FORT COLLINS, Colorado (VN) — For many riders, the transition from espoirs to elite is abrupt. The big fish in the small pond suddenly becomes the bottom feeder, and transitioning to the pro peloton after coming off a season-ending injury is another thing entirely.
Former U.S. national under-23 and junior cyclocross champion Bjorn Selander is no stranger to the pro ranks, having worn the Giro d’Italia’s best young rider jersey for RadioShack over two days in his first grand tour in 2011. Selander was the youngest man on the American ProTeam and when he was caught out without a contract following the RadioShack/Leopard merger, he signed with SpiderTech-C10 and looked forward to a full European season.
What he identified at the time as a hip flexor issue progressed as the 2012 road season approached and worsened until he pulled out of competition from March to June of this year. With two-and-a-half months literally off the bike, it took a lot to get back into the swing of racing when he returned August.
“I lost a lot of racing and a lot of intensity,” Selander told VeloNews on Monday.
While he didn’t race cyclocross last year, Selander’s coach has suggested he return to his roots and get some racing back in his legs with a cyclocross season. Beginning last month with the Trek U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross’ Planet Bike Cup in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, he has been racing with a local team, Plan C, until the road season starts.
While he said that he is taking a more low-key approach to ’cross than when he was chasing national titles and UCI points, he is planning his season around having a good showing at the national championships in Madison, Wisconsin, in January. After so much time out of cyclocross competition, though, Selander had a last-row call-up both days of last weekend’s Smartwool Cup USGP stop in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“The last time I raced, I was still a U23 rider and then I had a better luck of the draw,” he said. “Starting off 40th is still very different than starting off between 70 and 90. Still, the good part is you can only move up.”
Finishing within the top 30 both days in Fort Collins, Selander did pick his way through a substantial amount of the field. The pressure isn’t too high for the son of former professional Dag Selander, he claims, despite the fact that SpiderTech announced on Friday that it was pulling out of the 2013 season in order to focus on finding better corporate sponsorship and Selander hasn’t finalized his 2013 road contract.
“Now I’m just trying to prove myself as an elite,” he listed as his primary goal of the cyclocross season. “I proved myself as a U23 and as a junior, but I know a lot of the competition and I believe I can be up there.”
For now, he is happy to fight his way through the throng of those with call-ups higher than the last row in his pursuit to prove himself among the elite and put some more kilometers in his legs for the upcoming road season, whatever it may bring.