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American Jonathan Page is back on home soil this week, doing what he does best, racing cyclocross.
But Page’s time in the States is limited. He began his season in the mud in Washington last weekend, competing in the StarCrossed/Rad Racing GP UCI-double; he finished fifth at StarCrossed and second at the Rad Racing GP. He’ll race at CrossVegas on Wednesday night and then head to the U.S. Grand Prix opener, The Planet Bike Cup, in Madison, Wisconsin, underwritten by his title sponsor.
And then Page heads back to his home in Oudenaarde, Belgium, where he’ll spend the next four months on the cutthroat European cyclocross circuit, racing not only the World Cups but also the entire Super Prestige and Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee, or GVA, series.
And while it’s nothing new for America’s top ’cross expatriate to focus on the European calendar, his contracts with the Super Prestige and GVA series means that Page won’t return in December to contest the national championships.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Page, 34, who has eight nationals titles to his name: three at the elite level (2002-2004); two at the under-23 level (1996-1997); and three junior titles (1992-94).
But with an eye on repeating his top European successes — a win at Petange, Luxembourg, in 2006, a silver medal at worlds in 2007, eighth at a pair of World Cups in 2009 — Page is sacrificing the possibility of a fourth national title to instead focus on building up for January 2011.
“U.S. nationals is not on my schedule, I’m not coming back for it,” Page told VeloNews.com. “I decided because one of the GVA events will conflict, I’m not going to travel all the way back. It’s tough, dealing with the time change, and I have to be ready for another Prestige series race. It’s a hard decision to give it up, but I believe it will work better for me to concentrate on one time zone, on one continent.”
With such a full schedule this year, Page said he’s aiming for consistency above all else.
“I hope to be good and consistent throughout the season, and then break it down and get better for the second half,” he said. “That’s pretty general, I know, but there’s lot of racing to be done. I haven’t done this much racing in the past so it will be a challenge for me, and my trainer, to figure it out. I’m going to try to keep it even keel; tuning the engine, you could say.
“Obviously the world championship is a race you want to be good at. I’m not keying on worlds, but I don’t want to leave that for chance, either. A lot can happen on that one day. I’d like to make it on to a podium at a World Cup, that would be a career highlight.”
First, however, Page hopes to register a win or two here in the U.S. Last year he raced in Washington, Las Vegas and Madison, finishing third four times, with a win at the Rad Racing event. So far this year he’s finished fifth at StarCrossed and second at Rad Racing behind French national champion Francis Mourey (Francaise Des Jeux), who also won Starcrossed ahead of Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA).
“At StarCrossed I never found my legs, and with very heavy rain, and not good legs, the bike handling wasn’t going so well,” Page said. “I did what I could, but that was not how I wanted to get it started. The first race of the year can be really good or really bad.
“Before the Rad Racing GP I was scrambling a bit to change my flight to Vegas. The race was muddy and slippery, and it had just crazy weather, sunny and warm one minute, then rain, and it made the course muddy and slick — very Belgian conditions. I felt better, and was able to get second place.”
And Page said he could only hope for the best at CrossVegas, a race he hasn’t won in three tries. (Trebon has won twice, and last year Jamey Driscoll took home top honors.)
“CrossVegas is a different type of race, it’s not like any other on the calendar,” Page said. “It’s so grassy, so dry, so warm, and at night. It’s not like any race we do all year. It’s a fun challenge.”
At the 2009 Planet Bike Cup Page sat in commanding position both days, hoping to bring home the win for his title sponsor, but was ultimately unseated by rolled tubulars. He’s not calling his return this year a quest for redemption, but he’s aware that a victory in the Planet Bike jersey would be a win-win for owner Bob Downs.
“Yes, I’m got some unfinished business at the Planet Bike Cup,” Page said. “It’s fun to do well at your major sponsor’s event. I should feel good and have a good performance in both of those races. I hope to, anyway.”
Jonathan Page’s major 2010-11 cyclocross sponsors
Title: Planet Bike; Bike: Blue; Wheels: Edge; Helmet: Lazer; Training: Herriott Sports Performance; Clothing: Vermarc; Components/shoes: Shimano; Glasses: Oakley