Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) left their mark on Sunday’s fourth round of the Superprestige Series in Gavere, Belgium, with very determined performances in trying conditions. World champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) may have been the star attractions at the, but two American riders also brought a great degree of colour to proceedings.
More than one spectator in Gavere was surprised to spot US champion Johnson next to Nys in the front row, but he was there on merit thanks to his high placing in the UCI rankings.
“I don't think US riders have ever been that high in the UCI rankings for that long. It was great to start off on the front row but I didn't make the best of it,” Johnson said.
The US champion started slowly and rode outside the top 15 during the first lap of the challenging Gavere circuit and instead it was fellow American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) who was a surprising member of the leading group during the first two laps.
Page showed good skills but is currently lacking the condition necessary to keep it going for the full hour and he eventually finished in 14th position. After some lacklustre performances at big events earlier in the season, however, Page was pleased with his display on Sunday.
“That's better,” Page said. “With two laps to go I made one mistake by sliding out on the fast descent. Still I was fairly consistent although I was cramping like hell in the end. I'll take it though as I had severe diarrhoea last night.” His stirring performance also highlighted that with the right condition he could well be capable of staying near the front of the big events for longer than he did in Gavere.
On the penultimate lap, Johnson overtook Page and he ended up being in the mix for 10th place, although Johnson was pipped in the last lap by Thijs van Amerongen (AA Drink) and Kenneth Van Compernolle (Sunweb-Revor), and came home in 12th place.
“I felt good on the uphill sections and I think I did pretty good in the descents,” Johnson said.
The US champion flew over to Europe to scout the course of the World Cup round in Koksijde rather than defending his lead in the NACT series as the 2012 world championships are to be held in Koksijde. His participation in Gavere came as a nice bonus during his trip. Afterwards, the US champion talked about the experience of riding in the heart of the cyclo-cross world in one of the biggest races of the season.
“People back home were asking about Gavere, not knowing what it is except for what they read about it. Well, it's like Paris-Roubaix but for 'cross. This was a huge f*cking experience. There were about as many spectators here as at our national championships, and then all in one day instead of three. People smoke different stuff than home too,” Johnson said, before being overrun by the spectators who were headed for the podium ceremony.