€3,000 purse too small for some
A storm is brewing around the Belgian national cyclo-cross championships, and it's not the kind that creates the mud and suffering that makes 'cross what it is. Instead, it's a storm of protest surrounding the prize money for the January 6 event in Hofstade.
According to Sporza.be, Fidea's team manager, Hans van Kasteren is leading a planned protest over the €3,000 prize purse, claiming that the Belgian federation is walking away with a pocket full of money while the riders are being shortchanged. "Boonen wouldn't even ride a half a lap of a criterium for that amount of money," complained Van Kasteren.
"Three thousand euro's prize money, while the federation walks away with the fattest cheque. That is no longer tolerated in this day and age," Van Kasteren said.
Van Kasteren has threatened a boycott of the championships before, but through the Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg he has re-voiced his complaints. "In August we meet with the federation," said Van Kasteren, "now a month before the championships we hear that: 'We forgot to make a note of that.' This discussion has been going on for years and we are tired of it."
The Fidea manager has threatened the federation with a protest unless they up the prize purse to 25,000 euros. "The riders will start the race because they are required to, but pulling out after 200 meters, no one can stop them doing that," Van Kasteren shrugged. "What we are asking? That the federation gives up the TV rights or divides a prize pot of 25,000 euro's between the under 23's and the elite," he continued
Van Kasteren claimed that all the professional riders were backing the protest, but top 'crosser Sven Nys was lukewarm to the idea. "I am absolutely a supporter of a healthy discussion about the prize money," he told Sporza.be, "but I want to talk about it without an ultimatum in the form of a boycott."
Nys agreed that the prize purse was too small, but insisted he would race. "[The prize purse] needs to be adapted to this day and age and the value of the championship," Nys said. "Regardless, I will start in Hofstade with the ambition of becoming the Belgian champion," he concluded.
The Belgian Federation's chairman Laurent De Backer reacted to the threat, telling Sporza.be, ""What a load of nonsense!" De Backer continued, "The amount of prize money is not 3,000 but 6,000 Euros... I remain ready to talk - but with the racers, not with Van Kasteren."
Current Belgian champion Bart Wellens threw his weight behind the proposed boycott, saying that the teams need to band together to get results, but the discussion should come from the management. "I think it's not the riders who must talk to the federation. Let the managers do that," Wellens said, but continued that the riders and managers must all have the same mind set or they will get no results.. "I want to convince everybody to pull together, - It's everybody or nobody," Wellens told Gazet van Antwerpen.
"Apparently some of the racers don't have the nerve", Wellens said. "We all want to earn more, but without causing a split. That won't work."