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The internationalisation of Cyclocross

By Brecht Decaluwé

Year after year, Belgian cyclists have dominated the world of cyclocross Even at Zeddam the Belgian elites were out in force, but we didn't see the Belgian youth as much is the spotlight as in years past. Only junior Tom Meeusen (who took bronze) and espoir Niels Albert (also third) showed the talent we've come to expect from Belgium.

Belgian national team coach Rudy De Bie says the lack of youth results is not a sign that Belgian's young riders were blown away but is more a sign that cyclocross is becoming an international game.

“In the juniors race, I saw a leading group of nine riders," he said by phone on Monday. "They were all from a different nation. To me, it says everything about the internationalisation of the sport.”

Which means De Bie wasn't disturbed at all by the relatively soft Belgian results in the junior events. “The world championship is one race," he said. "Bad luck and the track can play part in some poor results. Dennis Vanendert for example, was riding very strong in the juniors race. He had a flat tire and got a bad result. Without these material problems, he would have been fighting for the medals. Lucky for those guys, there are world cup races to prove that they are talented riders.”

De Bie also says that dominance in youth races isn't the focus of his program anyway: “Current top riders Sven Nys and Bart Wellens didn’t take medals in their youth period. They were always in contest for more, but somehow they didn’t take the best results." The question, he says, is whether youth success means elite success. And elite success is the ultimate goal. "There are lots of talented young foreign riders who have won medals but can’t grow into a top pro-rider afterwards. This proves for me that taking a medal in a youth championship is not a guarantee for success as a pro.”

Asked about the performance of the American riders, De Bie answered swiftly: "They are performing very well, taking into account that most of them don't often race in Europe."

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