Triple world champion Erwin Vervecken (Revor-Baboco) captured his first season victory at the Planet Bike Cup, round two of the US Grand Prix of Cyclo-cross held in Madison, Wisconsin.
The famed Belgian waved good bye to his American fans from the top step on the podium, after a win that marked his final race on American soil before retiring at the end of the season.
With almost 30 years of 'cross experience, Vervecken used all his racing nous and pulled away from a leading trio with half a lap remaining in the event as US national champion Ryan Trebon (KONA) maintained his second place, holding off race favourite Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) who limited his losses for third after rolling two tubulars on the last lap.
"I'm very happy to win," Vervecken said. "The other two were riding very fast together and they were strong technically. I made a lot of small mistakes so I lost five metres here and there and I always had to work hard to come back. I was able to recover. Normally I am fast in the last lap if I'm not dead like yesterday. It was good for me today."
Vervecken took over the USGP lead from the precious day's winner Jeremy Powers (Cyclocrossworld.com). The Belgian won't contend the series beyond the first two rounds after which his contract takes him back to the European calendar for the start of the UCI World Cup series which kicks off in October.
Anger adds speed to the opening laps
Mid-west thunderstorms rolled in just in time for the start of the elite men's 60 minute race held throughout Firemen's Angell Park. The rain splashed on the circuit causing an otherwise sticky surface to turn slick and dangerous. The though of negotiating the twists and turns, ups and downs under such conditions is what brings a smile to the face of every good 'cross rider.
"When we started it was nice and greasy," said Trebon who compared the dry course yesterday to the wet course today. "Lots of guys were having problems with it and sliding out in the turns. I was taking it easy in the first laps because I didn't pre ride the course when it was wet. I wanted to find out what the limit was to go through some of those turns."
One rider particularly known for being a hardy 'mudder' is Planet Bike's own Jonathan Page. The just-so conditions coupled with his anger over losing the previous day's race due to a mechanical malfunction fueled Page to take the early lead in a solo bid for victory or at the very least force his competitors to work for one.
"I was pissed and now I'm even more pissed," said Page who luck didn't turn out much better the second time around. "It wasn't my original plan to go off the front so early but they were going a bit slower so I took advantage of that."
Page was followed by Canadian Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain) who hung on by the hairs on his chin for the opening three laps. Page ended his partnership with Kabush and launched a solo move after he looked back to find a chase group containing talents like Trebon, Vervecken, Powers and Swiss National Champion, Christian Heule (Rendementhypo).
Top guns join the game
Chasers Trebon and Vervecken successfully bridged across to Page with five laps to go. Trebon took matters into his own hands and drove the pace high enough so that remaining chasers Kabush followed by Heule, Powers and his teammate Jamey Driscoll could not cross the distance. Page and Trebon eyed one another and tested their legs against the causing Vervecken to struggle to stay in the game.
Yo-yoing on and off the back, the Belgian played his cards close to his chest sneaking in rest between the clashing Trebon and Page. "I was riding in third place for most of the race and I didn't have a good feeling," Vervecken said. "Especially in the corners, they were technically better."
Trebon's continued to set the pace but the responsibility increased when Page began to play his odds of being the fastest sprinter of the three and took second wheel, behind the national champ on the closing laps. Their game of cat and mouse caused them to slow down and nearly resulted in fourth place chaser Kabush to regain contact.
"I didn't know what to do," Trebon said. "I'm racing against these guys most of the time and I know that if I'm feeling good I can put it to the guys I race against regularly in the last couple of laps. But, these two guys are both really strong and you can't really force either of them to make too many mistakes so I didn't know what I was going to do out there.
"I was forcing the pace and we were getting a gap on everyone," he continued. "I'm not going to tow Jon around the whole time. I asked him to come through but he said he was on the limit as well. Vervecken came back to us and I think that's where the race was lost. But, it's no shame losing to a guy like Vervecken."
Page positioned himself on Vervecken's wheel, a rider well-known for turning up the gas on the last lap. The potential for win in front of a sponsor filled audience looked promising until disaster struck Page for second time this weekend. He rolled not one but two tubular through a hair-pin turn with half a lap to go.
"You just have to know that Erwin, a good bike rider, near the end will give it gas," Page said. "I called it right, I knew where to be I just rolled both tires at an inopportune time. I rolled the first one which threw me sideways and I rolled the second one after that. I couldn't get them back on without kicking them.
"I feel like it's really unprofessional to have bad tires and that's partially my own fault," he continued. "I'm mad at myself for being unprepared. It's not all my fault but again I only have so much stuff here. I have all my things are in Belgium and my tires got stuck in customs so I'll be changing that.
Vervecken found his second wind and displayed his famed last lap strength that took him into the last 'cross victory America will witness. Trebon rolled in for a hard-fought second place ahead of Page who clawed his way back into third place, his fifth consecutive podium place this season. "In the last two laps they didn't ride and I started to feel better, then Jonathan had his problem," Vervecken said.
|1||Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Team Revor-Baboco-Champion Systems|
|2||Ryan Trebon (USA) KONA|
|3||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike|
|4||Geoff Kabush (Can) Team Maxxis- Rocky Mountain|
|5||Christian Heule (Swi) Rendementhypo Cycling|
|6||Jeremy Powers (USA) Cannondale / CyclocrossWorld.com|
|7||Jamey Driscoll (USA) Cannondale / CyclocrossWorld.com|
|8||Tristan Schouten (USA) Planet Bike|
|9||Barry Wicks (USA) KONA|
|10||Christopher Jones (USA) Team Champion System|
|1||Chance Noble (USA) California Giant /Specialized|
|2||David Hackworthy (USA) Bianchi|
|3||Joseph Schmalz (USA) KCCX / VERGE|
|4||Jack Hinkins (USA) Ridley Team|
|5||Kyle Fry (USA) MCOR|
|6||Logan Van Bokel (USA) Mesa Cycles Racing Team|
|7||Luca Lenzi (USA) The Pony Shop|
|8||Zachary Edwards (USA) DRT Racing|