Bart Wellens is coming to race cyclocross in the U.S. - with StarCrossed and Rad Racing GP. (Roubaix World Cup file photo) © Joe Sales

Bart Wellens is coming to race cyclocross in the U.S. - at StarCrossed and the Rad Racing GP. (Roubaix WC file photo) © Joe Sales

Bart Wellens, Telenet-Fidea’s cyclocross star, has officially signed to race the Rad Racing GP, promoter Jim Brown told Cyclocross Magazine on Saturday in Seattle.  The Belgian cyclocross veteran has also been confirmed to be contesting StarCrossed, the second race of the Cross After Dark series, the night before.

The two-time Elite cyclocross world champion and three-time U23 cyclocross world champion will be making his first trip to race cyclocross on American soil this September, and he is expected to have teammate Rob Peeters in tow as the two follow Frenchman Francis Mourey’s successful season-opening schedule of 2010 by contesting CrossVegas, StarCrossed, Rad Racing GP and the first weekend of the USGP in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.  Neither rider’s attendance at CrossVegas or the USGP has been officially announced, but success with such a schedule would bring a lot of coveted UCI points.

Sporza confirmed Wellens’ early US season plans, quoting him as saying, “I always wanted to do so and also I can glean important UCI points.”

The trip will not be Wellens’ first trip to the US, however, as he and past teammate Tom Vannoppen came over to join fellow cyclocrosser Tim Johnson to race together at the Fitchburg Longjo Classic four-day stage race in New England. The date? July, 1999. All three were on the U23 podium at the 1999 World Championships in Poprad, Slovakia.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Wellens, since he rarely races in the US, check out a video of him at the Chute de Cyclocross as well as a bonus picture of him pushing a pushy spectator away … with his foot! Or, you can read about Wellens in his victory at Cauberg cyclocross in the Netherlands in February.

Welcome back, Bart!

Official Press Release from CrossVegas Promoter Brook Watts:

Two-time cyclocross World Champion Bart Wellens will begin his 2011 cyclocross season in the U.S. by racing the opening two rounds of the new Cross After Dark national cyclocross series. Wellens and his Telenet Fidea teammate Rob Peeters, both of Belgium, will make U.S. cyclocross debuts at Cross After Dark Race 1, CrossVegas on September 14th. The pair will then travel to Seattle on September 18th and 19th for the longstanding UCI Washington State cyclocross weekend at StarCrossed (Cross After Dark Race 2) as well as the Rad Racing GP.

“We are extremely excited to begin our campaign in the U.S.,” said Telenet Fidea  manager Hans van Kasteren. “Bart has raced road on the east coast of the U.S. with Timothy Johnson, but looks forward to his U.S. cyclocross debut on the West Coast.”

Top European cyclocross racers such as Erwin Vervecken, Francis Mourey, Helen Wyman, and Christian Huele have also raced in the U.S. in recent years, but the Telenet Fidea trip in fall 2011 signals a continued shift in the frequency of top-tiered European competitors traveling to the U.S. to race ‘cross. September is early on the U.S. and European cross calendar, so to see top Belgians traveling so far to compete in some of the strongest U.S. races really speaks to the legitimacy of the U.S. cyclocross scene.

“Traditionally in the U.S., you’ll see top domestic racers travel, vacation, or live in Europe to hone their cross skills against European competition,” said Zac Daab, co-promoter of StarCrossed Cyclocross in Seattle, WA. “This year, Telenet Fidea is heading to the U.S. to string a series of races together for Bart Wellens and Rob Peeters that allow them to gain early season fitness, capture UCI points and test themselves over here before the 2013 Worlds.”

CrossVegas promoter Brook Watts added, “I’ve been preaching the benefits of the early season U.S. races to the Europeans for some time, I think we’re at the tipping point now where they see the value in making a trip over here to compete against our top pros who start the season well prepped.”

New for the 2011 season, the Cross After Dark national cyclocross series connects America’s four premiere nighttime cyclocross races: Cross Vegas, StarCrossed, Gateway Cross Cup, and Spooky Cross. Cross Vegas kicks off the series with its mid-week race during the annual Interbike bicycle trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 14th. StarCrossed celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year at a new venue, PGP Motorsports Park in Kent, Washington on September 17th. The series moves to St. Louis, Missouri for the mid-week Gateway Cross Cup on September 21st, and then concludes on October 15th with a SoCal tradition, Spooky Cross in Irvine, California.