Saturday, February 02, 2013

Basques look forward to 'cross Worlds

Expected flooding in Louisville, Kentucky has seen to it that the men's and women's elite World Championship cyclo-cross races have been moved forward to today. The three Basques present in the US, Aitor Hernández, Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga and Jonathan Lastra, have varying degrees of experience at the discipline's biggest race of the year, but they all have similar targets.

The all-conquering Aitor Hernández wasn't originally pencilled in for the event, but some last-minute goodwill from the local community made it financially doable to cross the Atlantic to race his bike. The Ermua-Orbea rider has an astonishing 20 wins to his name this year, and says a top 30 result would constitute a good day at the office.

"This year I won't start from far back or close to the top ranked riders - I'll start from the third or fourth row", Hernández, who finished 52nd at his only previous World Championships last year, told RFEC. "But, above all, I've got a lot more experience. The level of racing will be high, but I think I can be among the 25 best."

While a good performance in the US would put a satisfactory end to an already sublime season, the race also holds the key to the former Euskaltel rider's future in the sport.

"It's an important race for me in the way that it can open doors for next year", he explained. "Like I've said before, I've only earned enough to cover my expenses this year. I'd like to keep doing cyclo-cross, but it can't keep costing me money. I think I can convince the sponsors with the results I've had (this year), but a good result at the worlds would be the best way to do that."

The 31-year-old took his Orbea Terra for a spin on the course on Friday, and says he anticipates a fast race on the icy circuit.

"It's completely covered in ice and snow", he told BiciCiclismo. "I think it'll be a really fast and cold race. I like the course, and I'll do my best to put a nice finishing touch to the season".

Javier Ruiz de Larrinaga is the other Basque set to line up among the elite men, and he's aiming for a similar result to that of his dominator this season, Aitor Hernández.

"The fact that the race is in the States will shape the race: there will be fewer participants, we'll get better starting positions... But there's so many variables, and anything can happen. The start, the race rhythm, the state of the course... But without a doubt: Finishing within the top 30 would be a good result. Going top 25 or even top 20 would be big", Larrinaga, whose 29th place in Sankt Wendel in 2011 is his best worlds result, told RFEC.

The MMR-Spiuk rider has warmed up for the first American World Championships by competing both overseas and domestically, but doesn't think the somewhat unsatisfying results obtained in those races will affect him on race day.

"I don't think this race will be like the one in Hoogerheide two weeks ago", he said of the snowy World Cup race he ended up finishing 35th in. "If anything, with a cold and muddy circuit this race could be harder and more complicated. I left the doubts I had after Burgos and Ispaster behind me a while ago, and I'm only focussed on this race".

The last rider of the Basque trio is sub-23 star Jonathan Lastra. The Bilbaíno has enjoyed a highly successful campaign so far, and aims to better his result from the junior champs of 2011.

The Hirumet-Taldea rider grabbed an encouraging 17th back then, and has, according to a press release, adapted well to the change in time zones. The fact only 42 riders will be on the start line also plays into the youngster's hands, allowing him to start closer to the top riders.

Start times (CET):
  • Junior, men: 18:30
  • Elite, men: 20:30
Photo: Iñaki Azanza

1 comment:

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