Posted by Editoress on 05/31/08
MTB World Cup
Coverage brought to you with the assistance of Velirium
Marga Fullana (Massi) became the fourth World Cup winner in four races this season, with a completely dominating performance today at VallNord in Andorra. Canada's Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) finished third behind Eva Lechner (Colnago), but added to her lead in the overall standings. Catharine Pendrel (Luna) put a second Canadian rider on the podium with her best ever World Cup result in fourth place. Ren Chengyuan (China) continues to lead the U23 standings, despite a disasterous day that saw her finish a distant 32nd.
After two days of sun, everyone was starting to hope that the rain which has plagued the region had moved on. However, a hour before the start a light rain began to fall, which had turned into a steady pour by the time the starter fired his gun. It did slacken off and eventually stop raining halfway through the shortened race (to five laps from six), but the damage had been done, with the grassy slopes of the steepest climb slippery, and the roots and rocks in the woods slimy with mud.
For Premont, the bigger problem was the cold. She had an uncharacteristically slow start, back in the eighth place by the halfway point of the first lap, while Fullana and Lechner were charging off the front.
"I was very, very cold," she said afterwards, still shivering despite a jacket. "I could not feel my fingers for the first three laps, and I could not shift or brake. Without the cold I think I could have done much better."
She gradually made her way up to join Lechner, followed closely by Pendrel (who couldn't clip into her pedal at the start), but they were over a minute down on Fullana, who was looking much less stressed at both the temperature and the 2000 metre (6500') altitude.
Other early chasers, including Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago), Lui Ying (China) and Laurence Leboucher (France) - who led for a while on the first lap - fell back on the second and third laps as the altitude and high pace took their toll.
With one lap to go, Fullana was over two minutes up on Lechner, Premont and Pendrel, and Pendrel was starting to get gapped by the other two as they attacked each other on the climbs. Fullana cruised in to victory, losing a few seconds as she savoured the win. It was her first World Cup win since Champery (Switzerland) last year, and her last win before that was 2002 in Les Gets, France.
It was on the steepest climb that Premont made a tactical mistake which allowed Lechner to get away for second.
"I was stronger on the steep climb I think, and I tried to go by her. But there was really only one track, and I got off it and it was too slippery, and I had to walk my bike to the top, which killed my legs."
For Pendrel, it was another breakthrough in a breakthrough season, as she recorded the fastest lap of the race (the second, as she chased up to the leaders).
"I had a really poor start because I couldn't clip in, but that may have been a blessing, because i was able to start a little slower and pace myself as I moved up. When I caught up to Marie-Helene's wheel with two laps to go, and then we caught Eva, I could see that a podium was possible. It was just so close!"
Mary McConneloug (Kenda) was the top U.S. finisher in 14th place, just behind Canada's Kiara Bisaro (Opus) in 13th.
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