As the weather slowly turns warmer, putting on more miles becomes less of a chore. Preparing for the hard months of cold and wet racing ahead in the fall becomes easier, and many of us are falling back in love with bikes and bike racing. It also means that now is the best time to be a cycling fan outside of cyclocross season, because all of the other racing disciplines are going full swing.
This month we have the Giro d’Italia, Tour of California, Tour of Belgium and two different World Cup mountain bike races. That’s not even mentioning any track racing that might be going on. So where are pro ’crossers popping up in the news? The young Bjorn Selander grabs the white jersey after stage one of the Giro; John Gadret of AG2R slides through the strade bianche, but misses out on the stage win; Zdenek Stybar, like Lars Boom, is riding like he can’t be stopped; Kaitlin Antonneau claims the Division 1 Collegiate Road Nationals as a freshman; Bart Wellens and Rob Peeters to come to the US for Starcrossed, Cross Vegas and the Madison USGP? Powers, Boom, Jones and Driscoll all to line up at the Tour of California; And finally, in this week’s working man’s edition, Tristan Schouten makes his debut for 2011 with a bang!
Bjorn Selander, Best Young Rider, for a Bit
Former cyclocross national champion Bjorn Selander (Radio Shack) takes the white jersey after the first stage of the Giro, the team time trial, and holds onto it until the third stage from Reggio Emilia to Rappallo. During the medium mountain stage, Selander lost over two minutes and fell down the best young rider classification. Though it will be difficult for Selander to get back to the front of the white jersey competition, it only goes to show the strength of this young rider. Selander has already proved himself as one of the best young ’crosser’s in the US; it’s clear he is now on a mission to match that on the road. With his first grand tour start already under his belt at such a young age, you can bet things are only going to get better for him. For us fans of ’cross, hopefully he’ll bring some grand tour speed back to the US for some domestic racing this fall.
John Gadret Drifts to the Front of Stage 4
In other Giro ’cross racing news, John Gadret of AG2R, one of those quick French ’crossers who spends his summer months as a work horse racer, gave it everything to win the first strade bianche stage of the Giro this year. Gadret did not quite make it there as his power faded over the long 200-plus-kilometer stage. But it was clear when he attacked and started powering away from the field on the sections of strade bianche that his handling skills were going to come into use. Many riders found the loose and fast dirt sections dangerous, and many overcooked the corners only to find themselves standing or lying in a ditch by the side of the road. Maybe more of the World Tour roadies should glue up some fat knobbie tubulars to get their off-pavement handling skills a few touch up courses before stages like this. This year they are not even done with the gravel, and when they reach the northern mountains it just gets worse!
Stybar, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”?
Zdenek Stybar is making a perfect transition to the road, in a flawless fashion. We won’t deny that Stybar probably has a lot to learn about road racing, moving through the bunch, fetching bottles and many of the other skills that us mud fiends don’t have to deal with. However, clearly his winter training put him on the right fitness track, and in his first Pro race, the Four Days of Dunkirk, he took third place on stage four, then followed that up with a third place overall general classification. It’s looking like Stybar is making the transition as well as Lars Boom has – now he just needs to win a stage of the Vuelta to seal the deal. In fact, if Stybar gets a shot at the Vuelta and still races 50 crosses next year, well, he’ll just be unstoppable!
Kaitlin Antonneau, Clearly a Force to be Reckoned with
Last week was the Collegiate Road National Championships. We’ve seen in the past that the standout cyclocrossers tend to do well at this event, as we witnessed with Jamey Driscoll’s solo attack in 2009. This year, Kaitlin Antonneau took the win in the Women’s Division 1 crit. She wasn’t done however. She took a solid fifth place in the road race and first overall in the Individual Omnium competition. Kaitlin had a huge breakout Elite ’cross season last year, and clearly she is still on her way up. As a side note, Kaitlin is only a freshman at Marian University, leaving many more stars and bars for the future.
Wellens and Peeters to Show Us How It’s Done
For years a few of the Euro’s have trickled over for the early season races. The promise of September UCI points and the growing ’cross market in the US have been appealing, though they still are not coming over in droves – just a few here and there. Erwin Vervecken and Christian Heule were the most notable over the years. Last year we saw Francis Mourey storm through the early season races. This year, well, reports are coming in that we might have two more Euro notables making the trek: Bart Wellens and Rob Peeters of Telenet-Fidea. So, will Peeters and Wellens be able to handle our fast early season courses? Or will our weather take a turn for the worse and give them a little slipping and sliding like at last year’s Rad Racing GP? Speculating on the weather is a bit difficult, but one thing you can be sure about, they won’t be over here to score just measly top 10s, but to win and grab those important early season points. Maybe the US will become the early ’cross season destination?
Powers, Boom, Jones and Driscoll to Battle for Top Cyclocross Honors in California
With the Tour of California kicking off this weekend, which ’crossers are going to be lining up for the eight-day race? The big names are of course Jeremy Powers and Lars Boom. However, we cannot discount such riders as Chris Jones, Jamey Driscoll, Jesse Anthony, Luca Damiani and Tyler Wren. Others that maybe aren’t as prominent in the cyclocross circuit but do mix it up when they get the chance are Ben Jacques-Maynes and Alex Candelario. That is one heck of a list of ’cross over riders…maybe if it is snowing in Tahoe one of these guys will show what a little bit of winter racing can do.
Working Man’s Edition: Tristan Schouten Debut’s with a Bang
Now for this week’s working man’s edition. We missed out on the big start to the season by last year’s ’cross phenomenon, Tristan Schouten, last week. The upper Midwest is a hotbed for all sorts of bike racing and a hotbed for bike racing talent. Schouten is one of those riders who works a full-time job but has such enormous ability that it seems almost criminal for him to not have more support on the racing side. To kick of the 2011 season, Schouten showed a lot of class and stormed to victory at the Wisconsin Off-Road Series’ first race. With his strong string of mountain bike races last year and then a monstrous ’cross season, we can only expect better things to come from the working man.