By Gregor Brown
Italian cyclo-cross specialist Enrico Franzoi will take a forced break from competition after injuries to his ankle caused him pain during the World Cup in Hofstade on December 26. The 25 year-old finished 14th in the event, however, severe pain in his left ankle, which he injured in a previous World Cup in Koksijde, has forced him to return to Italy rather than continue racing in Belgium.
The Lampre-Fondital rider, who will transfer to Liquigas as of 2008, injured his ankle during a crash in the first metres of the Koksijde World Cup at the end of November. Franzoi explained his decision to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday. "I would have liked to race tomorrow [Friday in Loenhout - ed.], Saturday and Sunday, but I will return to Italy and undergo magnetic resonance checks. I have to say that this problem worsens when I am running, while on my bike it is better. However, I have to remove any doubts."
The forced pause is a blow to the Italian Cyclo-cross champion, who wishes to make a good showing at the upcoming World Championships, January 27, in his home region of Veneto. It is now likely that he will alter his race schedule and skip the defence of his Italian title (January 6) to give his full focus to the World Championships, where he finished third in 2007. The last time the Worlds were held in Italy (in Monopoli) Franzoi struck gold as an under 23 rider.
"We will see," he continued. "It is too early to say that the Worlds are at risk. Certainly, I did not want this setback; it's upsetting. It really bothers me that I am only mentioned when there are problems, and the successes go ignored."
Franzoi's early-season was impressive thanks to a win in Lebbeke. "The attention that the media gives to 'cross is minimal consider the sacrifices that are made... Anyhow, I can't wait to vent this frustration on the bike."