by Christine Vardaros, Cyclocross Magazine’s American-turned-Belgian correspondent
The Belgian vibe all week here has been a nervous one. We are all waiting on the riders to test the course, and we’ve been reading Nys’s complaints that he hasn’t been able to really see what it’s like. Once they’ve been on it then they can report back to everyone here on what they thought of it and, just as importantly, how they feel about it. After watching these riders for years, everyone here has a good idea on how a rider will perform based on how he or she talks about the course.
As a general guideline, if the course is a fast, non-technical one, then we know it’s something for Kevin Pauwels and Niels Albert. If it’s fast but more technically demanding, then possibly Niels Albert goes in as a pre-race favorite with Sven Nys in for a shot if he’s having a good day. Pauwels is good for a podium, maybe even first on a good day. But if it the skies open up and flood the joint turning the whole thing into a mudpile, then joining Albert as pre-race favorite are Bart Wellens, Rob Peeters, Klaas Vantornout and of course, Sven Nys. Nys would then move to top favorite, with Albert and Vantornout just behind. As for Bart Aernouts, he is always good for a top ten in any conditions, and a top five on a very good day.
Niels Albert via Teletext: “ I came a week earlier than the other Belgians because I didn’t want for take any chances. I have here almost everything I have at home. All my mechanics are here and on Friday my personal soigneur comes over to give me two massages. That costs money but it’s an investment. I don’t want to finish second on five seconds and sit with the feelings of “what if.” If I don’t win it will be because others were better.”
He added, “It’s a huge adaptation so I think that it’s a good choice to come over here earlier. You have to count on two weeks to get that jetlag out of your body. I noticed that Saturday in the Cincinnati race. I thought I could ride a steady pace, but after 40 minutes my body started to protest a bit … It doesn’t have to be this far every year but Sunday I am going to ride the race of my life to extend my title.”
Rudy de Bie via Teletext: “Belgian coach Rudy de bie has no problem keeping his riders sharp for Worlds. Everyone realizes that it has to work out so he has no problem keeping them all motivated and on the job. The trainings were done perfect and all facilities needed by the riders are here. We leave nothing to chance so all the needed material is here … If no Belgian wins it won’t be undeserved for the one who wins.”
Via Teletex, De Bie said his the trip to USA a new experience. But for sure for the younger riders it will leave a lasting impression. The people in the US are super friendly. You get hugs for no reason. That’s all very warm and kind and American, but you don’t really know if they mean it. [Hugging in Belgium is reserved for people who are very close and for lovers, sort of like how Americans reserve kissing for.]
As per cyclo-cross.info, Gianni Vermeersch was hit by car in the US:
Wednesday afternoon, during a training ride in Louisville, he was hit by a careless American driver. Luckily the damage was not too big. He walked away with a bit of road rash on his knee and hand. ‘When I was seven km from the hotel, I had to stop at a crossing for a traffic light. And when I wanted to leave again, the driver didn’t see me and turn into me from the right. Luckily I saw it fast enough that he didn’t see me so I could slow down a bit. I was still lying down on the floor when a cop car already came. And within five minutes, an ambulance guy was already taking care of my wounds. A bit later, a few other police cars joined us. Luckily I spoke a little bit of English and there was a lady who witnessed that the car driver made a mistake. The cops were super friendly and helpful. Because my bike was not damaged I could ride back to the hotel.’
Also via cyclo-cross.info, Bart Aernouts has said he came to Louisville with realistic expectations. If he becomes world champion he will get 50,000€ from his AA Drink team. “But I start as a helper,” Aernouts told cyclocross.info. “I know my place in the peloton. I have never been the head guy in a team.”
Yesterday, cyclo-cross.info reported that Bart [Wellens] said that the atmosphere here has never been more relaxed, but every time, there are always three guys absent from the photos, Niels Albert and the guys from the Sunweb-Napolean Games [Kevin Pauwels & Klaas Vantornout]. Albert and Wietse Bosmans’ absence is easy to explain as they only join the team now. They were staying in a house rented by their team. Also, Sunweb-Napolean Games riders Pauwels and Vantornout have been missing in group gatherings despite staying in the same hotel as the rest of the Belgian team. Rudy de Bie says that it’s their way of preparing for the big day and you have to respect that.
The article also added that the racers also train on their own and the team manager of Sunweb-Napolean Games thought that was perfectly normal as there are four top favorites in the Belgian team. Nys added, “They live their own life and train separate. That’s their right and we don’t have to look deeper into that.”
Cyclo-cross.info wrote about the Nys and Albert signing session in a Louisville shop:
Colnago invited Nys and Albert to a bike shop in Louisville for a autograph session Wednesday evening. After the photo and signing session, the two took some time to speak with the folks there. It lasted a full 45 minutes. Nys told them, “It is very important that we are here to promote the sport so it was necessary to come here.” He ended by offering his jersey up to the bike shop if he wins the race. Then they were back out the door to the hotel for a press conference held for American journalists. Watch a video of the bike shop visit, courtesy of Julien Gielen.
Then there are Belgian Champion Sanne Cant and Ellen van Loy. As Cant has been on the podium at two World Cups and won six UCI events this season as well a fine second at last year’s Worlds, she has a very good shot for a top five and looking very good for a podium if the conditions turn muddy or technical. As for Van Loy, her three top 10’s in World Cups on various terrains are proof that she can play with the big girls and come out on top. A top eight is definitely within her reach.
Stay tuned for more thoughts from Belgium as the week progresses!
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