Posted by Editoress on 09/19/09
XC Report and Photos
Elisabeth 'Lisi' Osl gave the Austrian crowd what they had hoped for: an Austrian win and the World Cup title at the eighth and final round in Schladming, Austria. Osl took her third World Cup win of the season after an impressive start to finish ride on the front. Lene Byberg (Specialized) confirmed her second place overall by catching Canada's Catharine Pendrel (Luna) on the final climb to take second, while Pendrel hung on for third in both the race and the overall standings. Emily Batty (Team Canada) finished 25th, and took second overall in the U23 final World Cup standings behind world champion Aleksandra Dawidowicz (CCC Polkowice).
Osl came into the final round of the World Cup with a 65 point lead over Byberg. Pendrel was mathematically still in the running to win the title, but more concerned with holding onto third ahead of world champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon). The only other rider who could have been in the mix - Marga Fullana (Massi) - was out after fracturing a vertebra in a crash a week earlier prior to the Champery (Switzerland) round.
The steep climbs of Schladming certainly suited the diminutive Osl, who was out in front by the top of the first climb of the four lap race. Premont gamely hung on for most of the first lap, joined by Pendrel, but then slipped back to join a chase group with Byberg, Anna Szafraniec (JBG-2) and Kalentieva. Pendrel was gaining on Osl after the technical, muddy descents, but would lose time on each climb. The Austrian was steadily extending her lead, to eventually finish more than a minute ahead.
"I have no words," said Osl, who was overcome with emotion on the podium during the Austrian national anthem. "It has been a fantastic season, and I have surprised myself this year. My tactic today was just to give it my best. My legs felt bad before the start in the warmup, so I just decided to go out hard and see what would happen. But the pressure, it was not easy. To come to Austria in the leaders jersey and hold onto it ... this was great pressure."
The effort the Canadian champion was expending would eventually catch up with her, as Byberg, Premont and Szafraniec slowly began reeling her in. Premont was at the front of the trio on the last lap when she slid out in a corner, giving Byberg to opportunity to attack and finally bridge up to Pendrel for the final climb of the race. The pair swapped attacks until Byberg was able to just get ahead and finish eight seconds in front of Pendrel. Szafraniec came in for fourth, less than 30 seconds later, closely followed by Premont. The four chasers were separated by less than 50 seconds.
"I'm pretty pleased," commented Pendrel, "I just wish that I could have held Lene [Byberg] off on the that last climb! For a while I was able to keep Lisi [Osl] in sight, but the steep climbs suited her a lot more than me, and I had to back off a bit and go my own pace. Then Lene caught me, and we attacked each other a couple of times until she managed to get in front. But, overall, this is my best season ever, with a World Cup victory, the national title, third in the series and sixth at the world championships, so, I'm satisfied."
For Premont, who has struggled with breathing problems all season, it was a strong end to the season. "Yes, I am happy with this result. It has been a hard season for me, with good results, then bad, then good. So, this shows me that I am on the right track and I go into the preparation for next season with a good feeling."
The men's race did not have potential drama of the women's, with Julien Absalon (Orbea) having already locked up the World Cup title a week earlier. However, second to fifth in the series was still in play among seven riders, and it was Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) who took control, vaulting from fourth to second in the final World Cup standings with a strong win. Spanish compatriot Ruben Ruzafa Cueto (Orbea) took second for his first World Cup podium, followed by Trek's Mathias Flückiger, the first U23 rider. Absalon, after racing in the front three for most of the six lap race retired after a flat just before the start of the final lap. Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) was the top Canadian in 23rd.
The short men's race started very aggressively, with a group of eight forming at the front. World champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) and Roel Paulissen (Cannondale) set the early pace, joined by Hermida, Absalon, Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida), Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower), Flückiger and Alexis Vuillermoz (Lapierre). Early in lap two, Absalon decide it was time to shake things up a bit, and attacked on one of the steep climbs.
The Olympic champion opened a small ten second gap on Hermida and Flückiger, the only two able to respond initially to his attack after Näf broken his chain. Hermida, the winner of the opening round of the World Cup, five long months ago in South Africa, slowly closed the gap, and joined Absalon early in lap four. After a brief time together, Hermida launched the attack which would put him into the lead for good.
"Between Pietermaritzburg [South Africa] and here has been a long season," commented Hermida, "but my balance through the year has been very good, very stable. I came to this race feeling pretty good, and looking for a final strong result. When I caught Julien, I took a short rest of maybe 30 seconds, and then I attacked again, and he could not come with me. Today was the final exams for the season, and I wanted a strong result."
Behind, Absalon was in second at the start of lap five, but Flückiger and Ruzafa Cueto were gaining ground. While the French rider would not give in easily, he did not feel the pressure to come back from his flat.
"I was without pressure," Absalon admitted. "For me, the plan was, if I felt good then fight for victory. So I went to the front and got a little gap, but Jose came up. So, I was thinking that second would be good at the end of the season, but I got my flat tire at the end of the fifth lap, and I knew it would not be possible to be back up there with one lap left in the race."
Ruzafa Cueto was suddenly into second, having passed Flückiger midway through the lap, and the front three were set, with Schurter just holding off Vuillermoz for fourth place.
Hermida's victory moved him up to second in the final standings, as he bumped the U23 champion Burry Stander down to third, with Näf fourth and Schurter fifth. Geoff Kabush remained in eighth overall for the series.
"I didn't have the legs today," admitted Kabush. "I felt really bad last week [in Champery], so I rested all this week. But for this course you needed wings, and I didn't have them. The first lap I made a big effort, and milked out everything, but I just didn't have it. It's hard to have a mediocre end to the season."
"But my goal this year was to win a World Cup, and I achieved that, which was a pretty big dream, and then fifth at the Worlds was big, so I would definitely have to say that this has been my best year ever, and I'll just keep trying to improve for next year."
Kabush heads to Las Vegas for Vegas 'Cross later this week, and then starts a full cyclo-cross season in the U.S. and Canada.
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