Posted by Editoress on 05/23/10
This season, every cross-country race in the Mountain Bike World Cup has seen a new winner and a new leader for the series. Round three, in Offenburg, Germany, was no different, with Catharine Pendrel (Luna) taking the women's title and Julien Absalon (Orbea) the men's. Both riders also moved into the lead of their respective series, with their victories.
In the women's race, Catharine Pendrel became the first Canadian rider in three years to don the leader's jersey in the World Cup series. Pendrel dominated the women's race, leading her American teammate Georgia Gould for the first two laps of the five lap race before dropping her on the third to solo in for her first European World Cup win, and the third World Cup victory of her career. Gould finished second, 28 seconds behind Pendrel, Esther Süss of Switzerland third, and 2008 World Cup champion Marie-Hélène Premont of Chateau Richer, Quebec fourth. 2009 World Cup champion Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost) took the final podium spot. Pendrel now holds a 40 point lead over American Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) in the standings, with three events remaining.
"I knew that I had the form for this," confirmed Pendrel. "The first two World Cups, I had the strength, but I just didn't have the best races that I could have. Here, I had a bit of a poor start, but I was able to make my way up to Georgia by the end of the first lap, and we rode together for the first couple of laps. When I heard that some chasers were catching us, I decided that it was time to go."
Premont, who had to drop out of Houffalize with mechanical problems, was also pleased to be back on the podium. "I felt really good today. I needed to be more aggressive on the start, but I'm happy with my race. I felt very good on the final lap, and was able to gain some time on people then."
Gould went straight to the front at the conclusion of the start loop, opening up a small gap on traditional fast starter Katrin Leumann. It took Pendrel most of the first lap to work her way up to Gould, but when she did, the Canadian champion immediately went to the front to drive the pace. Behind, U23 series leader Julie Bresset (BH-Suntour) and Süss took up the chase, managing to hold the gap to less than 30 seconds for the first two laps, until Pendrel upped the pace.
Koerber, who had been remarkably consistent through the first two race, with two second places, came up short in Offenburg, finishing back in 13th. "It was a day when I just didn't have anything. Some days, you just don't have it," she commented. "I'm just glad I didn't get passed more than I did."
Amanda Sin (3 Rox Racing) had a strong showing, working her way up from 54th on the start line to finish 29th, while Emily Batty (Trek World Racing), the winner of the U23 race last year, crashed hard on the opening lap, and struggled back from the high 80s to finish 51st. "My front tire flatted just going into a descent, and then I had to run a kilometre to the tech zone."
The crash made the television replay multiple times, as her front wheel twisted sideways, launching Batty over the bars, and her bike into the crowd.
In the men's event, Olympic champion Julien Absalon (Orbea) continued his unbeaten streak at Offenburg, with his fourth straight victory. Absalon, who uncharacteristically had not yet won a World Cup race this season, moved to the front of the race on the first lap with world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower), who had won the first round of the series. The pair began to distance themselves from a chase group containing Jaroslav Kulhavy (Rubena-Birrell-Specialized), Christoph Sauser (Specialized) and Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower). Sauser was leading the chase, but the group was making no time on the front duo.
On the third lap, Absalon managed to gain a small advantage on Schurter, and then steadily extended it through the remainder of the race, to roll across the finish line 49 seconds in front of the Swiss rider. Kulhavy attacked his break companions in the final lap to take third, followed by Sauser and then Vogel. Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) was the top Canadian, in 15th place.
"I definitely felt better in this race, and it is good to finish off this part of the season with a strong result," commented Kabush. "With a front row start, I think I could have had a top-10 result, but I didn't have a good start, dropping back a few spots and then first few laps some jitbag battles in the singletrack, but after that I felt I could open up the throttle and settle into my own pace."
Absalon's third lap was the fastest of the race (15:24), and he gained almost all of his winning margin in the this one lap blitz. However, it was the technicals of the French champion that were most noticable; in the slippery, rooty Snake Pit descent, Absalon was riding the shortest line, while Schurter, Sauser and others were all going wider (and slower). The only other top-20 riders to consistently take the same line as Absalon were Kabush and Marco Fontana (Cannondale).
Matthias Flückiger had been a member of the chase group until late in the race, when he had to stop for a rear wheel change, while series leader Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) joined the chase for the first few laps before fading. Derek Zandstra (3 Rox Racing), the only other Canadian in the race, finishing 66th, after getting caught behind a crash on lap three.
Absalon now leads Schurter by 44 points in the overall standings.
"I like this course very much," said Absalon. "It has very technical sections, plus good climbing. And the spectators are also very good here. It was a very close race with Nino at the beginning, but I attacked on the third lap on the beginning of the longer climb, and he came back, and I attacked again to get a small gap. After that, I gained a little bit more and a little bit more each lap. It was a perfect race for me."
- Absalon says that the next race "will be very different. I will be a father for the first time, because my son will be born before [Champéry], and maybe it will give me more motivation." Just what the rest of the field needs to hear - Absalon more motivated...
- Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) did not start. A week earlier, just prior to a German national series race he became ill. He is recovering now, but not enough to start in Offenburg.
- A number of riders who had done well in the first two races struggled in Offenburg - Koerber, Hermida, Kalentieva, Manuel Fumic (Cannondale), Fontana and Marga Fullana (Massi) were a few. Some complained of 'dead legs' or no power, and few admitted that they may have overtrained.
- The cross-country series now takes a very long break - until late July. Most riders say that they will take a break, get a good training block in and then race national series races (plus national championships) before returning to the World Cup for the final three rounds prior to the Worlds in Mont Ste Anne, Quebec.
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