The 2011 World Cyclocross Championships are fast approaching, and the best racers from each country are putting in their last-minute preparations. We caught up with a few of the US riders to hear some of their thoughts as they look to this weekend’s races. (See yesterday’s interviews with Katie Compton, Sue Butler and Meredith Miller). Stay tuned for reactions on the course after riders have the opportunity to pre-ride at St. Wendel.
Six-time National Champion Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) is by far the most experienced US racer when it comes to competing on European soil. With numerous top-tens – most recently taking fifth at Zonnebeke – and a strong performance last time Worlds were held at St. Wendel, Page is looking strong as he heads into this weekend. One minor distraction? His wife is due to give birth to the couple’s third child at any moment.
“On Saturday [Zonnebeke], I felt like a guy that hadn’t raced in three weeks,” said Page. “I didn’t really feel like I got into a rhythm until the very end. Sunday, I was very disappointed. I knew I’d have a challenge to get toward the front before the boat left the harbor, but I did an alright job. Then, on the second lap, I lost a lot of time and places trying to get my shifting going again. I felt strong and caught a lot of people back and made up a lot of time…but it wasn’t enough. I wished the race was longer. I definitely feel strong. It would be great to be able to show it. My result Sunday was not a reflection of my form, I don’t think.”
We asked Page how he felt heading into this weekend. “Just the usual,” he replied. “Trying to make sure I don’t get sick, checking over all the bikes, tires, wheels, etc. And, this year, packing a hospital bag for my wife, who will likely deliver our third baby in Sankt Wendel!”
“I like this course very much. The last time the Worlds were there, I led the Worlds. The Canadians told me I was the first North American to ever do that, so I have good memories and feelings from there. Plus, I like pretzels.”
As to predictions for the win? “I never make a prediction on that! One day, one hour…anything can happen.”
Page has seen US cyclocross grow exponentially since he first began hopping barriers, and that growth brings him a sense of pride. “I feel like I’ve been a part of making that happen,” he said. “It’s nice to feel like you’re a part of something cool like that.”
U23 rider and 2009 and 2010 national collegiate champion Zach McDonald has spent plenty of time in Europe lately, attending the EuroCrossCamp, racing the World Cup at Hoogerheide, and now looking ahead to Worlds.
“Hoogerheide was somewhat of a disaster,” McDonald said. “But I still managed to have fun and turn it around by at least entertaining myself on the course. This season in Europe has had its ups and downs, but overall I’m quite content with how it has been going. There will always be races like Hoogerheide where it just doesn’t work out, but as long as I’m having fun riding my bike that’s fine with me.”
“So far I’ve feeling pretty good, I’m recovering from the weekend and slowly gaining momentum into the weekend. No last minute prep, it’s just another race, so why change what’s worked all season? As far as the course goes, I won’t see it until Thursday or Friday.”
McDonald has often been praised for his incredible technical skills, but we thought we’d still ask if he’s picked up any new tricks racing in Europe. “Ha, not really” he replied. “I’m a little more aggressive over here than in the US since the depth of the field is quite a bit deeper, but other than that no real tricks.”
“The growth of American ’cross is awesome,” he continued. “It’s great to see some of our riders holding their own against the world’s best in Europe. It would be great to see the growth continue to the point that we can get some depth in our fields. Once we can get two to three riders consistently hitting the front of the races then we’ll see a true impact on the world stage.”
His predictions for our next World Champions? “Bahnson, Summerhill, Johnson and Compton.”
Amy Dombroski has been hitting Europe hard lately, racing the latest rounds of the World Cup and bringing us the details. The former Luna racer has recently announced her new team, headlined by Crank Brothers.
“After a tour of the Ridley factory on Tuesday afternoon, we headed onward to Wendel,” said Dombroski. “I’m staying with a couple friends, also a sponsor, Edwin and Trina of Rambuski Law in San Luis Obispo, CA. We’re just a few kilometers from the venue, and I went for a walk around the course today. It was a quick look, but enough to confirm it’ll be wicked demanding!”
“Since the selection I’ve been excited for this weekend, but seeing the Crank Brothers homepage really made my heart beat a bit faster. I feel really fortunate to have their support, as well as to feel the support from so many others, from VT to CO, from front wheel to rear, and from helmet to pedal.”
“My bet for the win? There are three women who have proven themselves throughout the season. Katie has shown the most fire at the World Cups she started, but I know Hanka will be gunning for a good ‘un in her home country. However, Vos is also showing good form with good timing. So I think it’ll be a proper showdown between those three.”
“I love racing and simply being in Europe,” Dombroski explained. “Cyclocross is fun wherever you do it, but I’ve been enjoying the challenging courses and conditions I’ve been up against. Every race is incredibly hard fought, every position is a battle. I think it says a lot that we can have top riders like Katie and Katerina in the US, but there isn’t quite so much consistency throughout the entire field as you find in Europe.”
Amy’s pick for the men? “A sprint between Lars Boom and Ryan Trebon.”
If only, Amy. If only.
At only 19 years old, U23 National Champion Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) is the youngest American Elite racer doing battle at St. Wendel. The young Katie Compton apprentice has been steadily gaining momentum stateside, and we’re excited to see her progression in years to come.
“I am really looking forward to my first Cyclocross World Championships,” she said. “I am very excited and also nervous. Racing this past weekend helped calm some of those nerves down just because I now have some idea of what it’s like.”
Perhaps her predictions for the next female world champion comes as no surprise: “My bet for the win is Katie! I definitely think it is her time. If I have to pick someone that would most likely upset her, though, I would pick Marianne Vos.”
Antonneau made her debut World Cup race this past weekend at Hoogerheide. Her thoughts? “I believe that racing in Europe is much harder than in the US. Not that racing at home isn’t hard…because it is. I just think that racing in Europe really teaches you how to race your bike…and racing the course over here really teaches you how to ride and handle your bike.”