June 27/99 9:25 am - Big Bear Story
Posted by Editoress on 06/27/99
Diesel/UCI Mountain Bike World Cup
Cross Country Round 6: Big Bear, CA (USA)
June 27, 1999
(courtesy Annie Robillard UCI Press Liason )
Christophe Sauser (SUI) proved too strong for his team-mate Cadel Evans (AUS) and led the World Cup leader home to a Volvo-Cannondale one-two. This result came just three hours after a Volvo-Cannondale one-two in the women's race when Women's World Cup leader Alison Sydor, (CAN), benefited from a Gunn-Rita Dahle flat tyre and a Paola Pezzo mechanical failure to finish ahead of Annabella Stropparo and like Evans, extended her lead in the World Cup.
Van Dooren Punctures Out
The outcome of the race was decided on the final climb, a short slope only a few hundred metres from the finish. "Christophe rode away from me, and he deserved the win," said Evans who was happy to see his team-mate claim his first World Cup round win, and relieved to see his main rival Miguel Martinez (FRA) wilt in the heat and altitude to finish 13th today. Sauser and Evans had worked together for the entire race and their team manager, Charlie Livermore had given no team orders about the win. "It feels great to win a world cup race... hopefully (Cadel Evans and I) will be close on the podium until the end of the season." Said Sauser.
But according to Cadel Evans, Bas Van Dooren (NED) was the strongest rider in the race. "He was very, very, very strong on the climbs," admitted Evans, who thought that if the 26 years-old could have maintained the same pace after his lap-three puncture as he did before, he would have won. Although he lost around one 1'30" repairing his tube, by the top of the climb on lap five of the six-lap race, he had closed the gap to the lead duo of Evans and Sauser to 38". "I knew that if I didn't close the gap fast, I wouldn't close it at all. But I blew up a bit on lap five," explained Van Dooren, who finished an impressive 4th, one place behind his Be One team-mate Patrick Tolhoek (NED).
As early as lap two, Van Dooren, Evans and Sauser had escaped from the field on the punishing 3km (2.2mi) climb, using their light bodyweight to full advantage on this infernally hot day in the thin air of 2,133m (7,000 ft). 1996 world champion, Jerome Chiotti (FRA), rode in fourth place until the fifth lap when Van Dooren came up from behind with Tolhoek to make the chase group three. It was this trio that got within 40" of the leaders on lap five.
But that was as close as they got. Van Dooren's drive ended there, and on the lap six climb Tolhoek rode away from him and Chiotti to claim third place, one day after his 34th birthday. Tolhoek was formerly a promising road pro with the Buckler team. In 1989 he was named Best Young Pro in Holland, but a blocked artery interrupted his cycling career for five years until surgery two years ago removed the problem.
Sydor Tightens Her Grip
A win for Sydor over Annabella Stropparo (ITA) and Caroline Alexander (GBR) concluded an eventful race in the thin air at Snow Summit ski area, Big Bear Lake. Much of the race remained uncertain right until the finish, but important changes started taking place as early as the first full lap. After two start loops of 600m the field embarked on the first of four 8.7km (5.22mi) laps. After 3.3km of climbing leaders Sydor, Dahle and Alexander arrived at the top of the course together. Pezzo had
dropped a short distance back from the leaders and had been passed by Stropparo.
Dahle had her flat tyre on a rocky downhill section shortly after the summit. Alexander passed the Norwegian as she started the repair, but only a few metres further on Alexander had to dismount to adjust her own gear derailleur. Sropparo rode past Alexander, but Pezzo never made it that far: she went out of the race after having her rear gear cable torn out by a trackside shrub.
And so the selection was made. "Suddenly I couldn't hear Gunn-Rita's tyres on the ground behind me. When I realised I was alone I just rode my own race, as you have to do anyway at altitude." Sydor, the defending World Cup champion, remained in front all the way to the end and claimed her second round win of the '99 series.
Yet it might have been different. Stropparo and Alexander were riding together, and both climbing very well. At one 7point the duo got within 15" of Sydor. "I told Annabella to let Alexander go past," explained manager Charlie Livermore. "If Caroline could carry Annabella up to Alison, that's one thing, but I didn't want Annabella carrying Alexander up to Alison." But Stropparo remained in front until the top of the climb on lap two. Alexander tried to pass her on the descent, but crashed and hit her face on a rock, finishing with a fat and bloody lip. "It really hurt, and it dazed me. I was lying on the ground for about a minute thinking about whether or not I should continue," said Alexander.
Stropparo was quite satisfied with second place, her best result of the season. "I felt really good on the climbs today," she said after the race. Dahle rode powerfully to come back to finish fourth, one place ahead of 1991 world champion, Ruthie Matthes (USA).
We will have full results from today's race and the World Cup standings tomorrow