Posted by Editoress on 04/25/10
The 2010 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season opened on Sunday in Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, with both the men's and women's world champions victorious. Both Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) proved that there was no 'rainbow curse' on them, as they swapped their world champion jerseys for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup ones.
Canada's national women's champion, Catharine Pendrel (Luna), finished sixth, with Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) eighth. Emily Batty (Trek World Racing) finished second in the Under-23 women's race. In the men's race, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) was the top Canadian in 28th, followed by Derek Zandstra (Canadian National) in 34th.
The 6.2 kilometre course won high praise from the riders, who deemed it a true mountain bike course. Spectators came out in droves, to cheer on all riders.
Kalentieva won the women's 36 kilometre, five lap race in 1:54:57, beating American Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) by 11 seconds. Czech Katarina Nash (Luna) took third. Kalentieva and Koerber quickly distanced themselves from the remainder of the field, as many of the top favourites struggled on the first lap, falling well back.
"We were able to work together very good," said Kalentieva. "Willow was better on the climbs, and I was better in the technical parts, and we worked together to open a bigger gap. On the final lap I was able to get in front for the longer climb, and then opened a small gap, and that was just enough to keep to the finish."
For Koerber, it was the top World Cup result of her career, and she was happy with second. "Irina and I were well matched to work together during the race," she commented. "I was better on the climbs, but she would gap me in some of the more technical stuff. On the final climb I made a bit of a mistake, and Irina was able to just get a little gap, but that was enough."
Pendrel and Premont both dropped back to the high thirties early in the opening lap, as did Specialized's Lene Byberg. All three steadily worked their way forward, but it was a hard effort through the field on the tight, technical course.
Pendrel moved up to join team mates Nash and Georgia Gould by the halfway point, leading the chase to the front duo, and pulling to within 15 seconds before running out of steam. The three Luna riders, joined by top U23 rider Julie Bresset (BH-Suntour), rode steadily within a minute of the two leaders for the rest of the race, but could not close the gap. Pendrel faltered in the final lap, enabling Bresset to get by her for the fifth and final podium spot.
"I don't really know what happened at the start," commented Pendrel. "I had good position on the start line, but in the first lap lost a lot of places, and then it was difficult to pass and work your way back up. Then, on the last lap, I crashed and lost some time. It was a bit disappointing, but I know my form is good, and I hope to do better in the next round."
Switzerland's Schurter won the men's 43 kilometre race in a finish very similar to last year's world championships, when he outsprinted Olympic champion Julien Absalon (Orbea). Again, it came down to a sprint between the two, with Schurter winning by less than a wheel length. Burry Stander (Specialized) of South Africa took third, 14 seconds behind the front two.
The six lap men's race started very fast, with eight riders initially making the selection at the front, but by the fourth lap that was whittled down to just Schurter, Absalon and Stander. The South African looked to be the strongest, but he made a mistake on the last lap, allowing the other two to get away. Absalon took the lead, setting the pace, but could not shake Schurter, and when they turned onto the gravel finishing straight, the Swiss rider came up alongside his French rival and pulled ahead in the final 10 metres to take the win.
"This is an incredible victory, to win the World Cup and take the leader's jersey is very special," said Schurter. "I hoped to do well here, but there was a very, very strong field, so I was only looking to make the podium. I was dying out there, to stay with Julien, but I knew that if it came to a sprint I was a little bit faster."
Absalon, for his part, revealed that he was quite content with second. "I have been sick this week, so I didn't know if I could race in the middle of the week. But each day I got a little bit better, and by Saturday I was okay again. I didn't know how strong I was going to be, and I was just hoping to get on the podium."
"But it was good for me when the three of us went away, because I was able to rest a bit at the back. I think Stander was the strongest, but maybe he did too much work, and then made a little mistake that allowed Nino and I to get away. At the finish I tried to control it, but Nino was just to strong."
For Kabush it was a disappointing day, after riding so strongly a week earlier at Sea Otter. "I definitely didn't have the form that I had at Sea Otter. I had a good start, but then I just didn't have the power to keep up. Maybe it was because of all the travel problems to get here; it took me three days, and that didn't help."
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