Posted by Editoress on 06/22/07
Mont-Ste-Anne World Cup Preview
Once again the world's mountain bike elite have gathered for North America's only mountain bike triple (cross country, downhill and 4 X) at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec. One thing we've come to expect from MSA is heat and humidity, but it looks like this weekend is going to be considerably different than the usual 30Ã‚Â°C that everyone has come to know and "love". Temperatures are actually cool, 21C at the moment, with an expected low of 10C tonight and reaching perhaps 20C tomorrow.
The real question mark is rain - although only about 1mm is expected, the forecast is calling for an 80% chance of light rain tomorrow afternoon. That would be a real shame because the reports from the few XC racers that we spoke with is that both the course and the course conditions are superb at the moment. We will have to wait and see what tomorrow morning presents. The weather report has been extremely changeable over the past few days.
Regarding the XC race course, it is essentially the same 5 kilometre loop that has been used the past few years. Only a 200m section between the first and second climbs has been revised a touch. The expectation is a start loop plus 5 laps for the women and 7 for the men (plus start loop). This will be confirmed at the manager's meeting later this evening. And, of course, this may change if rain arrives in the morning.
One of the topics of discussion has been regarding the German rider Ivonne Kraft. She is here at the race, but is under a cloud of suspicion regarding a positive test for asthma medication which she does not have medical permission to use. She is claiming that she received an inadvertent dose from her mother's asthma inhaler when it discharged after clogging, and that she ingested some medication from it. Needless to say there is some skepticism surrounding this explanation.
She has been dropped from the German National Team, and was not registered, but she is still here and planning to compete. As a late registration, she has been fined 150 Swiss Francs (approximately $150 Can), and will be put at the back of the field (more on this latter penalty below). According to chief commissaire Colin Clews, Kraft will not be allowed to start without a letter from the German federation, allowing her registration. The cut-off for receiving that letter is 9:00 am (local EDT) tomorrow; two hours before the start of the women's race. As of 5:30 pm EDT that letter had not been received.
Missing from the fields are a few names - Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), who is still battling back from a viral infection, and whose team released a statement earlier this week saying that she will not be racing the next few World Cups. On the men's side, Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower) is missing the North American stops, as previously planned, for an event in Switzerland.
Now the story which is causing consternation among some teams and federations. As mentioned above with the Kraft situation, a late registration carries a fine, as specified in the rulebook. However, the UCI has apparently instituted a new rule this season, which says that the rider also starts at the back of the field.
"This further requirement was set by the UCI Mountain Bike staff" explains Colin Clews. "I was the chief in Houffalize, and it has been applied at all the races since then, so for total consistency we will apply it here. As I have explained to some managers, the regulations are a dynamic instrument, and some of the changes have been provided to the commissaires, but apparently not to the teams."
This regulation is going to catch out an estimated 11-13 riders in the men's and women's field, including Lene Byberg (Specialized) and Catharine Pendrel (Norco). "An athlete shouldn't suffer from the mistakes of teams or federations." stated Specialized team director Bobby Behan. "The rules state a fine, that's okay. But there is nothing in the rules about putting them in the back of the field."
Pendrel, one of the athletes caught by the new rules, said "It's not a huge deal, but when you have invested the time and energy to get up there ... it sucks. I guess I will just have to deal with it."
Remi Berubi of the Canadian Cycling Association says that the CCA did send in Pendrel's registration, but never received a confirmation from the UCI. "It was an administrative error, now the rider is penalized."
In the pit area we came across a familiar face in Hugo Bardou, who was with Balfa Cycles for many years. Balfa was purchased by ProCycle (Rocky Mountain, Miele, Oryx, etc.), which eventually killed the line. Hugo is now building a new line of mostly steel bikes called Cycles Xprezo, built in Bromont, Quebec. There are 3 full suspension XC models, 2 with 100mm travel and a race model with just 80mm. There is also an all mountain bike and a cyclo-cross model. The continuing advances in steel tubing has permitted Hugo to make steel bikes lighter than ever before and with ride characteristics better than aluminum. His riders tell him that the rear of the bike isn't as stiff and as harsh as aluminum, making for a great ride, yet supplying great climbing. Check them out at www.xprezo.ca
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