Jurgen Mettepenningen, manager of the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal cycling team and organiser of the World Cup Cyclocross event in Dendermonde, has highlighted the challenges and his commitment to the future of cyclocross. Mettepenningen, at 48, has found himself navigating various roles within the sport.
Mettepenningen’s term as an event organiser has been fraught with unfortunate instances. The first two editions of the race in Dendermonde were conducted without spectators due to the pandemic. Additionally, the debut was marred by the havoc wreaked by Storm Bella. Rather than cancel the events, Mettepenningen chose to persist in the interest of the sport and out of a love for cyclocross, despite the financial strain. He now eagerly anticipates welcoming the public to the event, hopeful for their support.
There was, however, some discontent surrounding the World Cup as one of the season’s star performers, Thibau Nys, chose to participate in a Superprestige event rather than the World Cup race in Dendermonde. Mettepenningen expressed his disappointment, believing that the World Cup should be the pinnacle of the cyclocross calendar. He found it regrettable that not everyone shared this view, which he felt undermined the prestige of the World Cup.
Field cycling coordinator Peter Van den Abeele also expressed concern about the state of the World Cup, suggesting that if the series is treated as a mere trifle, the sport faces a significant issue. Mettepenningen concurred, stressing the importance of top athletes participating in the World Cup events.
The conversation touched upon the UCI’s possible overambition by scheduling fourteen races in the World Cup series. Van den Abeele has suggested a more condensed series starting from December in the following year. Mettepenningen sees merit in this proposal if the UCI aims to elevate the World Cup to the status of a Champions League for cyclocross.
Mettepenningen, wearing his organiser’s hat, pointed out the financial impracticality of hosting World Cup events without the participation of star cyclists. A shorter World Cup series would ensure the presence of all top riders, making it financially viable for organisers. He also noted that a reduced number of World Cup races would not necessarily relegate other races to a lower status but would give them a chance to shine during the rest of the season and prevent oversaturation.
Transitioning to his role as team manager, Mettepenningen reflected on the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal team’s performance. Despite not winning any World Cup races, they secured the European Championship. With Eli Iserbyt winning the first two Superprestige events and Michael Vanthourenhout claiming the European title, he rated the season’s start as superb.
Furthermore, he welcomed the emergence of Thibau Nys as a strong competitor, indicating that it’s a positive development for the sport. Mettepenningen expressed that Nys’ ascent is not a source of concern but rather a testament to the progression of young talent in cyclocross, a sport where his team has enjoyed considerable success in recent years.