Page declared.
After Middelkerke, Page managed another second place in Pétange and a strong fifth place in Sint-Niklaas and a 9th in the Hoogerheide world cup. With less than a week to go, Page is back to his old self right in time for the world championships in Hooglede-Gits. A good result at the world's would end his season in style, and - together with his recent results – it could deliver him a team for the road season.