Editor’s note: Dan Seaton has been literally crawling through the Belgian mud covering European cyclocross since 2008. Each week this season he’ll look ahead to the weekend’s races and answer your questions about ’cross on the other side of the Atlantic. Got a question for your favorite Euro star? Want to know the inside story about the legendary Flemish fields? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Emails to this address were being bounced earlier this fall, so if you tried to email and didn’t hear back, please do try again.
BRUSSELS (VN) — Last Sunday, countries around the world crowned new national champions and this weekend, cyclocross will wrap up its second big contest with the World Cup finale in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. Many of the big questions have already been settled.
American Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) locked in the overall women’s title with a second place in Rome and will not return to Europe for the final round, opting to focus on training for the world championships at home instead. Likewise, there is no serious contest for the men’s podium: Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony), in third place, has an insurmountable lead over newly crowned Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), who currently sits in fourth place.
However, not every score has been settled. In the race for the women’s podium, only eight points separate Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea), Sanne Van Paassen (Rabobank), and Helen Wyman (Kona) for second place. European champion Wyman lost the British title to Harris last week and a ride that puts her ahead in the final standings would be at least a little revenge. Van Paassen, meanwhile, still just returning from illness that sidelined her for the sixth round in Zolder, Belgium — and probably cost her an otherwise guaranteed second place overall — would just like to show she is primed and ready for a good ride at worlds in two weeks.
In the men’s race, meanwhile, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb) trails Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) by 16 points in the overall standings. Pauwels can win the World Cup — and earn an extra spot for the Belgian men at worlds — if he finishes first and Albert does not finish on the podium. Other scenarios in which Pauwels steals the win exist, but disaster would have to befall Albert, who has not finished off the podium in World Cup competition this season. Should Pauwels fail to overtake his countryman, Albert would end up both as World Cup winner and defending world champion, meaning Belgium would receive only one of the two possible extra starting slots at worlds reserved for those who accomplish one of those two feats. Watch the tactics if the pair is at the head of racing late.
Potentially adding to the intrigue is that unusual cold has gripped northwest Europe, and much of the region is buried in snow. (I haven’t been able to confirm conditions in Hoogerheide, but there are six inches of snow in my backyard in Brussels, and reports are that more snow fell this week to the north in the Netherlands.) The cold is expected to last for several more days and snow may fall again, meaning that Europe may be treated to its first snowy World Cup of the season.
Now, let’s turn to one of your questions.
Start money for the flag duds
Can you provide some info about Superprestige and bpost Bank Trofee contracts for riders that agree to race the entire series or appearance fees for smaller races? Will the stars-and-stripes jersey earn Jonathan Page a more lucrative deal for these series and races?
—Jay in Maryland
Indeed, to attract crowds of tens of thousands of paying spectators to races in Belgium, race organizers have to ensure not only that the stars show up, but that the races themselves are a huge spectacle with dozens of the best riders in the world. As a result, racers receive appearance fees — start money — as incentive to race a full schedule in the major series. Smaller, non-series races, which have less to offer racers in prize money, status, and UCI points, can also attract big names with the promise of a payout just for starting.
Payments range from as little as 75 euro to upwards of 10,000 euro for stars like Sven Nys, who attracts legions of fans every time he toes the line. Across the board, the start money dwarfs the prize money on offer. Lower-ranked riders have little hope of earning any prize money at all outside of the World Cup, which, in the men’s race, pays at least 300 euro to anyone who finishes in the top 50, but appearance fees can at least offset the costs associated with traveling to races. Top riders might earn as much as 100,000 euro in prize money in a single season, but as much as 150,000 euro in start money.
In return, riders often sign contracts that ensure they will appear at every race of a series, and risk the forfeiture of start money or future appearances if they do not. Promoters will generally tolerate a rider missing a race due to injury or serious illness, but not always. Sick or injured riders will occasionally start a race and then quickly withdraw, ensuring that they don’t jeopardize lucrative start contracts.
For Jonathan Page, a national title should definitely precipitate a rise in the value of his stock, and, in turn, the appearance fees he is able to negotiate. Page suffered through one of the worst seasons of his career last season, hampered by some serious injuries that included more than one broken bone — ribs, hand, and sternum — and some seriously poor-timed illnesses, including one that forced him to make an early exit from the world championship race in Koksijde, Belgium. It hurt his UCI ranking, his standing in final series results, and, undoubtedly, the start money he was offered this year.
But Page nonetheless has a pretty considerable following in Belgium — he’s one of the few non-Belgian men to elicit sincere cheers from the crowds that pack cyclocross courses here. His late season return to form and a fourth national championship are both strong selling points that should reestablish him as a rider who can help draw a crowd and should help him earn a much-deserved raise.