Stybar crests the runup in Zonhoven. © Bart Hazen
by Kat Statman
We are past the “thick” of the European ’cross season with Holy Week over. But, even though there are not seven races over a period of nine days for us to sit and scrounge the internet for live feeds, there is still a lot of exciting racing left in the season. The next few weeks are the most exciting weekends of racing of the season, with the World Cup finals in Hoogerheide, the Master’s World Championships in Mol, and the elite World Championships in Saint Wendel. With such big races on the calendar expect some good news to chat about. Zdenek Stybar comes out saying he wants to win this weekend; Belgian National Team Coach claims the St. Wendel course suits the Belgian team the best; Mettepenningen and Van Kasteren start a war of words over Kevin Pauwels; Jonathan Page returns to World Cup action with the rest of the American crew; Katie Compton is set to announce a new team soon after the World Championships according to Doug Eldridge; American Master’s racers are taking Europe by storm before Master’s Worlds this weekend; and Ryan Trebon pulls out of Worlds due to illness.
Stybar’s Bold Comments after sitting out Pont-Chateau
Last weekend we saw the disappointment of many when Zdenek Stybar, current World Champion, opted to sit out the World Cup round in Pont-Chateau, France so that he could stay in Mallorca and train for the World Championships. Not only was Peter Van Den Abeele upset but so was Sven Nys, saying that the World Champion should be at all of the big races. After training hard with various professional road teams in Mallorca, Stybar has come out saying that he is looking for a win this weekend at either the World Cup in Hoogerheide or Kasteelcross in Zonnebeke, Belgium. Will the long miles be what puts him over the top to take down Albert this weekend? Part of me would be happy to see Stybar return to his winning ways from the early part of the season, but with his sitting out of Pont-Chateau in order to stay in Mallorca and train, another part makes me think that maybe ’cross is not Stybar’s first love and that he really has other aspirations. We already have reported multiple times on the contract issues between Stybar, Telenet-Fidea and Quick Step (which still are unresolved as of today) stemming from Stybar’s desires to move to a team where he has more freedom. Keep an eye on the World Champion these next two weekends, he may just have returned to to top – unless de Bie is right?
Rudy de Bie is even Bolder than Stybar to the Press
Belgian National Team Coach Rudy de Bie has made even bolder statements to the press than Stybar, saying outright that the course in St. Wendel favors the Belgian team as long as it is not frozen. De Bie said that Stybar, on a frozen course, has a couple of extra percentage points added to his chances, but if it stays heavy and wet like it currently is, then the Belgians are stronger than Stybar and that both Albert and Nys will be at the front pushing the pedals hard to take home the rainbow jersey. For Nys to take home the rainbow jersey this year would be a major coup, as the last time he wore the coveted stripes was after winning the World Championship round at St. Wendel in 2005. But if Albert wins, he will take home both the Belgian National Title and the World title, quite the extra accomplishment. Will Stybar upset the Belgian team or is there someone else that has the legs for the heavy ’crosses?
Mettepenningen and Van Kasteren Have At It
It has become almost common knowledge that Kevin Pauwels is one of the riders that has defected from Telenet-Fidea and chosen to take a position at Mettepenningen’s troubled – in terms of race win numbers – team for next year. With Pauwels taking numerous wins and being a consistent threat at the front of most of the races this season, this is clearly good for Mettepenningen; he can expect more exposure to keep his sponsors happy. But clearly Van Kasteren is upset about losing one of his best riders, on top of losing Stybar to Quick Step at the end of the season. So what does he do? He goes after him in the press. Kasteren said that he is glad to be rid of Pauwels and that he is not a good investment, regardless of his strong season. Clearly Mettepenningen disagrees, as Pauwels just won a round of the World Cup and has taken other wins against the best in the business. Will Kasteren be right or will Mettepenningen finally have made the hire he needs for his sponsors?
Jonathan Page Returns to the World Cup along with the rest of the American Worlds Team
Looking over the start list for this weekend’s World Cup in Hoogerheide, paying particular attention to what Americans will be there, it is good to see that Page will be lining up once again. I hope that he has fully recovered from his injuries and can put together a solid ride this weekend. The race in Hoogerheide will be interesting one to watch where the Americans finish, as it will provide a sense of which Americans are on form and ready for the Worlds the following weekend. Will Johnson be able to show the strong form that he displayed last weekend in Pont-Chateau? Can Page repeat his top ten from last year? Will Trebon come out swinging? Can Powers win another holeshot? Will the Hoogerheide course conditions fit Driscoll’s diesel engine and allow him to move through the field for another solid finish? Keep your eyes open on Sunday.
Katie Compton to Announce a new Team after Worlds
It has come down through the pipeline that talks are in the works regarding Katie Compton’s new team for 2011/2012. Planet Bike will be changing directions after its recent sale and no longer support the multi-time American National Champion and odds on favorite for this year’s World Championship win. Rumor has it that Katie’s agent, Doug Eldridge, has lined up a number of different options from Belgian or European teams to American backers that will allow her to not only continue pursuing her cyclocross rampage but also the goal of being selected to represent the US at the 2012 summer Olympics in London. We’ll be keeping our ears open as we learn more about Katie’s options, but until then let’s enjoy the show as she gets ready for the final World Cup at Hoogerheide and the World Championships.
American Master’s Racers show the Euro’s How it’s Done
I have to admit that following along and hearing the news from the cold and cloudy northern regions of Europe of Pete Webber’s dominant rides against his European counterparts, taking five wins in a row, has made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. American Master’s cross racing is World Class and I’m glad to hear it! So with that being said I am glad to tell you that the Masters World Championships will be held this Saturday in Mol, Belgium. A sizable contingent of North Americans have made the trip this year and are out to prove that the level of Master’s racing in the US and Canada has reached a new height. A crew from Boulder, Colorado is in Belgium for two weeks. The 6-person group includes current 40-44 National Champ Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport), former 35-39 National Champ Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport), and other consistently fast guys like Ward Baker (Justin’s), Brian Hludzinski (Boulder Cycle Sport), Michael Robson (Moots), and from Maine, Kurt Perham (Bikeman.com). Webber has taken several Masters wins in the past few weeks in Belgium and Holland. Last weekend, the Boulder guys took 5 of the top 10 in the 40+ race at a tune-up event in Bakel, Holland. Webber has been blogging about their adventures at www.mudandcowbells.com.
Check out our bike cam course preview of the Mol, Belgium Masters Cyclocross Worlds course, complements of Pete Webber, along with his report of the course and predictions for how it will play out.
We don’t have an exact list of what other American’s will be in Mol, but others making the trip include 45-49 National Champ Don Myrah, former 50-54 National Champ Kevin Hines (Corner Cycle), former 45-49 National Champ Jonny Bold, and current 50+ World Champ Marilyn Ruseckas (Seven Cycles). Hines won a 50+ race last weekend in Langemark, Belgium.
Ryan Trebon Calls it Quits
Yes, we saved perhaps the saddest news for last but Worlds team member Ryan Trebon has pulled the plug on his season due to a nasty stomach bug. He will be skipping the Hoogerheide World Cup and the World Championships. Without good health, we’re sure he’s not anxious to return to Europe just to repeat his lackluster performance last year in Hoogerheide and Tabor. Let’s hope he gets healthy and will soon be training for next season (in his new team’s colors).