Katie Compton on the stairs on Friday

Katie Compton on the stairs on Friday

by Kat Statman

Everybody knows that this is the World Championships week. It is such a big deal that our site crashed due to the extreme amounts of content we’ve been posting to amp up the masses and get excited! In keeping with that theme, I want to remind everyone out there that reads this to go and make sure to fill out a reminder for Cyclocross Mag’s Live Coverage of the event this Sunday morning (or late night for some of you) to follow along and pair with whatever live stream you’ve found. Also don’t forget to check out all of our great pre-Worlds coverage where we’ve talked to Katie Compton, Sue Butler and Meredith Miller and chatted with Jonathan Page, Amy Dombroski, Zach MacDonald and Kaitlin Antonneau. Or, how about the piece on Kupfernagel and Wasleben, are they the dark horses that Albert keeps talking about? Finally, and perhaps more importantly, some great photo coverage by Bart Hazen with words by Christine Vardaros as riders test their legs on the Saint Wendel course and bring us their thoughts on conditions.

But now on to this week’s Rumors and Rumblings in the world of Pro Cyclocross. This week we’ll be taking a look at Stybar’s move to Quick-Step, Katie Compton’s future sponsorship, how Niels Albert will defy UCI rules and whether the seven Belgians will shoot themselves in the foot and allow someone else to take home the rainbow stripes again.

Stybar goes to Quick Step: Have We Lost Him?

This week it was made official to the world, after a long and protracted negotiation between Telenet-Fidea rider Zdenek Stybar and Patrick Lefevre of Quick Step, that Styby would be racing in the blue and white of Quick Step beginning March first and would make his debut with the team in May. If you’ve missed what is going on, go and check out Telenet–Fidea React’s to Stybar’s Move to Quick Step and World Champ Stybar Signs with Quick Step.  So that’s the news, but what does that mean for us ’cross fans?

Zdenek Stybar © Bart Hazen

Zdenek Stybar © Bart Hazen

I think the news is a lot like us losing Boom, even though Stybar has repeated many times that he will not stop driving the fields. Look at it like this: Since Boom left the Rabobank ’cross squad to pursue a road career, he has only returned for a couple of ’cross races a year. Yes, in those ’crosses he is still at the front and killing it – look at the fact that he took a World Cup win this year. From that there is no denying that he is still a top ’crosser and we look forward to Boom’s return to the World Championships next year. But, back to Stybar. Lefevre has already said to the press that Stybar will not be able to drive 40 ’crosses a year anymore, understandable, you only have so many race days in your legs each year. But, if Stybar is as strong on the road as he has shown to be in the fields, will Lefevre really allow his athlete, a signed pro road racer for a World Tour team, drive more than a few ’crosses like Boom? I highly doubt it. Unless Stybar leaves Quick Step at the end of his contract in 2013 don’t expect to see him out in the fields week in and week out mixing it up with the best, even if he wins the World Championships this weekend. A sad possibility for ’cross and ’cross fans alike.

Another question we have: what bike will Styby be riding? Quick Step is sponsored by Merckx bicycles, which at least according to their website does not have a ’cross bike in the line up. If that is the case will Ridley continue to provide Stybar with bikes? With Ridley, Quick Step and Merckx bicycles all being Belgian organizations that seems a distinct possibility. As for componentry, Quick Step rides Campy gears. That would be interesting to see the 11 speed campy electric on Stybar’s bike next year. I wonder how those 11 speeds will handle thick mud and ice?

We wish you the best of luck Styby and hope you come back to veldrijden full time as soon as possible!

Where will Katie Compton Land Her Feet?

Last week we reported on Katie Compton’s multiple possibilities for sponsorship. But this week we are going to take the next step on where we think Katie will land based on how Sunday’s race goes. As reported in various media sources it was clear that Katie had many different options on the table, between European teams and composite American sponsors that would provide her with the best possible set up. We also have to consider that Katie, as do many Americans, have difficulty with traveling overseas and has to be very careful with her race schedule and travel in order to avoid any problems.

Katie Compton surveys the course

Katie Compton surveys the course

Based on all of the above here are my thoughts. If, and I think she will and look forward to us waking up at an insane hour to watch her do it, Katie takes home the World Title, then she will sign with a European based team and likely have a more European based season in which to show off the rainbow stripes at the biggest races. In fact, after her near miss on the World Cup overall I could easily see Katie going for that and taking home the white and blue of the World Cup Overall and not having any difficulty defending her World Title in 2012.

However, if, and this is a big “if” that I don’t see happening at this point, Katie has some sort of problem that relegates her to yet another podium at Worlds, then it seems more likely that Katie will continue her program as usual, splitting her time between the US and Europe.

There are other considerations I have not made. We all know Katie loves racing in the US and wants to support the growth of American ’cross, especially with regards to the women’s racing, so spending time in the rainbow stripes here in the US would obviously be a huge event and we definitely are looking forward to that possibility.

Finally, we cannot forget one of Katie’s other goals, the London Olympics. Like Stybar, Katie has been working on building up her endurance in order to represent the US at the London Olympics on the mountain bike, which may force her hand to stay with American-backed sponsors so that she does not have to concern herself as much with a heavy European winter schedule in order to be properly prepared for the Olympic team and the Olympic race.

In all honestly we really don’t know where she is going to go and are just speculating. So, good luck this weekend Katie, we’ll be rooting for you!

Niels Albert, The Rebel With a Cause?

Niels Albert final gets the tri-color jersey on the podium of the 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. Sunday Jan. 9, 2010. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Niels Albert final gets the tri-color jersey on the podium of the 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. Sunday Jan. 9, 2010. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Albert is a huge favorite this weekend in Saint Wendel. He’s been riding exceptionally well since November, taking the World Cup overall and winning most of the races over Christmas week and then taking home the Belgian National Championships title, his stated biggest goal for the 2010/2011 season. So what will happen if he takes home the rainbow strips this weekend? Well, according to UCI rules he is required to wear the world champion colors and not his Belgian national championship colors. But, if that is the case that means Niels would only have worn the Belgian colors once since he won them in Antwerp. This week Albert has admitted that even if he wins the World Championships on Sunday we will see the Belgian national colors at at least one race next year – fine or no fine. Hats off to you Niels for defying the big, scary UCI!

Will the Belgian National Team Inner Battles Put a Non-Belgian on the Top Step Sunday?

The Belgian World Championship team is easily the strongest team on paper for this weekend’s race in Saint Wendel. But, it is a team of hyper-strong individuals that all have their own egos. Everyone knows that on more than one occasion, depending on whose story you believe, the Belgian national team has shot themselves in the foot when it comes to bringing the rainbow stripes home to Belgium. The only year that they worked together was when Nys controlled the field and didn’t let anyone chase down Albert in order to make sure that Boom did not take another World Title. What will happen this weekend? Will it be another implosion by the seven egos or will they allow their countryman to stay off the front and win when the going gets tough? Tune in to find out!

Last, but definitely not least: Don’t Forget to Send in Your Questions for Albert and Van Passen!