Bart Wellens: “It’s getting worse and worse”
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Monday, December 05, 2011

Bart Wellens: “It’s getting worse and worse”

by Ben Atkins at 11:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Injury
 
Two-time World champion struggling to keep up as cyclocross season intensities

bart wellensBart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) is having a difficult time in the cyclocross circuit this season. After dominating a number of US event in September, the two-time World champion is struggling to compete with his compatriots in the races of northern Europe. Fourteenth place in Sunday’s World Cup in Igorre, Spain, was the latest disappointment for the 33-year-old, and it’s all a far cry for the man that was the one man able to compete Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) throughout most of the last decade.

“It’s been getting worse and worse for weeks now,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “Mentally, I’m having a really hard time.”

Although he knew he wasn’t going well in Igorre, Wellens was heartened by the support that the fans of northeast Spain are famous for; until he found out who they were really supporting, that is.

“I just thought: ‘Wow those Basque fans really are enthusiastic!’ They were cheering so much, but then eventually I realised it was not for me, but for the local hero that was right there on my wheel.”

The fact that he can’t compete with the likes of former rival Nys, and former teammate Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), is tough to take for a former champion like Wellens, but he understands the problem.

"It’s simple; I'm just not good enough," he sighed. "At the start I can’t accelerate. I have to move heaven and earth just to follow. [I was down to] 25th place, huh. Afterwards I always get some places back, but that is purely at my own pace. That's all I can do: ride tempo.

“I can’t do crosses, no races, I can’t accelerate where I want to; it’s terribly frustrating,” he added.

At 33 Wellens is by no means the oldest rider in the elite cyclocross circuit, in fact Nys is two years older, but this hasn’t stopped him wondering if it might be time to call it a day from time to time.

“Every week I fight hard for a fifteenth, sixteenth place,” he said. “Should I think about stopping? In Gavere I called Danny [De Bie, Telenet-Fidea sports director); I was going to give him all of my equipment and just throw in the towel. But that's an impulse, I know what a great job racing is. Right now I’m just in a place where it is not going well. "

In truth, Wellens has not been able to reach his previous best form since Nys took back the Belgian championships in 2008, and he has been visibly struggling ever since suffering from Cytomegalovirus – a condition similar to mononucleosis – in the summer of 2009.

The 33-year-old has suffered from more recent ailments though, which he finds responsible for his current loss of form.

“It’s the accumulation I think,” he reasoned. “In November I had a viral infection, then my back, my legs. I know that trip to the United States has had something to do with it; we could hardly train and we were travelling a lot.”

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