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Cyclocross

A most remarkable season: Page wraps up his best-ever ‘cross campaign

On Sunday, just as his Colavita-Sutter Home teammates were starting their 2006 road campaign on the streets of San Francisco in the Tour of California prologue, Jonathan Page was cleaning the last bit of Belgian dirt out of his teeth after the final UCI cyclo-cross race of the 2005-06 season in Oostemalle, Belgium. While Page (who races 'cross for Liberty Seguros-Cérvélo) finished 12th in Oostemalle, the GVA Series finale, his 7th place result from Saturday in the eighth and concluding SuperPrestige Series race in Vorselaar vaulted the former three-time U.S. Elite champion into some

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By Chris Milliman, Special to VeloNews

It's been a great year for Page.

It’s been a great year for Page.

Photo: Chris Milliman (file photo)

On Sunday, just as his Colavita-Sutter Home teammates were starting their 2006 road campaign on the streets of San Francisco in the Tour of California prologue, Jonathan Page was cleaning the last bit of Belgian dirt out of his teeth after the final UCI cyclo-cross race of the 2005-06 season in Oostemalle, Belgium.

While Page (who races ‘cross for Liberty Seguros-Cérvélo) finished 12th in Oostemalle, the GVA Series finale, his 7th place result from Saturday in the eighth and concluding SuperPrestige Series race in Vorselaar vaulted the former three-time U.S. Elite champion into some rarified air. Page moved past Italian Enrico Franzoi in the overall Series standings, landing in 10th for the season, by far the highest ever ranking for any American ever in the Continent’s most prestigious series.

Following on the heels of his best-ever 10th place at the UCI World Championships in Zeddam, Page’s historic placing in the SuperPrestige, a series dominated by the Belgians with six in the top-10, cemented his place as the first American truly to crack the upper echelon of the elite Euro cyclo-cross circuit. But it was never easy. Page raced a relentless 35-event season that ran from September through the middle of February and included a bout with severe food poisoning, the loss of his national title, and a freak accident that put him off his feet through an important race weekend. In the end the 29-year-old New Hampshire native assembled a stellar final seven weeks to the season, not finishing out of the top-20 in any of his last 14 races.

“I think I’ve finally earned my position in the group,” said Page from his home in Belgium. “When I make the front group it’s not a shocker any more, I get respect from the other riders up there and that’s not always been the case.”

Page is reminded frequently, however, that his place among the top ‘crossers in the world remains a tenuous one. A run-in with Sven Vanthourenhout (Rabobank) in the Oostemalle drove home the point that not being European will always be held against Page by some riders.

“Sven wasn’t respecting my position on a super sandy section where there was really only one line,” recalled Page. “He hooked me pretty good a couple times and the third time he tried it I put him into the soft, deep sand. I went up to him after the race and said ‘You weren’t respecting my position, that’s not cool.’ And he said, ‘Your position is at the back so stay there.’ I told him to shove it. It’s okay, because no one really likes him anyway.

“I think this was the most consistent season I’ve had over here,” said Page of his fourth full year racing in Belgium. “And I believe that with the results I’ve shown I’ll have bigger support next year which will make for better opportunities.”

Page admitted that losing his national title back in December was difficult on several fronts, most obviously the loss of prestige with not being called “national champion” anymore. But also, stresses Page, the U.S. Nationals date in early December puts a severe crimp in a European-based rider’s schedule – he missed two World Cups in order to race at U.S. Nationals.

“Without being national champion I’m just another rider, I guess, and I think I get kind of forgotten over here,” said Page. “The UCI told me that the U.S. Nationals will have to start having their race at the same time as all the other countries (the second weekend in January). And if they don’t and keep having them when they have been I’m not going to go. It’s just not worth it.”

Page said he will take a couple weeks off the bike before starting his road campaign for Colavita-Sutter Home. He plans on racing the Belgian kermesse circuit for several weeks as a build-up to his U.S. debut, tentatively planned for April’s Tour of Georgia.