Dieter Vanthourenhout and Jan Verstraeten have signalled that they will protest the inclusion of Bart Wellens in the Belgian selection for the fourth round of the cyclo-cross World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium, on November 29.
Belgian national coach Rudy De Bie announced the country's preliminary selection for the World Cup round this week. Wellens was named as one of eight starters, while Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) was listed as a reserve and Verstraeten (KDL Trans) not included in the ten-man long list.
The two riders have taken exception to being pushed out of the main selection in place of Wellens, who has missed most of this season due to cytomegalovirus. The 31-year-old Telenet Fidea rider stated last week his intention to return for the race in Koksijde.
Wellens' team manager Hans van Kasteren has defended his rider and told Belgian website Sporza that the protest from Vanthourenhout and Verstraeten was unfounded.
"I find this regrettable," he said. "Riders like Nys, Wellens have proven that they deserve to race at the top level and space should be made for them when necessary."
Wellens returned to training recently with his Telenet teammates Zdenek Stybar, Kevin Pauwels and Tom Meeusen and stated that he was ready to return at a competitive level
"With all due respect for Jan Verstraeten, but he is not a World Cup level rider," continued Van Kasteren. "Bart is certainly at that level."
Vanthourenhout and Verstraeten finished 13th and 21st, respectively, at the third round of the World Cup in Nommay, France earlier this month. The two riders will hold a press conference today to outline the basis for their protest.
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