Riders protest Wellens’ return
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Riders protest Wellens’ return

by Nick Mulder at 9:04 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross

Bart Wellens had hoped to make his return in Saturday’s World Cup at Koksijde after suffering with cytomegalovirus, a viral infection that kept him off the bike for months. Several of his colleagues aren’t as thrilled about his return and have protested his reentry.

Initially there were three riders protesting afraid that it may cost them their spot, but two of the three riders have retracted their protests and now Jan Verstraeten stands alone.

Verstraeten is holding a press-conference this afternoon explaining his protest. The 31-year-old finds Wellens selection to the Belgian team undeserved since he hasn’t ridden in any races this season. However, Belgium’s national team director, Rudy De Bie, has already named Wellens in his preliminary selection for Saturday’s world cup.

Telenet-Fidea-manager Hans van Kasteren is astonished by the protest. “I find this disappointing. The Nys-Wellens era has meant so much for cyclo-cross that Bart deserves a chance to replace riders in the selection,” he told Sporza.be.

“With all due respect, Jan Verstraeten hasn’t ridden at World Cup level this season. Moreover, Bart can definitely ride at that level,” said a defensive Van Kasteren.

Originally Rob Peeters and Dieter Vanthourenhout had agreed to join Verstraeten at the press-conference but both riders backed out. “It is not smart to protest at this point,” explained Peeters at the start of the Superprestige in Hamme-Zogge.

Vanthourenhout has changed his mind as well saying, “I talked to Peeters on the phone and ultimately you have to earn your selection. I will answer with my legs.”

Nys appealed to the International Cycling Union (UCI) for a Wellens comeback saying, "I want to ask the UCI to give a wild card to an important rider who has not been able to race due to circumstances, but still has a lot of value to add for cyclo-cross."

Peter Van den Abeele, a represantive from the UCI, explained, "The regulations have to be adhered to. You can`t change those regulations in the middle of the season."

With Belgium already having a large contingent it looks like Wellens may be starting, but instead of a wild card he'll be taking someone else's place.


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