By Gerard Knapp in Belgium
Last weekend Canadian cyclist Lyne Bessette had lined up at Koksijde in Belgium just hoping to secure enough points to keep her Cyclo-Cross World Cup hopes bubbling, despite feeling the effects of a recurring virus after her flight back to Europe from North America earlier in the week.
Then it was back into the air for a flight across the Atlantic to the USA for the fifth round of the USGP series, this time in Portland, Oregon. But after this weekend of racing, the former Canadian road champion-turned-cyclo-cross specialist will be heading back to Belgium and this time to stay in Europe until the Cyclo-Cross World Championships, to be held in Treviso, Italy, on January 26-27, 2008.
"My goal is to get a front-row start [at the world's]," she said, warming down on her stationary trainer after the Koksijde round of the World Cup, "and to be healthy!" In the soft sand of the Koksijde course, Bessette finished a relatively disappointing twelfth, but wasn't too concerned. "I am still feeling sick. I had this sinus infection in the States and I'd just finished off my course of antibiotics. So I took the plane [from North America to Belgium] and my throat just flared up again."
The soft sand of the Koksijde course sapped the energy from the riders' legs, and there was no place to hide if not in 100% form. But Bessette believes that twelfth place in elite European competition is worth more towards her World Cup tally.
"Today I maybe did 100 points? So for me it's worth it [to race in Belgium]; I'd have to do about five races in the US to get that many." The more points, the better the starting position and that is paramount to her plans in the lead-up to Treviso.
Bessette's husband, US racer Tim Johnson, didn't go to Belgium last week but stayed training in the US and perhaps being in the one placed helped on Saturday, as he took out the elite men's race in the Portland round of the USGP series.
Clearly, all the travel catches up with these cyclists. Last weekend the current World Cup points leader, USA's Katie Compton, finished second in the World Cup race against the best in the world; this weekend back in Portland in a largely domestic competition, she was second again.
That is why Bessette is keen to get back to Belgium and stay there until the world's. Critical to staying away from home and family is to be in a good environment, and Bessette was effusive in her praise of her hosts in the Belgian village of Braine-le-Conte. She stays in the family home of her bike mechanic and friend, Michel Majorek, "and his mom's an awesome cook", she said. The training in the area is well-suited to preparing for cyclo-cross. "It's not too flat, you have the woods, and there are lots of nice races in the area, and it's not too far [from the major races]," said Majorek.
The former road champion – Bessette is a two-time winner of the Tour de L'Aude Femini, arguably one of the toughest stage races in women's cycling – is having an impact in cyclo-cross, since her first outing in domestic competition. She admitted her that her dismounts and running in her first race may have brought a few laughs from spectators, until she was able to re-mount and then gap the field and finish by two minutes.
Between now and the World Championships, Bessette will have another four opportunities to keep accumulating those UCI points, with the next round of the Cyclo-Cross World Cup.