By Brecht Decaluwé in Treviso
On Friday evening Cyclingnews caught up with 2007 Worlds silver medallist Jonathan Page in his Treviso hotel room, where he was getting ready to search for an Italian restaurant. The American overcame an injury-plagued season last year to rebound at the Worlds, and this year his season has been nearly as bad despite his being healthy. But Page thinks he's now poised to have a repeat resurgence in Italy.
The American hasn't had a good first half of the season, and was annoyed by the high expectations from his new Sunweb-Projob team. Matters finally came to a head in November, when Page made it clear at the Superprestige in Gavere that he was mentally exhausted.
After that race, Page and Sunweb team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen had a talk, and eventually both parties decided to re-negotiate Page's two-year contract with the Belgian professional team. From then on, the American's form has progressed steadily; first from bad to reasonable, and in the last month before the Worlds his performances and results were good, with an eighth place in last week's World Cup in Hoogerheide.
"Right now I'm mentally fine, much clearer in the head," said Page. "Maybe some have written me off and maybe I can turn that in my favour. I'd like to think that riders have more respect for me and do expect me to do well on Sunday."
Often a rider for the big occasions, Page's relatively fresh physical state stands to benefit him in the season's most important race, where he is capable of riding above his normal level. Contrast this with a rider like Sven Nys, who has been at the top of his capabilities all season long and seems to be having trouble holding that form.
"The bigger the race, the better I am," said Page. "I put pressure on myself. I focus on the task ahead and I thrive on the big day; it's the big show!"
The dry and fast course in Treviso isn't comparable to the muddy meadows of Belgium last year, but Page likes what he's seen on the practice run. "On Thursday I rode the course and I like it," he said. "I didn't race the World Cup in Treviso last year, so I can't compare. I was back home on the home trainer with my arm in a sling."
Page was referring to the physical setback he encountered last year after a crash during the warm-up of the first World Cup of the season in Aigle, Switzerland, where he tore two tendons and ruptured a muscle.
"A tough course favours the strongest riders," he added, "and I would've been up to my value on a course like that. I don't dislike the course though, it's just different than what we're used to in Belgium. In Treviso it will be more of a lottery than on other courses, so I need some luck. I think that a big group will remain together for a long time.
"Hopefully I'm featuring in that group and I'm not the guy who's going back and forward just behind them," Page smiled, thinking of the many occasions this year when he's been in such a position. "The main goal will be to avoid mistakes. If you slide in a corner then you can lose ten positions just like that."