By Kirsten Robbins
American cyclo-cross talent Jonathan Page has returned to his country, pegged as a favorite to win the 2008 US national cyclo-cross championships held in Kansas City, Missouri on Sunday. The multi-time national champion is best known for being the first North American to stand on the elite world championships podium, claiming the silver medal in 2007. According to Page, his 'cross form has arrived – at just the right time.
He arrives at the championship event fresh off of a respectable 13th place in the fifth round of the World Cup held in Igorre, Spain last weekend. "I didn't have a good start there but I came through the group well," Page said, who has typically been known to pick up good form in the December and January months. "It was a very hard race. I haven't been too happy with the season so far. The last four weeks have been difficult, either being sick or having bad luck. But, I feel good now. I'm just starting my season."
Last year's race came down to a dramatic showdown between Page and Tim Johnson. A bobble on the last lap gave Johnson the slim advantage he needed to claim the prestigious stars and stripes jersey. According to Page, who races 'cross full time on the European circuit, the only person he is worried about this year is his himself.
"I don't study the American results when I'm over in Belgium," said Page, whose full-time overseas schedule leaves him little chance to compete on the US circuit. "But from what I've been hearing, there have been different people winning all year. I never know what to expect when I come back for nationals, I just have to worry about me. But I think the course will dictate the selection of riders right away."
The course his held in Kansas City for the second year running, but it was taken to a new location, now held at the Tiffany Springs Park. According to Page the new course offers a dramatic difference compared to last year. It takes the riders up one side of a slope and down the other. "I rode on it today and I found it really hard," Page said. "I do believe that the best rider will win. I know the course will make the selection and then I can make my own tactics from there."
Page jumped over to full-time European 'cross in 2005 competing in the World Cup and Super Prestige series'. After a turbulent 2007 season with the Belgium-based Sunweb team, Page made the decision to sever ties one year in advance, signing with the American-based team Planet Bike in 2008.
"The Planet Bike people are just really good people," said Page, who hopes to perform well in front of an ever-strong cheering section of family and sponsors this weekend. "I've been very lucky to have this sponsor and I can't say enough about how helpful they've been. It's easy to ride for such nice people. I hope I can pull off a victory to give something back to him."