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Franzoi or Verhagen?
By Anita van Crey
Date: 1/31/2003
Franzoi or Verhagen?
The cyclocrosssinterest these two days is merely focussed on what will happen Sunday in the elite-men race. Another interesting battle though will propably take place when the U23 race their ride. Belgians Karen Lambrecht shares her view on it:

Italian Franzoi against Verhagen and the Belgian riders.
The World Championship under 23, is the eye-catcher of the first day in Monopoli. Saturday at 14 pm (CET) 59 riders will start to fight for the rainbowjersey.Maybe the race for the riders under 23 is one of the most interesting ones to follow. The level is very high. Qua speed, the difference between the professionals and the U23-riders is often very small.
Also in the category Under 23, there are a lot of favourites. Even an unknown rider can win. Not all the riders are known by the media and the topfavourites. So it’s difficult to know what are the capacities of the other riders. But that’s just fun! Fun till the race and … in the race.
In Monopoli there are 2 topfavorites: Italian Enrico Franzoi and Thijs Verhagen, Holland’s hope. The Italian champion didn’t do a lot of races, but the World Championship is his main object.
The Dutch champion did do a lot of races (almost every weekend) and in the last weeks he’s in very good form. At these two men, we have to keep an eye! But it isn’t sure one of them will win. There are also a few outsiders; the two Belgian riders Wesley Van der Linden and Bart Aernouts. Also Martin Bina and Martin Zlamalik (CZE) will be strong. Finally, Adam Craig (USA) can be the surprise of the day. In the US he’s one of the best, but he hasn’t compete with the European riders. Saturday we know who will wear one year (or a few weeks, if he becomes professional) the rainbowjersey.

Daniel Hufnagel (AUT)
Harald Starzengruber (AUT)
Bart Aernouts (BEL)
Kevin Pauwels (BEL)
Wesley Van Der Linden (BEL)
Tim Van Nuffel (BEL)
Klaas Vantornout (BEL)
Martin Bina (CZE)
David Kasek (CZE)
Vladimir Kyzivat (CZE)
Radomir Simunek (CZE)
Martin Zlamalik (CZE)
Anders Klinkby (DEN)
Tommy Nielsen (DEN)
Kim Petersen (DEN)
Ismael Estebam Aguero (ESP)
Sem Mugica Carravilla (ESP)
Egoitz Murgoitio (ESP)
Haitz Ortiz Tolaretxipi (ESP)
Julien Belgy (FRA)
Jean-Baptiste Beraud (FRA)
Fabien Bourly (FRA)
Steve Chainel (FRA)
Sébastien Minard (FRA)
Steven Roach (GBR)
Shaun Snodden (GBR)
Hannes Genze (GER)
Felix Gniot (GER)
Leo Karstens (GER)
Thorsten Struch (GER)
Jochen Uhrig (GER)
Marco Bianco (ITA)
Enrico Franzoi (ITA)
Flavio Alex Longhi (ITA)
Enrico Rossi (ITA)
Michele Sbetta (ITA)
Yasuki Uchiyama (JPN)
Marc Ernster (LUX)
Bart Dirkx (NED)
Theo Eltink (NED)
Joost Posthuma (NED)
Kenny Robert Van Hummel (NED)
Thijs Verhagen (NED)
Pieter Weening (NED)
Mariusz Gil (POL)
Krzysztof Kuniak (POL)
Lukas Flückiger (SUI)
Pirmin Lang (SUI)
Michael Müller (SUI)
Johann Tschopp (SUI)
Simon Zahner (SUI)
Stefan Gajdosik (SVK)
Lubomir Glovniak (SVK)
Marian Hecl (SVK)
Joshua Anthony (USA)
Adam Craig (USA)
Alan Obye (USA)
Ryan Trebon (USA)
Barry Wicks (USA)


DP’s Fabio lets us in on some background-info on Enrico Franzoi.

"The guy is a machine. (He) continued to put time on all of us!". Words from Johannes Huseby, one of America's best riders. Words he used after last weekend's race to describe Italy's best prospect for a home win in the Monopoli Worlds. He's not one of the most famous Elites, he's neither 36-year-old Daniele Pontoni nor Luca Bramati, both guys with a sensational career featured by plenty of wins and titles at domestic and international level, but currently far from their best condition, and not able to challenge the Belgian, Dutch and Czech domination for most of the current season.

Indeed Italy's best prospect for a home win is an Under 23 rider, able to say goodbye to all the Pontonis and Bramatis of the pro peloton and confortably solo to victory in the open race at the Italian Nationals, held in Bassano del Grappa a couple of weeks ago, and put in a similar performance against several Italian and American big names (not Pontoni though) at "test races" held near Monopoli this past weekend. And they were not the first times our man crossee the line ahead of all Elite contenders, as in December 2001 he also captured one of the few UCI-sanctioned races held in Italy, the "Trofeo Mamma e Papà Guerciotti" at Milan's Idroscalo. He also came second behind Pontoni in the 2002 edition. As for the Monopoli circuit, he raced a World Cup round (won by Belgium's Sven Nijs) there in November 2001, and ranked tenth after dominating the race start and leading for most of the opening lap.

The rider we are talking goes under the name of Enrico Franzoi, a 20-year-old from the Venetian town of Mogliano Veneto near Treviso, currently riding for the UC Trevigiani team, formerly sponsored by Mapei. An excellent cyclist (such that he was only one who took part in both the CX and Road World Championships in 2002, both times in the U23 category), whose name many cyclo-cross fans already know, and others will do in years to come, although the results he has got in some of the "open" races he has taken part in the current season prove it's a bit too early for him to try and challenge the likes of De Clercq, Groenendaal, Wellens, Vannoppens and all the big names of the Elite peloton.

But nevertheless Franzoi can be a serious contender for the U23 title, after he came close to hit the podium last year in Zolder, when he finished fourth in a five-man sprint, with Holland's Thijs Verhagen being the first across the line and capturing the gold medal. The Dutch competitor probably remains the red hot favourite for this year's competition too, with also Belgian contenders wishing to challenge him, but even Franzoi may harbour legitimate hopes. Especially as the races he has taken part in during this season, along with the main stars of the international peloton, has helped him to gain the experience he lacked both in 2002, when he made a mistake by starting the spirint a bit too early and paid for that in the last metres, and 2001, when he was amongst the main favourites too, but couldn't stand the pression and crashed, consquently pulling out of competition.

Will this time be the good one for the "machine", boasted by the fact of riding on home soil, and the words legendary Pontoni (the man Franzoi is considered as "legitimate successor"), said after the recent Nationals: "As I already told more than once, Franzoi is not just the future of Italian cyclocross. He's a big reality right now" ? According to what Franzoi himself told the day he took the Italian title ("After beating two champions such as Pontoni and Bramati, one can only be happy. Everything went right, and if I keep this state of form I can do well at the Worlds too") the answer should be a definite yes.

And even Giancarlo Bonotto, boss of the UC Moglianese squad, also known as the man who discovered Franzoi's talent first and launched the boy in his team, seems to agree: "He is in great form, and with the help of the experience he has gained after racing in Belgium, France and Holland for the past two months, Enrico has the maturity and confidence he needs to be a protagonist at the next World Championships in Monopoli". But we'll know more on the afternoon of Saturday, February the 1st.

Another possible Medallist for the host country is 17-year-old Derik Zampedri, Italy's Junior National Cyclo-Cross Champion. The boy from Trentino, belonging in the SC Caffè Jesi Pedale Castellano team, impressed many two weeks ago, when he took the title in Bassano del Grappa in spite of four crashes and a forced bike change. He repeated victory twice this past week-end. First at Sant’Eramo in Colle on Saturday, and later in Sunday's Coppa Consorzio Artigiani, when he comfortably beat many excellent Italian (Stefano Basso took third) and American (Zak Gabrowski came second at 1'40", Jesse Anthony was fourth) contenders. And young Zampedri, who ranked seventh last year in Zolder, could be Italy's first man on the podium on Saturday morning.

World Cyclo-Cross Championships - Italian Team Rosters

ELITE MEN (Sunday, February 02, h. 1240 CET)
Luca BRAMATI - G.S. Scott Racing Team
Alessandro FONTANA - Team Full-Dynamix
Marco PALUDETTI - Team Protek Club Amici Bicicletta
Daniele PONTONI - Zalf Desirée Fior
Stefano TOFFOLETTI - G.S. Selle Italia Guerciotti

U23 MEN (Saturday, February 02, h. 1400 CET)
Marco BIANCO - G.S. Vezza Brunero-Boeris
Enrico FRANZOI - Unione Ciclisti Trevigiani
Flavio Alex LONGHI - G.S. Impruneta Cotto Ref.
Enrico ROSSI - Team Scrigno Pool Cantù
Michele SBETTA - S.C. Gore Tex B. Gaiga Alto Adige

JUNIOR MEN (Saturday, February 01, h. 1100 CET)
Stefano BASSO - G.S.Ima Veneta Cuc. Brugnotto
Gabriele MERCANTE - G.S. Ima Veneta Cuc. Brugnotto
Pietro Silvestris - S.C. Gaetano Cavallaro
Andrea SPESSOTTO - Velo Club Sovico
Derik ZAMPEDRI - V.C. Caffè Jesi

ELITE / JUNIOR WOMEN (Sunday, February 02, h. 1000 CET)
Paola BORTOLIN - Team Mercedes Benz Selle
Francesca CUCCINIELLO - G.S. Selle Italia Guerciotti
Vania ROSSI - Team Scrigno Pool Cantù
Annabella STROPPARO - Team Racing Mabrun B-One
Maria Paola TURCUTTO - Ass. Cicl. Serramazzoni

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