By Brecht Decaluwé
After some stressful months, life is looking up for cyclo-cross rider Jonathan Page, who has renewed his contract with sponsor Planet Bike for the next season. Page nearly missed the most important race of the season, the cyclo-cross World Championships last weekend in Hoogerheide, and feared his career was over due to a missed doping control. Only two days before the race, Page finally got green light from the US Anti-doping Agency and USA Cycling, who found that he had not violated the anti-doping rules.
On the race day, Page was unable to perform to his best and after an anonymous race at the back he crossed the finish line in 51st place. "There was too much emotion for me. I tried my hardest to focus but I'm totally empty. During the race I never gave up though my body... it was hard to even hold my handlebars; I felt like a skeleton on a bike," an emotional Page said to Cyclingnews right after the race. "I felt like crying on the bike. It took a lot. People worked so hard to get me here and I wanted to give something back. I think I have to call it a season," Page added.
While the USA cyclo-cross season is long over there's still two weeks of cross racing in Belgium and Netherlands. Page signed contracts to start in some of these races but clearly he's not planning to show up. "I think the organizers will understand. Surely they will not be paying me but that's not the biggest issue right now," Page said.
A few days later the former silver medallist at the cyclo-cross World Championships of 2007 sounded better and on his personal web site thejonathanpage.com he wrote, "Three days gone and I'm already feeling much better [...] I'm mentally much better." The American referred to the people who support him, including his sponsors. "While many sit un-employed, I have a great job, if I'm allowed to do it," Page wrote. In that last bit Page referred to the possibility of an appeal from the UCI that might arrive one of these days. "I still know that there is a chance that this nightmare is not yet over," Page wrote.
Sponsor Bob Downs from Madison-based bike company Planet Bike came over from the USA to attend the World Championships and to support his rider. "I'm pleased with the outcome of the missed doping control; it's only fair. It's unfortunate he had to go through it," Downs said. While some would have expected the employer to dump his rider after this bad advertising Downs talked differently.
"Any association depends on a relation and we have to develop that. We give him the best chance to perform to the best," the Planet Bike owner said. When asked about how he would try to influence Jonathan Page the manager had one topic in mind. "Jonathan is a rider of the old generation and his training is based on sensations. I want to add in the power meter to his training so he has objective feedback. I know he doesn't like it and that a previous attempt failed, but drained batteries didn't help back then," Downs said.
For now Page and Planet Bike have to await the verdict from the UCI's lawyers before he can focus on next season.