By Brecht Decaluwé in Hooglede-Gits
After grabbing the United States' first-ever medal in the Elite Men's division at the Cyclo-cross World Championships, Jonathan Page had many reasons to celebrate. The second placed Page was interviewed on Belgian TV and radio as they wondered who the relatively unknown American was.
Page charmed the Belgian audience by saying some Dutch words and expressed that he deserved his second place. "That's the world championships, you never know what you're going to get on this day. [The Europeans] had all the pressure in the world and maybe it got to them… you have to be lucky today also," Page said.
At the post-race press conference Page expressed his joy to the written press and pointed out that he made a huge comeback: "I'm coming back from injury and I saved my season over here. My dreams are coming true."
After the doping control Page quickly went back home to Oudenaarde with his wife Cori and two year-old daughter Emma to freshen up before heading to his friends at the Brasserie in Avelgem. There were no huge crowds there to gather around the podium finisher, as Page just isn't one of them - he's a stranger in Belgium, but Page didn't mind. “I don't need more friends, they help me to achieve my goals and that's what's most important," Page said.
He still wondered how it was possible to pull off what he did, but realised this performance needs confirmation. "Today my new career starts," and that's probably why Page didn't touch the famous Belgian beers…okay, that's a lie. Page did touch a couple of those Belgian beers and treated his friends to a few rounds, even serving as bar tender himself.
Cyclingnews was there in Avelgem and also talked to some people who work with the successful American cyclo-cross rider. Former triple world champion Mario De Clercq trained with Page and coached him for many years. "His technical skills are awesome, they equal those of Sven Nys; but he hasn't got Nys' power," De Clercq said. "It's a pity he didn’t win today; I can tell you it makes a huge difference coming in first or second at the worlds. If he would've won the race he [financially] would've made it."
Franky Van Haesebroucke, Page's mechanic and close friend, has helped the American for many years. "We met in the US and Page said to me that he wanted to live in Belgium to become a better rider," explained Van Haesebroucke. "We took him in at our place and he didn’t need much time to find his way." The former Navigators coach also gave Page some tactical help during the race. "Halfway I told him to stay on the wheel of Franzoi for a while, as he used lots of energy to get where he was. Before the worlds some people asked me whether Page would start but I guess they know by now," he laughed.
Page's current sponsor Kurt Tembuyser from Morgan Blue was happy with his investment. "Page was searching for a team, but he was injured and nobody wanted him, then we were there to offer him a contract. We will offer him a better contract for next year, but if he can improve his situation we wish him good luck," said Tembuyser, who has harvested riders such as Klaas Vantornout and also Maxime Lefèbvre in his team.