Tyler Wren and Danny Summerhill proved their versatility by factoring into the Tour of the Gila. (File photo from Krosstoberfest 2010)

by Kat Statman
Some weeks the ’cross season seems closer and closer, and others it just seems farther away. I’m not sure where this week stands, maybe it’s farther away, but only because there’s a lot of road and mountain bike racing news coming down the wire.

So where did the top ’crossers pop up within all of the other disciplines out there? Well at the Quatre Jours de Dunqerke (Four Days of Dunkerke) keep your eyes open for three names: Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar and Sven Vanthourenhout. In not so surprising news Marianne Vos has won some more bike races with a win in the GP Elsy Jacobs on April 30th and another win in the GP Nicolas Frantz on May 1st. We are sorry to announce that it has unfortunately come to our attention that Zdenek Stybar will not be coming to California. Georgia Gould storms away with a big win at the Mellow Johnny’s Pro XCT. Tyler Wren of Jamis/Sutter Home takes second to Francesco Mancebo on the mountain top finish of the Mongollan Stage of the Tour of the Gila.

Something new that will be a part of “Pro Cyclocross Rumors and Rumblings” is a highlight of all the “working-man pro” ’crossers out there and what they have been up to. In the world of those who carry full-time jobs and still race at the top level, the news this week is centered in the mountain bike world. Jake Wells lands on the podium and inside the top 10 at the Whiskey 50 weekend, and Justin Lindine and Spencer Paxson throw down and hang tough with the big guns at the Mellow Johnny’s Pro XCT.

Three ’Crossers Racing Each Other at the Quatre Jours de Dunqerke
This week’s big stage race in Europe is the Quatre Jours de Dunqerke, a race that doesn’t gain a lot of notoriety as it sits on the doorstep of the Giro d’Italia (which is to start this weekend) as well as a few other big early summer events like the Tour of California. Regardless, there are a few ’crossers there to get the racing rhythm back in the legs after spending lots of time training and resting. The notables are Zdenek Stybar, Sven Nys and Sven Vanthourenhout. So how are they stacking up against each other? In the sprint points competition, Sven Vanthourenhout seems to have the best ’cross sprinter title in the bag sitting in eighth overall with eight points and neither Stybar or Nys even making a showing. As far as the general classification goes Vanthourenhout is officially listed as the first of these ’crossers with a solid 20th place only 26 seconds down from the lead. However, Stybar is listed in 50th with the same time as Vanthourenhout placing them in a de facto tie. Unfortunately Nys is sitting another 30 seconds or so back, and 30 or so places farther down the overall results sheet. So who is taking the cx-bracket win? Well on paper Vanthourenhout clearly has it, but, Stybar made his way into a 13-man break late during today’s stage only to be caught just before the finish. So maybe we can throw him some extra points for panache.

Marianne Vos Takes Labor Day Weekend by Storm
It may not be Labor Day in the United States, but this past weekend was Labor Day weekend in Europe, and Marianne Vos celebrated by winning both the GP Elsy Jacobs on Saturday by outsprinting the rest of a three-rider breakaway and then taking a solo win from the final climb on Sunday’s GP Nicolas Frantz. These two wins come after Vos took the women’s edition of Fleche Wallone as well as her otherwise dominant road and track season. With Vos clearly coming to a strong spring peak, I hope she takes the summer a little bit easy in order to be prepared, rested and ready to do battle during this year’s ’cross season. With a rested and peaking Vos, the battles at the front of the women’s field between Compton, Vos, Daphny van den Brandt, Hanka Kupfernagel, Katerina Nash and Sanne van Paassen will be absolutely amazing to watch.

Stybar Not Coming to California
Though we already reported that Stybar was set to come across the pond and race the Tour of California, something that would be good for the current world champion in order to find out how the long travel affects him, it has unfortunately come to our attention that he will not be making the trek with fellow ’cross compatriot Lars Boom. According to a recent report on velonation, Stybar has stated that his schedule after the Quatre Jours de Dunqerke will be the Tour of Picardie, Tour of Belgium and possibly a start in the Tour of Switzerland. At this time, Stybar is still trying to get a feel for top-level road racing, and he’s been quite surprised by the overall speed of the races. Maybe the extra days of motor-pacing will just make him that much faster for this ’cross season. Could it be that we will see an even more dominant Stybar at the beginning of the season?

Georgia Gould, Using ’Cross Experience on the Mountain Bike?

With the third round of the US Pro XCT Series, the UCI mountain bike series in the US, converging on Dripping Springs, Texas this weekend many of the top women made the trek to the hot and dry hill country west of Austin to grab some UCI points and maybe some cash for the Olympic Long Team battle. The women’s field was unfortunately small, though not weak, and Georgia Gould took a commanding victory ahead of Leah Davison. After the first short start loop Georgia already had at least 30 seconds and continued to grow that lead through power and determination over the short and technical six kilometer course on Lance Armstrong’s ranch. So, where did her ’cross experience come in? Even though the course was technical it was littered with high speed descents that kept average speeds high and Georgia’s overall race winning time was one hour twenty one minutes, a short and hard effort. With UCI mountain bike race times getting shorter and shorter it’s looking like both the men and women might need to race ’cross to gain experience and pacing practice, something that is obviously a good thing for us ’cross fans.

Tyler Wren Almost Matches Former Tour de France Best Young Rider, Alex Howes Rides to Fourth GC
With the Tour of the Gila wrapping up over the course of this weekend it’s not a bad place to take a quick glance and see if any ’crossers were making an impact on the difficult parcours found in Silver City, New Mexico. One such rider, Tyler Wren, was really making a big dent with the fast climbers when he took second to former Tour de France white jersey winner Francesco Mancebo, only 15 short seconds down. Tyler had an awesome ’cross season this year riding for Boo Bicycles–yes he’s the one on the crazy looking bamboo bike designed by Nick Frey. [And the bike was reviewed in full in Issue 11 of our print magazine.] But clearly he’s not only good at mixing it up during short, hard efforts like ’cross, he can hold his own when the racing action takes a whole lot longer.

Other Gila highlights include U23 national cyclocross champ Danny Summerhill picking up enough intermediate points for a stint in the green sprinters jersey (he would eventually finish fourth in the competition), and 23-year-old Alex Howes taking fifth in the two opening road stages, then third in the Gila Monster queen stage on his way to fourth overall for the stage race. Howes, who has raced for the Clif Bar Development cyclocross team for the past several years, will be leaving the espoir ranks for 2011/2012, and he clearly has developed into a phenomenally strong rider along the way. 20-year-old Virginian cyclocrosser Joseph Dombrowski (Trek-Livestrong road team) was right in the mix as well, claiming third place finishes on the first and last days en route to a sensational sixth place in GC.

“Working-Man Pro” Cyclocross Rumors & Rumblings
In this week’s “Working-Man Pro” Cyclocross Rumors & Rumblings there are two big events to focus on. First is the Whiskey 50 miler in Prescott, AZ. The Whiskey 50 has always garnered a lot of respect within the endurance mountain bike racing crowd, but this year the organizers stepped up their game, and with a big prize list and a Friday fat tire crit they were able to bring in an all-star start list. Names like Carl Decker, Barry Wicks, current Canadian cyclocross national champion Chris Sheppard as well as many others were present. But the two working man names that came out on top for the weekend were Jake Wells and Chris Sheppard. In the Fat Tire Crit on Friday night, Jake made the front group early and managed to slot in for second behind Sheppard after Sheppard’s monstrous attack on the final climb. Then two days later Jake backed up that second place with a seventh place finish only nine minutes down from the winner, Sheppard again. Good job both Jake and Chris for taking home strong working-man rides!

The other race that deserves a bit of working-man attention is the Mellow Johnny’s Pro XCT race. There were two racers that regularly show up for ’cross races and have both taken top finishes at the biggest UCI ’cross races in the US over the past few years: Spencer Paxson and Justin Lindine. After battling the heat for just over 30km, Paxson rolled through in sixth place just off the podium, but solidly in the money and the UCI points. Not much farther back from Spencer came Justin with a solid 11th place finish, inside the money but just outside of the UCI points. Keep up the good work guys, and good luck Spencer–with rides like this week’s you’ll definitely be making the Olympic Long-Team!