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Four rainbowjerseys to Monopoli, Italy.
By Anita van Crey
Date: 1/30/2003
Four rainbowjerseys to Monopoli, Italy.
It will be in Italy. In Monopoli to be precise. The world championships will take place upcoming weekend. A quick look at the results this cyclingseason so far with the professionals it is most likely to be an open Belgian Championship. A look at Monopoli and its main players to build a plot which results in a rainbowjersey.

The town Monopoli
The short tour
A dive in the warm sea, in Capitolo's Site, to look the beauties of the towering Masseria Garrappa, that still today retains inaltered its shape with loop-holes, walls, bridge and a pretty little church with an interesting portal of ' 500. Not far from here, in the " contrada" with the same name, there is Masseria Losciale; even if it has lost its original shape of fortress, still retains the charme of pretentious "ville bourgeoise". Masseria Lamalunga provokes other sensations: a rural buliding erected on a pre-existing llama, which was property of nobles Manfredi and Ghezzi, whose heraldic bearings are still sculpted there. It deserves a careful observation the '700 's addings (for example the stairs) and also the little chapel of 1677.

A medium size tour
Let's leave the coast to explore the inner part of our land, in order to discover other strange and typical buildings. In Contrada Conchia, we find the homonymous Masseria, built in '600 by the noble family Palmieri. The building is very compact and still has some defence devices, which characterize it. It deserves your lookings the pensile sentry-box, situated on the sides of the terrace and necessary for sighting. Before leaving Conchia, give a look to the church of "Cristo delle Zolle", that partially identifies itself with the same Masseria. To discover Masseria Caramanna (1659), another flower of this land, we have to take the road n. 377 (Monopoli-Castellana Grotte). A touristic sign introduces this little village, that hit immediately for the long stairs with a palm and for its dimension. The ancient nucleus is still entire and near it there are some rooms for agricultural activities.

The longest tour
We can move in the circumscription of "Trulli and Grottos" to find the Masseria Cavallerizza, which, in the period that goes from 1495 to 1530, was an important stock-farm for horses, built by the Government of the Serenissima (Venice). The underlying "Canale di Pilo", with its appropriate tracks, was useful to improve the resistence of the morello pugliese. To witness this strong presence, on the frontage of the Masseria, a solid structure with a tail-roof, on which we can see a bas-relief with the "Lion of Saint Mark". After having visited this hilly zone, let's move on the provincial road Monopoli-Conversano, an healthy circumscription bound for holiday. Neo-classical residences are not rare, old properties of the local nobles. On the road for Conversano is possible, thanks to a touristic sign, glance the Masseria Due Torri, that from the outside has retained its original shape. There's a long way to do, in contrast, to visit in the omonymous "contrada" Masseria Petrarolo, where the time seems to have stopped. The building erected in '600 shows loop-holes, a wonderful bell-tower and a little church. To close this last tour, we recommend You a final "ride" toward the sea but this time to visit the Masserie Spina Grande and Spina Piccola (Near "Ceramica delle Puglie" - Aldo Moro Avenue). The most ancient is Spina Piccola. A medieval ('500) tower on two levels with a crown of "beccatelli", strengthened for sighting and for the defence of the territory. Nothing like Spina Grande, built in "carparo" and red covered. It soon hits for the aristocratic "façade" and for the enormous stairs with a balustrade and a balcony. We remember that this building is today also a very pretty place to eat typical dishes. Maybe, after these excursions, a good meal would be a very ppreciated prize!!! .

The program
Saturday 1 February 2003
Juniors 11.00 CET
U23 14.00 CET

Sunday 2 February 2003
Women 10.00 CET
Professionals 12.40 CET

To find out more on starterslists and course check worlds cyclocross .

The main players

Richard Groenendaal is together with Adri Van der Poel the man of the end of the nineties. At the age of 17 Groenendaal became junior World Champion in Pontchateau. He also was as an amateur one of the strongest of his age. His real breakthrough was in 1994 in the elite World Championship in Koksijde where he was only beaten in the last lap. He also finished second the year afterwards and from then on he's been one of the topmen with victories in Superprestige, Worldcup and also overall victories in both. In 2000 he became worldchampion in his own village, Sint-Michielsgestel. Presently he's therecordholder for the number of victories in the Worldcup and also in the Superprestige he is going to break the record of Liboton. The only remark: the season 98-99: he only won a World Cup in the beginning of the season, but he was nowhere at the end.
Richard is the strongest on a tough, muddy track, like Eschenbach or Gavere. He's the most powerful when riders stay on their bikes pushing themselves through the mud and dirt. Also his consistency is one of his strongest points. On the mental side we see two different riders: if Richard can go solo from the start in important races, he's hardly beatable. On the contrary, if a rider can stay with him in the first laps, he's mentally weak and often snaps at the end of the race. He's an enormously talented guy without any real weaknesses.

Petr Dlask is actually the best Czech rider in the international cross-scene. He puts himself forward in the Worldchampionship in Middelfart 98 where he finished third in the Espoirs category after the duo Nijs-Wellens. Dlask is not, like most of the Czech riders, a former juniors or espoirs worldchampion who can't keep pace once he's become professional. As a youngster, he tried his way in mountainbiking but switched rather soon over to cross with success. In the beginning of the season, he had to stop for a while due to problems with his Achilles' Tendon but from the moment of his return, he battled for most of the victories in the worldcup. He hasn't won a big victory so far, but in the last two years, he became national champion in the Czech Republic.
Petr has all the capacities to be the follow up to Radomir Simunek, his compatriot. The tall (1.95m) Czech is a born runner but a very irregular starter. Sometimes he starts swift as an arrow, while in other races he has to battle a few laps to join the first group. He's always at his best in the World Cup Races but in the Superprestige, he's not very ambitious. So far he hasn't won a big race, but the expectation is that it will arrive soon and probably next season. Petr says about himself that his recovery and recuperation are his strongest points. He's very strong in the last laps of a race and often wins a lot of places in these laps. His best result so far is his second place in the last World Championship.

Gerben De Knegt is a former mountainbiker who mainly focused on mountainbiking in the years 95-98. Occasionally he did a cross in wintertime to build up condition and that's how he noticed his talent for cross. In the winter 2000-2001, he joined the Rabobank team to replace the retiring Adri Van der Poel. In that year, he rode to victory in some smaller international races in Belgium and Holland, but the real big step forward hasn't taken place yet. Gerben is someone who constantly performs well in the championships.
Gerben is, despite his tallness, a good crossmen at fast, technical and flat tracks. In the beginning of the past season, he was always in the first group in the fast and dry crosses. He's a fast accelerator after a curve and therefore hard to beat in winding and technical races in the beginning of the season. Due to his mountainbike-past, it will take a few years to reach his top in cross. He is slow sprinter and a bad runner, which is remarkable as we notice his tall body (1.90m). Another weakness is his ability to control a race and so he's not an easy winner. He's probably going to improve himself in the next years.

Erwin Vervecken is at present the only Belgian rider to become Belgian champion in every category. So that's why he has received the nickname of 'championship-specialist'. He came to the fore for the first time in the season 93-94 when, at the age of 21, he placed 2nd in the SP race in Gieten, but more important also 3rd in the first Open Elite World Championship in Koksijde. In 1995, he joined the Espace-Card professional team. As a first year professional he became Belgian champion in both mountainbike and cross and he won his first Superprestige race in Gieten. In the next years, he didn't reach the level he expected. His name is only noticed in some World Championships. After two second places in 98 and 99, the victory for him came in the WC 2001 in Tabor. It was his best year with also the victory in the GVA-criterium, "a smaller superprestige in Belgium", the most victories in the elite category and the SP victory in Overijse.
Erwin loves fast but hard circuits with lots of short uphill climbs and running parts. He knows how to put himself forward in the harder races (3 victories in both Overijse and Koksijde) and dislikes the faster technical tracks and the flat races on grassland. He's a fast starter and a fast finisher. His weakness is the lack of ambition for smaller races, the races around New Year where he's often tired because of the amount of races he does, and the races where they keep a fast speed from the start on.

Bart Wellens is, together with Sven Nijs, one of the biggest talents Belgium has ever had. From the first races on, he wins a lot : 7 national titles in a row which is a record for the younger categories. He won, at the age of fifteen, his first national championship and remarkably the title of the espoirs national champion, as a newcomer against Sven Nijs, is remarkable. He started as the big favourite in the junior World Championship in 1996 in Montreuil, France. His eighth place was indeed a disappointment. After two second places in the espoirs World Championships, he finally won his first espoirs worldtitle. In the year 2000, Bart was the leader of the new Spaarselect crossteam.
Bart is a natural talent as he proved in the youngster categories. He wins easily and in a super day he is unbeatable. If Bart is good, he often starts for a one hour solo. He is always there when there's a big race and always willing to make a hard race. His weakness is his consistency which is normal at his age. He also often has a bad moment during the race, loses a lot of places and two laps later, he's there again to rejoin the group he had to let go a few laps earlier. On the other hand, he can cope with almost every circuit and he wins from the first races untill the last ones. He's one of the few who, technically, can put his feet next to Sven Nijs

Mario De Clercq was born to become a crossman. As a nephew of Roger de Clercq and also son of René De Clercq, he began as youngster to combine road and cross and not without success. As a young professional his team wanted him to race more on the road. After a disappointing tour 1995, he tried again in cross. In the first year, he finished third in the Belgian championship in Overijse and the year after, he won his first Superprestige race in Pilzen. The biggest successes followed in the next two years. In 98 he won his first worldtitle after riding the whole race solo in Middelfart and in 99, his best year, he won both the World Cup and Worldtitle and became also number 1 on the UCI world rankings.
Mario has the special gifts to be a good crossman. He is an excellent runner, has a super fast sprint (the fastest sprinter amongst the cross-men) and he's hardly beatable if he's able to keep someone's wheel just until the last few hundred meters. In the first years of his second career (after his road career) he specialised in fast tracks, but after a few years, also the hard and toughest tracks are within his ability. He's also capable of winning the crosses in sand, but he says he doesn't like them. He is the smartest, fastest and most efficient rider of all cross-men : a nightmare to have in your wheel in the last lap.

Wim de Vos began his cross-carreer when he was 14 years old in non-official races. As a novice and junior he finished third on the worldchampionships in München and Lembeek and also in Mlada Boleslav he played an important role. He was present on almost every worldchampionship so far as member of the Dutch national team. He made his best result at the worldchampionship in Corva where he finished third after Arnould and Kluge. His best season so far was the 95-96 season where he won the first two superprestige races, his two big victories so far.
Wim is not a typical cross-man who knows to handle every track and every aspect of cross. He has certain specialties where he can beat them all but on the contrary also very weak points. First of all, he's the fastest starter of all and one of the fastest sprinters, which make him dangerous in the last lap. On the other hand, he's not very good in running and loses a lot when there are a lot of running parts on the track. He can motivate himself enormously for big events and less for the smaller races where he often quits before the end of the race.

Sven Nijs is the most talented rider of the present generation. He proves it with 2 World titles, 13 superprestige victories, 5 worldcup victories and most of all 2 overall wins in superprestige and one in the worldcup. Consider the fact that he's only 25 years old and we can conclude that he's the actual leader together with Groenendaal. Sven started on BMX but switched to cross at the age of 15. In the beginning he was most known for his excellent technique. He started as a newcomer and big favourite in his first national championship but it ended after... 100 meters (after a fall). He added his national championship to his results two years later as a junior. Championships are nevertheless the weak point in young Sven's career. He experienced fear of failure and missed the World Championship in Eschenbach as a junior. A psychologist helped him with two worldtitles and a nice professional career as a result.
Sven Nijs is most of all known for the ability to take hurdles and obstacles jumping on his bike. He's the only one who does it without losing speed. But he also can handle tough tracks. He's very supple and has a perfect technique in curves. Also his consistency is good and therefore he often wins and almost always finishes in front in the criteriums like SP and WC. He can handle every circuit. A weakness is his injuries that he often has with his knees and Achilles' tendon. Due to the large amount of training, he's often injured. That's why he missed a big part of the last season.

Jiri Pospisil is one of those Czech juniors who performed well in the WC juniors. He finished 4th and 2nd and in 1995 also the first and only European espoirs champion in Eschenbach. After a few years in the shadow of Radomir Simunek, he became Czech champion elite in 96. Though he never really reached the top, he's always been present around the top 10 position in the UCI ranking. He doesn't win that much, only a smaller less important race in Germany or Switzerland. Like most of the Czech riders, he focuses more on World Cup than on Superprestige. Jiri is a strong, powerful cross-men who depends most on his power. He puts himself forward on hard, full of mud-tracks, with lots of uphill climbs and running parts. He's not very consistent in his performances and rarely has a top-performance. After a slow start, Jiri gets his way forward to win a lot of places in the last part of the race to finish mostly between 5 and 10. He misses, due to his strong powerful body, the suppleness to perform well on fast, technical races. Jiri is often very good in the month of November and less visible in the important period around Christmas. Due to the better performances of first of all Simunek and later on Dlask, Jiri often has to do smaller races in Germany and Switzerland, where he can easily win.


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