Posted by Editoress on 04/26/09
Round two of the cross-country Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Offenburg, Germany saw different faces on the top step of the podium, with Ren Chengyuan (China) and Julien Absalon (Orbea) taking the wins before a crowd of 20,000 spectators. Absalon's win moved him into the overall lead for the men's competition and preserved his perfect win record at Offenburg, while Austrian Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost Pro Team) hung onto the women's lead by virtue of her fifth place result.
Absalon's win was his 18th World Cup victory, a new record that beats the 17 wins of the legendary Thomas Frischknecht.
Men's photos part one, part two
There were strong Canadian rides in both races, with Catharine Pendrel (Luna) working her way up to finish sixth after starting well back, and Emily Batty (Toronto Trek Store) finishing tenth and winning the U23 category. In the men's race, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) had one of his patented strong and steady rides to move up from 30th to finish ninth.
The weather conditions were perfect as the women rolled to the line for their six lap, 36 kilometre race. After a short start loop it was Swiss rider Katrin Leumann who led the 93 rider field out onto the main circuit.
However, the top names in the pro field quickly moved to the forefront, with world champion Marga Fullana (Massi), Lene Byberg (Specialized) and Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) leading after the first lap. They were closely followed by Osl, America n Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Pendrel. Pendrel had impressively worked her way up from 52nd on the start grid within one lap. Defending World Cup champion Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), who started next to Pendrel, struggled more in the early laps, but moved into the mid-teens, followed by Batty.
Fullana then attacked the rest of the lead group, carving out a lead that approached a minute by the fourth lap. The chase had reshuffled, with Kalentieva, Byberg, Pendrel and Osl dropping Koerber and Lechner, but being joined by Ren, who had also moved up from a poor start position.
Fullana looked to be in control, but Ren launched a strong attack in the fifth lap, with only Pendrel able to follow. Pendrel couldn't maintain the pace of the former U23 world champion and dropped back to the chasers, while Ren continued to steadily reel in Fullana, catching and dropping her on the final lap.
"It was the same place that Ren attacked last year, on the climb," explained Pendrel. "I was able to get on her wheel, but the pace she was going on the climb was too high, and I had to back off. I was feeling really good, but that first lap, having to chase up so hard definitely had an effect. Hopefully, with a better start position now for Houffalize next week I'll be able to get to the front easier."
Fullana hung for second, with Byberg repeating her third place from round one, followed by Kalentieva, Osl and Pendrel. Canada's Emily Batty was the top U23 finisher in tenth place, with Julie Bresset (Breiz Mountain) retaining the overall U23 lead.
"I had no idea that I was moving up so much," exclaimed Batty. "I was working my way up, from group to group, and then I caught up with Marie-Helene. It was such an honour to ride with her at that level, she is one of my heroes."
The huge men's field of over 220 riders took over one minute to roll through the start finish after completing the start loop and heading out for the first of seven laps.
By that time, the leaders were already starting to sort out their pecking order at the front of the race. A sizable group of heavy hitters were setting a hard pace and pulling away from the rest of the field. Among the group were Absalon, the World Cup leader Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), world champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized), U23 World Cup leader Burry Stander (Specialized), Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower), Lukas Fluckiger (Trek World Racing), Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower), Roel Paulissen (Cannondale) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Massi). This group was further joined by Todd Wells (Specialized), Marco Fontana (Cannondale), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Rubena-Specialized) and Martin Gujan (Cannondale Factory Racing).
Kabush had a strong start, and was riding up steadily. "I was really pleased with my start, I was able to move up into the top twenty fairly quickly. Then I just had to ride my own race, my own pace. I t is an encouraging result, particularly after not doing so well [in South Africa], and it gives me confidence as I prepare for Houffalize next week."
Absalon decided the numbers at the front were more than he was comfortable with, and counterattacked a move by Schurter on the longest climb of the course on the third lap, quickly gaining 25 seconds on the disorganized chase behind. The Olympic champion continued to pad his lead through the fourth lap, as the chase started to shed riders. Among the first to go was Hermida, who came to the race with a bad cold. Wells also dropped off after flatting, and eventually abandoned.
"It was a tactical move to go so early," explained Absalon. "A big group is so difficult to control, and I was in a good position when Nino did his attack to follow and then attack again. My goal was to be in good shape coming into these European World Cups, so this was very good for me."
On lap five, Sauser decided it was time to shake things up in the chase and broke away from the rest of the group, taking only his team mate Stander with him. The duo quickly took 20 seconds on the rest of the chasers, but were making no dent in Absalon's lead, and the effort failed after Sauser crashed hard in one of the technical sections and had to abandon with a broken frame.
Stander continued on in second, but was steadily being reeled in by Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon) and Peraud. The pair caught and dropped Stander in the final kilometres to take second and third behind Absalon, with the South African holding on for fourth, and the top U23 result. Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) capped an impressive ride up from midfield to take the final podium spot.
"It was a record day," commented Absalon. "A record World Cup victory, my first win of the season and my third victory at Offenburg."
- In other Canadian results, Amanda Sin (3 Rox Racing) had a strong ride to finish 36th after starting 60th. Some of the National team riders finished in the points also, with Mical Dyck 52nd and Jean Ann McKirdy 54th. Sandra Walter was 75th and Marie-Claude Surprenant 89th. In the men's race, Derek Zandstra (3 Rox Racing) was 54th, Kris Sneddon (Kona) 133rd, Adam Morka (Canadian National) 156th and Raphael Gagne (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) 168th.
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