By Laura Weislo in Southampton
World Champion Erwin Vervecken headed West from his hometown of Herentals, Belgium to the Long Island town of Southampton to take part in one of two C1 cyclo-cross races on the North American calendar. The race served as a good opportunity to pick up the ever valuable UCI points, some nice pocket change, and, as it turned out, some hard racing against a strong field. Battling against what Vervecken calls "the two towers", Kona-YourKey Mortgage team-mates Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks (both of whom are over 194cm/6'4"), Vervecken had a mix of good and bad luck on the weekend.
On Saturday, Vervecken was met by three of his supporters who flew over from Belgium to "see his first win of the season", and local fans who brought along a plastic statue of a cow painted up in the colours of the Belgian flag. When asked to pose for a photo with the animal, Vervecken went one step further and saddled up on the beast, making for a prime photo opportunity.
Once on the course, Vervecken seemed to have both luck and the power to match any attacks that Trebon, Wicks, or Leer/Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld's Tim Johnson could throw at him. While Trebon had a crash and two mechanicals, and Johnson dropped off and fought his way back into contention several times, Vervecken and Wicks had nearly flawless races, and in the end, the Fidea Team rider was able to capitalise on Wicks' over-excited early sprint to take the victory with ease.
"It was tougher than I expected," Vervecken told Cyclingnews. "I'm not satisfied," he later wrote on his self-designed website, cyclocross.be. "The legs were not at all well, I also had cramps from the heat on the last laps and my stomach was a mess." The Belgian vowed to improve the next day, but the "tropical heat" continued, much to his dismay.
On Sunday, however, the Belgian's luck turned as suddenly as the coastal weather. Battling through the summer-like conditions at the beginning of the race, Vervecken was having no trouble matching the "two towers", but as the winds shifted and brought in cooler winds from the coast, a stick got lodged in between Vervecken's fork and tyre, and he had to get off the bike to fix it before setting off in pursuit. This gave Wicks and Trebon a 100m gap, something he found difficult to close until they reached the more technical part of the course, where he was able to regain the leaders.
"I was all set for the last lap, where I knew I had to pass Trebon, then Wicks attacked me and it happened: derailleur in the wheel and race over," Vervecken wrote. With a broken derailleur on the last lap, there was no chance for him to continue racing. "It sucks, because I was better today than yesterday," he concluded.
Vervecken summarised his weekend as unsatisfactory: "Saturday winning in a sprint against Barry Wicks, someone who I normally am minutes ahead of, Sunday breakdown, but I also didn't have good legs. The heat was taxing, the speeds enormously high (averages of above 30) and getting away was very difficult. Therefore, the goal at which I aimed (two wins) has failed."