With the season almost over, the transfer rumors are starting to heat up in earnest, with some major young riders switching teams for the 2010 season. In Belgium, the value of cyclocross as a spectator sport was reinforced following two strong weekends of TV viewing by the faithful Belgian audience, and Zdenek Stybar revels in his success.
Szczepaniak Follows Little Brother to Telenet-Fidea
Pawel Szczepaniak, who was crowned the U23 World Champion only a few short days ago, cashed in on his victory with a move from the Baboco-Revor team of retiring Erwin Vervecken, to the Telenet-Fidea squad of reigning World Champion Zdenek Stybar. The older of the now famous Szczepaniak brothers will join his younger brother, Kacper, on the Telenet-Fidea team, which will be able to boast two current World Champions on their roster for 2010. Pawel Szczepaniak, 21, is still eligible for the U23 age bracket for the coming season, despite competing in the Polish Elite National Championships in early January. He will first suit up in the Belgian Telenet-Fidea colors on March 1, and will be with the team for one season.
David Van der Poel and Gianni Vermeersch Move to BKCP-Powerplus
BKCP-Powerplus has been busy in the early transfer season, having already picked up former Italian champion Enrico Franzoi since the calendar turned to 2010. The team has been on a mission to develop their Espoir ranks in the past few days, adding two of the biggest Junior talents of the past season to the fold. David Van der Poel, this year’s World Cup overall victor, will join the team in September from the Isorex Cycling Team, and will stay with the team with his current contract until 2012. Van der Poel had a rough ride at the World Championships in Tabor, finishing eighth, but admitted that the course was not the best for him. BKCP-Powerplus also recently added another young talent to their squad in the form of Belgian junior Gianni Vermeersch, who comes to the team from Mez Team Belgium Snellegem. Veermersch most recently logged a fifth place finish at the Superprestige stop in Zonhoven on Sunday. Vermeersch should finish up his time as a Junior in two weekends and will then move to the Espoir ranks, where he will spend at least the first three years with BKCP-Powerplus. Not only will the team have one of the strongest Elite lineups out there, but their Espoir ranks will strike fear into any competition. The BKCP-Powerplus Espoir lineup for 2010 is:
Jim Aernouts, Wietse Bosmans, Arnaud Jouffroy, David Van der Poel, Gianni Vermeersch
Kevin Pauwels Flirts With Sunweb-Revor
Kevin Pauwels found himself playing second and even third fiddle on his Telenet-Fidea squad at many times this year to the duo of Zdenek Stybar, Bart Wellens and even Tom Meeusen at times. As a result, Pauwels may be forced to look for other opportunities to lead a team, and his search may lead him to the Sunweb-Revor team of Klaas Vantornout and Sven Vanthourenhout. Sunweb-Revor would have to pay a hefty transfer fee for the quick Belgian, as he is under contract with Telenet-Fidea until 2011.
Cyclocross the Big Ticket In Belgium
Professional cyclocross has been setting a number of records in recent weeks, with more and more people turning out on Saturdays and Sundays to watch their favorite riders. According to Sport.be, The World Championships, although held in Tabor, were viewed on television by more than 1.1 million people in Belgium. Of all the people who watched TV during the time of the World Championships, 72% were watching the Elite Men’s race. Showing that there’s still a large disparity between Men’s and Women’s cyclocross, only 366,000 people flipped their televisions to the Elite Women’s race three hours earlier. To put things in perspective, the entire population of Belgium is just a shade over 10 million people.
The Superprestige stop in Zonhoven also brought in a record number of viewers, when Belgian television channel VT4 broadcast the race live. Over 850,000 viewers tuned in to watch Sven Nys win the day’s race, and that number was just from Flanders alone!
Stybar Celebrates World Championships With a Ferrari Ride
Zdenek Stybar, the newly crowned World Champion, is viewed by many in Belgium as one of their own. As such, the Czech rider was greeted by many adoring fans when he arrived in Belgium to meet with the heads of Telenet, the title sponsor of his Telenet-Fidea team, and to head back to his home in Essen, Belgium. Stybar was whisked away from the airport, after returning to an ovation from his supporters club, in a brand new Ferrari, and arrived at his doorstep in Essen to the same ovation that he had left at the airport in Zaventem, Belgium. By his own admission, Stybar was so happy with his victory and the rainbow bands that he had earned, that he slept his first night as World Champion in his new jersey.
Many in the Telenet-Fidea family felt that Stybar’s chances were good enough at the World title that they were willing to make some gambles on the young Czech. If you looked closely, you could see Stybar’s girlfriend, the first person to greet Stybar after his winning ride, decked out in a Telenet-Fidea branded World Champion’s jersey. Shortly thereafter, Telenet-Fidea’s bicycle sponsor, Ridley, trotted out a custom painted Ridley X-Night for Stybar to ride in his first races as the World Champion.
It was clear that the glow of being the World Champion had not worn off when Stybar toed the line for the Parkcross Maldegem in Maldegem, Belgium. Stybar labored to a seventh place finish in the race won by deposed World Champion Neils Albert. Albert, however, had fared little better in his first race as World Champion one year prior, where he rode to a 13th place finish.
Nys Not the Only One With No Gloves
Sven Nys’ lack of gloves at the World Championships in Tabor is no secret to anyone who paid attention to the race. A crash forced Nys to abandon his hand wear early in the race, and left him with a pair of frozen paws as the race wore on. Still, Nys was not the only one to suffer the fate, as Frenchman Steve Chainel was also forced to ditch one of his gloves following a crash. Chainel, however, elected not to continue for the rest of the race and suffer the cold, as he found the time to pick up his glove after one lap, and not lose a single position.
Wondering what your favorite mudders have been up to? Doing your homework so you can win Cyclocross Magazine’s fantasy cyclocross league next season? We’ve got you covered with our new, weekly report on your favorite top ‘crossers. Each week Jake Sisson will bring you the latest news, gossip and maybe even a tweet or two on the pro scene. This is installment #35. Installment #34 is here. Got something worth reporting? Let us know!