Kevin Pauwels worked with Zdenek Stybar to try and keep the charging Albert at bay. ? Dan Seaton

Kevin Pauwels, shown here in Gavere, sprinted his way to the green points jersey in Flèche du Sud © Dan Seaton

by Jamie Mack and Josh Liberles

Many of the best ‘cross riders in the world are now proving that they’re among the best riders in other disciplines as well. Racers from the US to the UK and beyond are spinning their way along roads and trails during the “off-season.”  Cyclocross Magazine has been scouring and pestering sources around the globe to bring you the latest on your favorite riders.

Here in the US, Tim Johnson was tearing up the roads with his UnitedHealthcare teammates before an injury sidelined him, while his ‘cross teammate Jeremy Powers is basking in the sun at the Tour of California with his jellybean-fueled comrades. Ryan Trebon is ripping legs off in Oregon and other locales, while Kona ‘cross cohort Barry Wicks is celebrating a different victory – he recently got engaged to his longtime girlfriend. Both are probably already looking forward to shredding ‘cross courses this fall on the recently-revealed 2011 full-carbon Major Jake. Carl Decker is taking a unique approach, mixing Super D with road and rally car racing.

On the European front, riders don’t seem to be taking much of a break, matching the exploits of their American counterparts. After a two-week stint on the sunny roads of Mallorca, Sven Nys took on the world’s best at the Fidea MTB Cup 2010 in Gooik, Belgium. The training vacation must have served Nys well as he cruised to the win almost two full minutes ahead of the second-place rider, Canadian ‘cross stalwart Geoff Kabush. Cyclocross stars Gerben de Knegt and Thijs Al rounded out the top five, proving the depth of talent in the Elite ‘cross field.

As well-known beer partaker Kabush tweeted to his fans before heading off to the next World Cup MTB race in Germany, “Good day at work in Gooik. Second to Mr. Nys. Can’t beat the crowds, TV coverage and good racing. Van’s loaded with Belgian beer; headed to Krautland.”

While Nys, Kabush and Al were cruising through the forests of Belgium, many of the sport’s other top riders were following a different tack. Names like Kevin Pauwels, Sven Vanthourenhout, Tom Meeusen, Bart Wellens and (Swiss cyclocross champion) Christian Heule were testing themselves on the roads of Luxembourg in the peloton at Flèche du Sud. The race agreed with many of the ‘crossers, judging by the results. Pauwels was the most successful of the bunch, having sprinted to a stage win during the tour and taken third in the final stage – good enough to capture the overall green sprint points jersey for the race. Vanthourenhout was on his way to a podium finish in the final stage after claiming eighth the day before, when a crash in the final corner took him down.

World champion Zdenek Stybar had perhaps the most difficult outing in the event.After two weeks in the popular training destination of Mallorca (Ed. Are we seeing a theme here? Is this the secret o their success? Make your reservations now for next year!), Stybar came back to his road schedule to continue tuning his fitness heading into the body of the main season. Stybar had planned on racing the Omloop der Kempen, with other top Euro ‘crossers but opted out, perhaps because he was riding in discomfort.

After a strong ride in first stages of the Flèche du Sud, Stybar was forced to withdraw. Several weeks of pain necessitated a visit to the doctor, and he then underwent surgery to remove a cyst. The operation is reported to have gone well, and Stybar expects to be back on his bike after a week of well-deserved rest. Stybar will miss the next few races on his schedule, including the Tour of Belgium, but will be well mended well before ‘cross season rolls around.

The Flèche du Sud was a popular destination for ‘crossers, as more races throughout the world are likely to be as the season continues. Follow along with Cyclocross Magazine and live vicariously through the reports of your favorite rider’s success, at least until we’re all back on the course searching for our own.