By Kirsten Robbins
Reigning Italian cyclo-cross champion, Marco Aurelio Fontana will compete in his green, white and red barred jersey for the first time on November 1 at the Koppenbergcross. The Belgian event is round one of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee (GvA) held near Oudenaarde, Belgium.
"There are some events that I must do with my national team, but I will race this year mainly for Guercotti," said the 23-year-old, who is in his fourth year with the team. "For me, Paolo Guercotti is the Enzo Ferrari of cyclo-cross. He is the history of this sport here in Italy. He is very passionate and a real fan of cyclo-cross - I'm proud to race under this jersey."
His 2008-09 'cross schedule includes a select number of GvA events along with five world-cups and five Superprestige events. Ultimately, his focus is on winning a second elite national title in Modena, Italy and on performing well at the World-Championships held in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.
After several junior and U23 national titles in cyclo-cross and mountain biking, Fontana won his first elite cyclo-cross championship held in Scorze in January of this year. After winning the national title, Fontana continued to add to his resume capturing a 6th place at the 2009 Treviso World Championships followed by a 5th place at the Beijing Olympic Games in the mountain bike race.
The young rider frequently stood on the podium beside the three-time former national champion Enrico Franzoi. However, when news circulated that Franzoi was unable to start the 2008 championship event due to a foot injury, it seemed natural that Fontana would be the next rider to take his place.
"Winning the national championship was an incredible sensation because it makes you feel like you are the strongest rider in Italy," said Fontana. "All the other titles have no value anymore. Now people see me as a national champion and no longer as the kid who used to bunny hop barriers and pop wheelies at the finish line."
After his success in 'cross and his high finish in the Olympic mountain bike race, Fontana will tailor his 'cross races towards preparation for a successful 2009 mountain bike season and future 'cross titles. "I will only do fifteen races, my nationals and the world championships," said dual talent. "I want to be on the top level performance in January," he continued. "My goals for 'cross are to win a world cup race and then maybe in the next few years the world championships."