San Luis and the Tour Down Under are all very well – the world turns and we must ‘Mondialise’ mustn’t we?
But they steal the limelight from what really matters in January in the northern hemisphere – the six days and cyclocross.
The ‘cross worlds are on the horizon (12 days 15 hours 7 minutes so the Championship website tells me) and here at VeloVeritas we’ve been catching up with a few of the men who’ll be in the mix over the 3.4 kilometre circuit in Hoogerheide in the Netherlands province of North Brabant come the 1st and 2nd of February.
We spoke to former U23 World Champion Philipp Walsleben recently and today it’s the turn of the man with one of the most famous names in the sport.
The Czech Republic’s Radomir Simunek junior shares his name with his father who remains the only man ever to be a world champion at junior, amateur and professional cyclocross levels.
Radomir senior died tragically early at just 48 years-of-age in 2010.
Young Radomir has been a runner up in the Worlds at both Junior and U23 levels but has had the misfortune to be a round at the same time as his countryman Zdenek Stybar – one of the most gifted cyclocross performers in the sport’s history.
Despite this, Simunek has been a top performer on the circuit for a decade.
Turning pro with Mr. Bookmaker in 2005 he then rode for Palmans from 2006 to 2008 and BKCP from 2009 to 2012 before signing, last year with his current Belgian Kwadro Stannah squad – respectively, manufacturers of doors & windows and stair lifts.
Simunek was seventh in the Louisville Worlds in 2013 and will be looking for the snow to fall again in Hoogerheide.
Was there ever any doubt that you would become a cyclocross rider?
“I don’t think so, really.
“I played hockey for a long time until the age of 15 then I realized I wanted to be good at just one sport – cyclocross.
“And I wanted to be in the best condition to ride them well.”
Your late father must have been such an inspiration to you?
“He was – I remember when I told him that I wanted to ride a bike his eyes lit up and it gave me a lot of strength.”
You were second in the Junior Worlds to countryman Martin Bina – and now you are team-mates, a decade later…
“Martin – yes, we shared the same colours in 2004 and 2005 with the Czech team Author; then I went to Belgium whilst he remained at home in the Czech Republic.
“I am glad that we are together again in Team Kwadro Stannah; he’s a good friend.”
Then you were second to Zdenek Stybar in the U23 Worlds – it must be frustrating for you to be around at the same time as him – he’s denied you National and World titles.
“That’s life … Zdenek is an excellent rider and his quality is confirmed by his road results – in 2013 he was strong in Paris-Roubaix, won the Benelux Tour and a Vuelta stage, remember?”
Belgium must be like your second home – do you live there during the season?
“Yes, this is my second home, I live there all season.”
How’s your Vlaams?
“My Flemish language is quite good, I get by without any problems – it’s better than my English!”
Tell us about your Kwadro-Stannah team, please.
“It’s a young team, just founded last year – I’m happy that I was there at it’s foundation.
“The aim now is that every year we want to improve”
What is your favourite type of parcours and favourite venue?
“I like the course at Zolder a lot – my favourite parcours is one where there’s a lot of ice and snow.”
Do you ride a road programme in the summer?
“Yes, I ride with the team on the road – we have a programme of somewhere around 20-25 races.”
The Xmas/New Year period is very hectic for a ‘cross rider – how do you handle it?
“Yes, it’s a time when you have to be especially prepared mentally – there’s a great strain on both the body and the head…”
Are you an ‘equipment guy’ or do you leave that to the mechanics?
“I leave everything to them one hundred percent – and I trust them.”
You rode well in Louisville in the Worlds, what do you think of the US ‘cross scene?
“In the U.S. it’s a different mentality with the fans – like in all their sport, people there want more show.
“It’s just too bad it’s so far away.”
Van Der Haar has really burst onto the scene – too good, too soon?
“Lars is very good and I think he’ll be to the fore for a long time; but in The Netherlands he already has a big competitor coming along – Mathieu Van Der Poel.”
Hoogerheide for the Worlds – what do you think of that course?
“It’s a course where a lot will depend on the weather – at that venue it really affects the track.
“But the World Championships is a special race and anything can happen…”
What do you still you have ‘to do’ in cyclocross?
“I still have the goal of winning the World Championships.”