Stybar © Patricia Cristens

Stybar at Koppenberg this past week. © Patricia Cristens

by Kat Statman

Two European classic ’cross races have passed this week, Koppenberg and Zonhoven. Sand and big hills were the name of the game, and it became painfully clear that the European courses are much different than our courses here. Did anyone see spirals of death? Did you see that downhill sand chute into a 180 degree turn into that insane run up that required many, including Nys, to use the ropes for support? Amazing to see people ride that stuff lap after lap while riding at their limit. But, back to Rumors & Rumblings. We’ve got some tech rumors and news coming through this week with Stybar’s team switching back to Specialized, Albert heading over to Colnago and Tim Johnson not using that fancy disc brake bike everyone was talking about last week. Vantourenhout will come off the injured list this weekend in Ronse. Boom goes back on his word. Amy Dombroski, still getting it done day in and day out.

Will a Euro Accept an American Style Race Rig?
Quick-Step, soon to be Omega Pharma-Quick Step, parted ways with Eddy Merckx Bicycles and are rumored to be on Specialized. The World Champ riding an aluminum ’cross bike? Specialized is probably not all that interested in sending the World Champ out on an aluminum, let alone sending out US National Champ Todd Wells out on an aluminum bike. If Omega Pharma-Quick Step is really going back to the big red S (lots of history with this team) then we may be able to expect to see some carbon Crux prototypes sooner rather than later. On a completely different note, how do these guys deal with switching their race bikes mid-season, especially after coming out of such a busy week of racing? I know you can match positions, but often geometries are different, which can completely affect handling in (sometimes) a not so positive light. Will this kill Stybar’s run of rainbow stripes, or is there enough time for him to get used to the low-slung American-style ’cross bike?

Colnago Will Not Be Left Out in the Cold
Niels and company are left to take over Colnago’s duties at the front of the field, while Nys breaks into the ’cross market for Scott. We’ve mentioned this before, where the merger of KDL-Trans and Landbouwkrediet will eventually see the elite team (a.k.a Sven Nys, Vantourenhout and maybe someone else) on Scott ’cross bikes, though no official announcement has been made as to when that will happen. But it seems that in response, Colnago is making sure it is still at the front of the ’cross game and is putting BKCP-Powerplus on the Superprestige as of January 1st. Maybe riding such a class frame that has been ridden to too many wins to count at this point thanks to Nys will bring Albert up in the late season races that he struggles with so much.

Vantourenhout will be off the injured list by this Sunday in Ronse.
With the past few races in Belgium being absolute fast hammerfests (I hear that won’t be the case this weekend, thankfully!) Nys has really been missing an important teammate, Vantourenhout. You can clearly see Pauwels taking advantage of his teammate Vantornout during the early season races to save that little bit for when it’s time for the team captain to give it a go. Well, Vantourenhout will be back this weekend, hopefully riding at the good early season form he had this year to give Nys a little support against a clearly stronger and deeper field.

Tim Johnson not on the disc brake equipped SuperX
Hmmm … maybe it’s not that good or just too heavy? If you were living under a rock this past week, you probably would not quite know what’s going on here, but every cycling tech website in English (at least) made a huge hubub about Tim Johnson’s disc ’cross bike that he brought to the Colorado UCI races for testing. And then he didn’t even race it. Sounds to me like something is not quite there yet and there is still some more R&D that needs to be happening before the bike companies start blowing smoke about the advantages of disc brakes (something that I already know is true regardless, as a recovering mountain biker).

On another note, it’s great to see Tim back to his old riding and at the front giving it a go! Maybe this “coming into form late” thing will work out and Tim will be grabbing a podium place in Koksijde this January? Or a podium at one of the remaining World Cups?

Lars Boom goes back on his word … not cool!
Last year when interviewed and asked if he would come to the ’cross World Champs, Boom asked where it was and when he found it was going to be in Koksijde, he told the world that he would ride in another ’cross worlds. It’s time to call you out, Boom, you’ve gone back on your promise to the world and made little boys and girls in the Netherlands cry because you won’t take the sand dunes this January. Why would you do that? Because there are some silly road races in the spring? You know that you don’t belong riding on that black smooth surface or even the cobbled surfaces, and that 33 mm tubulars with knobs, sand, snow, mud, grass and dirt are where you belong. Give your fans from the ’cross world a little love and show them what another season at the Pro Tour road level has done to your fitness! Maybe this year, you can get Albert to hit that tree trying to stay on your wheel!

Amy D.: Euro Tackler Extraordinaire
With the women’s racing, well, sort of making an in-road in Europe, it’s been great to follow the women’s racing stories and one story in particular is Amy Dombroski. If you’re not following along with what she’s doing, you should be, because like I’ve said before, she is taking Europe by storm. This weekend, it was back-to-back top ten’s at Koppenberg and Zonhoven for the young American. That calls for a raise of the glass. Keep it up, Amy!