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By Chris Milliman, VeloNews.com
Hot on the heels of his headline-grabbing second-place performance at the UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships, American Jonathan Page (Morgan Blue) was back in the spotlight Saturday, February 3 at the GVA Series race in Lille, Belgium. In a well-publicized bit of defiance Page refused to take the start of the race after his team mechanic and close friend Frankie Van Haesebroucke was assaulted and hospitalized by the race organization’s security guards.
According to Page, Van Haesebroucke was collared from behind by two security guards after a misunderstanding with a course marshal in the minutes before the race start.
“Frankie was carrying my spare bike, spare wheels and a backpack when he was stopped and told he needed to pay to get in,” said Page. “He had a mechanic’s badge, but there’s been a misunderstanding all season about when support people need to pay. It depends on the race. So Frankie said it was no problem and stepped out of the way so he wouldn’t jam up that entrance. He was just standing there when these two security goons, these animals, jumped him from behind and took him to the ground. Cori [Page, Jonathan’s wife] started screaming for the police because they were dragging Frankie away.
“I got there and Frankie was turning blue, he looked really bad. He was totally unconscious, we called for an ambulance and when they got there we put a neck collar on him because everyone was worried his neck had been broken when he was attacked. He’s still in the hospital [on Monday] and they think he may have had something like a stroke when the oxygen was cut off to his brain. It’s really scary. The attack was only 15 minutes before the race and there was no way I was going to race after that. It was crazy, it’s all over a eight Euro entry fee.”
Page said that when the details of the attack became widely known he received some important support for his and Van Haesebroucke’s cause.
“Sven Nys came up to me and apologized. He told me if he and the other riders had known what had happened to Frankie they would have refused to race. This has happened to a lot of riders this year, Sven Vantourenhout was grabbed off his bike at one race, even Nys was grabbed by a guard at a race and he’s the biggest guy in the sport. We’re scheduled to sit down with some of the organizers and figure this out because it’s not good for us or the sport.”
As for his post-world’s experience, Page said the outpouring of congratulations has been a pleasant surprise. And while some riders. Bart Wellens in particular, downplayed Page’s world’s result as nothing but luck, most riders have offered nothing but praise.
“There’s been a lot more support than I expected,” said Page. “Sven Nys came over and shook my hand and said I’d done a great job. Erwin Vervecken also made a point of pulling me aside and congratulating me. That means a lot. I know Bart was really frustrated at world’s and I’m sure his words were part of that frustration. But most guys have really been good about it.”
With a world’s medal in his pocket, Page has been fielding what he describes as “positive” inquiries about sponsorship for the 2007-08 season, though nothing concrete has been put on paper. Page made a point of dispelling rampant rumors that he had signed, or was about to sign, with Palmans-Sapim or Fidea.
“It’s all talk right now,” said Page, “But it’s talk in the right direction. I think no matter what happens we’ll end up with a really good situation next year.”
And with one weekend of racing still to go on the international circuit, Page is poised to add still further to his excellent 2007 results. Showing no dip in form from world’s Page finished fourth Sunday, February 4th at the penultimate SuperPrestige in Hoogstraten, Belgium, a race won by Nys.