July 31/10 22:33 pm - Val di Sole: XC Report and Photos
Posted by Editoress on 07/31/10
Pendrel and Schurter Take World Cup Leads
Our coverage made possible with the support of Shimano
The cross-country World Cup once again saw the standings shuffled after round five in Val di Sole, Italy on Saturday. In the women's race, there was a fifth winner in five events, with Maja Wloszczowska (CCC Polkowice) outsprinting Canada's Catharine Pendrel (Luna) to win only the second World Cup of her career. Pendrel regained the lead in the overall standings after losing it a week earlier in Champéry, Switzerland. On the men's side, it came down to world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) against World Cup leader Julien Absalon (Orbea) in a sprint, and Schurter both won the race and took over the World Cup lead. This makes it three times now that Schurter has beaten Absalon in a sprint, in the past 12 months.
The 6.3 kilometre course was dominated by a series of steep, steep climbs, which took their toll on the fields. In the men's race, only 88 of 190 starters finished on the same lap as the winner. The hot sun made matters worse, as riders wilted in the open grassy sections.
Pendrel, coming off a mechanical-plagued race in Champéry, was determined to have a better day in Val di Sole. She had dropped to third in the standings following the fourth round, 61 points behind the new leader, Eva Lechner (Colnago Arreghini Sudtirol), and 46 points behind Willow Koerber (Subaru-Trek).
After Koerber led the field out of the start loop and onto the first of four laps, Pendrel went to the front and launched an attack late in the first lap. By the top of the first climb on the second lap she had an eight second lead on a group containing her team mate Katerina Nash, world champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon), Swiss rider Esther Süss, Wloszczowska and American Katie Compton. Koerber was struggling just off the back of the group, and Lechner had fallen well off the pace.
A lap later, and Pendrel had been joined by Wloszczowska, with the chasers down to Kalentieva, Compton and Nash. Nash was fading, but would hold onto fifth, while Kalentieva and Compton were still less than 20 seconds from the lead duo going into the final lap. This forced the front pair to keep working hard together throughout the lap, until the final flat section, when Wloszczowska launched an attack that Pendrel could not respond to, rolling in five seconds ahead of the Canadian.
"It was my aim to get on the podium," said Wloszczowska, "I really like track here. "But I did not expect to win. It feels really good to win my second World Cup (1st Schladming 2008). I got to Catharine on second to last lap and we worked together. So I have to thank her for my win."
Pendrel was disappointed not to win, but happy to come back from her poor showing a week earlier, and take back the leader's jersey.
"I just knew that I could be strong here," explained Pendrel. "I wanted to have a strong race after everything that happened last week. When Maja came up to me it was both good and bad. Good because we could work together on the flat sections, and bad, because obviously she was riding really well. But I'm really happy to take back the [World Cup leader's jersey], and now I just want to hold it through the final race."
Pendrel commented that she wants to break "the jersey curse", that has seen every leader this year lose the jersey the race after donning it.
Pendrel now leads the World Cup with 794 points, followed by Lechner at 740 and Willow Koerber with 735. One race remains in the series, at Windham, New York, in late August.
Emily Batty (Trek World Racing) finished 21st overall, and second in the Under-23 category, behind Under-23 world champion Tanja Zakelj (MBK Orbea), who was 11th overall. Other Canadian results include Amanda Sin (Canadian National Team) in 34th, Mikaela Kofman (Canadian National Team) was 47th, Catherine Vipond (Canadian National Team) was 62nd and Sandra Walter (Local Ride) was 67th.
The men's six lap race came down to three riders by the mid-point: Schurter, Absalon and last week's winner Florian Vogel, Schurter's team mate. Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida) tried a move on the second lap, briefly setting the pace, but couldn't sustain it and fell back to eventually finish eighth.
The lead three worked well together for the first four laps, distancing themselves from everyone except Under-23 series leader Mathias Flückiger (Trek World Racing) and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida). These two were the only riders to stay within two minutes of the leaders and eventually took fourth and fifth, respectively. Näf took over fifth from fellow Swiss rider Christoph Sauser (Specialized), the world champion in Val di Sole, on this course in 2008. Sauser was riding strongly until a drivetrain problem took him out of contention on the fourth lap; he eventually finished 63rd.
At the front, as the race entered the final two laps, Absalon was getting increasingly nervous at being stuck with the two team mates. He launched a series of attacks, but the steep climbs made it all but impossible to gain any sort of meaningful gap on his rivals. Vogel went off the front at the end of lap five, forcing Absalon to chase, and pull Schurter up with him.
The French rider was able to drop Vogel on the final lap, but the gap was small, so he had to stay at the front, while Schurter sat on his wheel. Absalon tried a series of attacks, but Schurter was able to respond to every one and, as they entered the final feedzone, with less than a kilometre and a half to the finish line, Schurter made his own move, getting in front for the series of turns on the final flat section, with nowhere left for Absalon to pass before the finish line.
"It was very good for both Florian and I to be together," agreed Schurter. "I think Julien was actually the strongest rider out there today, but we were able to work together against him. I knew that the place to attack was at the last feedzone, because there was nowhere to pass after that. And, I have been pretty good against Julien in sprints lately, so I was confident I could get by him there."
Absalon agreed that having Vogel there certainly helped Schurter, and virtually conceded the World Cup title to Schurter. "It was two against one, and they were very good together. i tried to attack a number of times, but on these steep climbs it is impossible to get a gap, you cannot get enough power to get away. The feedzone was the place where you had to be in front, but Nino was just a little bit faster and was able to get there first. But, I'm happy with my form, and now I will just focus on the world championships; I have four weeks to prepare. I will ride Windham, of course, but the focus is the world championships."
Schurter now has 936 points to Absalon's 910, with Eurpean champion Jaroslav Kulhavy third at 790.
Canadian men did not have a good day, unlike the women. Canada's top-ranked rider, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), had a strong start, but faded badly, eventually pulling out at the halfway mark. Team manager Gary Wolff said that Kabush felt "empty". In the overall standings he drops from 18th to 27th, erasing all hopes of jumping into the top-ten for the series.
The top Canadian finisher was Derek Zandstra (Canadian National Team), in 52nd - well back from his 37th place finish a weekearlier. Andrew Watson (Canadian National Team) was 64th, the only other Canadian to finish on the same lap as the leaders. Peter Glassford (Toronto Trek Store) was one lap down, in 94th, Cameron Jette (Canadian National Team) also at one lap in 122nd, Adam Morka (Toronto Trek Store) 143rd at two laps and Tim Carleton (Canadian National Team) 172nd at three laps. American Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant) was the top North American, in 17th, followed by Todd Wells (Specialized) in 19th. Wells now becomes th top North American in the World Cup series standings, moving up to 18th place.
- In the Junior races held earlier in the day, Antoine Caron (Canadian National Team) improved upon his seventh place at Champéry for an impressive fourth in the men's four lap event. Belgians dominated the race, finishing first and third, with Jens Schuermans taking the win. Caron steadily moved up from 17th after the start loop to sixth after one lap, fifth after three and fourth in the final lap. He now becomes a clear medal contender from the world championships at Mont Ste Anne. Other Canadian results (all Canadian National Team): Leandre Bouchard 10th, Evan McNeely 11th, Mitch Bailey 15th and Jeremy Martin 26th.
Canada had one woman in the junior women's race, Laura Bietola (Canadian National Team), who finished ninth. Jolanda Neff of Switzerland, who has dominated the series, easily won ahead of Yana Belomoyna (Ukraine).