August 29/10 11:20 am - Windham World Cup: XC report
Posted by Editoress on 08/29/10
Windham World Cup Final Crowns New Champions
Our coverage of the 2010 World Cup Final brought to you with the support of Shimano
The 2010 Cross-country Mountain Bike World Cup concluded on Saturday in Windham, New York, and two new champions were crowned: Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower). Pendrel capped her World Cup season with her second victory of the year, while Schurter had to settle for second place behind first time World Cup winner Jaroslav Kulhavy (Rubena-Birell-Specialized). Kulhavy's win was the first ever cross-country victory for a Czech rider. For Canada, the women's race provided a strong lead in to the world championships next week at Mont Ste Anne, as Marie-Hélène Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) showed her form of old, finishing second.
The 5.4 kilometre course was straightforward, a long climb followed by a quick descent. The riders zig zagged their way up the climb, alternating open double track with loose, rocky and rooty singletrack, then descended through more of the same back to the start. The women rode five laps and the men six.
Pendrel and Premont distanced themselves from the the rest of the field quickly. Pendrel, the World Cup leader coming into the race, had two worries: Eva Lechner (Colnago Arreghini Sudtirol) only 54 points back in the standings, and Willow Koerber (Subaru-Trek) at 59 points. Koerber was the bigger worry on this track, having won here in the national series race the previous year, and with a home crowd behind her.
In turned out that neither was a factor. Pendrel quickly shot to a 25 second advantage over Premont, with her Luna team mate Georgia Gould sitting in third, but steadily falling further behind through the race. Koerber started in fourth but faded badly to eventually finish sixth, 4:21 down, while Lechner was a distant 18th, over eight minutes in arrears.
The only real battle was at the front - Pendrel would start each lap approximately 25 seconds in front of Premont, who would close the gap on the climb, only to see it open on the descent. In the final lap, the 2008 World Cup champion gave an extra surge and caught Pendrel just before the top of the climb.
"I'm usually stronger in the first half of the race," explained Pendrel, "so I wanted to go out hard and establish a gap. But Marie was climbing well, and I knew she was coming up. I was able to get the front into the descent and then I could control things, and it was enough."
Pendrel winning margin was a scant four seconds over Premont. Gould took third, but over two minutes down, with Blaza Klemencic (Felt Oetztal X-Bionic) fourth and last year's World Cup champion Elisabeth Osl (Central Pro) taking fifth.
Premont, who struggled last year and earlier this season, was extremely pleased to see her form peaking just before the world championships take place in her home town, moving from 13th to eighth in the final standings.
"I had a very good start, and I was able to be at the front and stay within 15 to 30 seconds of Catharine. Then on the last lap I knew it was my final chance, so I gave it everything I had, but Catharine was able to get in front for the downhill. It's a good time to be in this shape, one week before the world championships. I know I can do well next week."
In the final overall standings, Pendrel won the title with 1044 points, followed by Koerber at 865 and Lechner at 810. Gould jumped from fifth to fourth in the final standings and Swiss rider Esther Süss moved up from sixth to the final podium spot with the absence of world champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon).
"This is amazing, to win my second World Cup of the season, and the World Cup title, all a week before the world championships take place in Canada," said Pendrel. "To win a World Cup race is always special, but to be consistent right through the season and win the title is hard. The race for the title was so tight all season, that it is extra special to win it."
The men's race pitted Schurter against his season-long rival Julien Absalon (Orbea), the defending champion, with only 26 points separating the pair. Coming through the finish line at the end of the first lap, a group of five riders was at the front - Schurter, his team mate Florian Vogel, Burry Stander (Specialized), Manuel Fumic (Cannondale) and Martin Gujan (Cannondale). Absalon was just behind, having had a slightly slower start.
The race also saw the beginning of a flurry of flats and mechanicals, especially among the North Americans, with Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Adam Craig (Giant), Todd Wells (Specialized), Adam Morka and Peter Glassford (both Toronto Trek Store) and Andrew Watson (Norco) all affected. Kabush pulled out, after a very lengthy stop in the pits that dropped him to the back of the field.
However, Absalon was the most significant, flatting on the second lap, having to run to the pits for service, and dropping to the high teens. There then became two races - the one at the front, and the one behind as Absalon tried to claw his way back into contention, working his way through the traffic of slower riders. He made a magnificent effort, turning in some of the fastest laps of the race, but could only move up as high as sixth by the finish.
Schurter and Vogel were the only consistent riders to stay at the front of the race, as they poured on the power to keep Absalon at bay. Stander, Gujan and Fumic eventually burned out, and were replaced by Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Lukas Flückiger (Trek World Racing) and Kulhavy, who joined the leaders on the fourth lap.
By the final lap it was still these five, with Vogel doing the pace making. Kulhavy finally made his move just before the top of the climb, but Schurter immediately responded, taking the lead into the descent. Kulhavy then made a brilliant pass on the descent to take the lead. Sauser also managed to get by Schurter, but then crashed, allowing both Schurter and Vogel to pass, but also enabling Kulhavy to extend his lead. This would be the final order, with Schurter taking second, Vogel third and Sauser fourth. Flückiger held off Absalon by 26 seconds for the final podium spot.
"I was more conservative in the beginning to preserve my third place [in the overall standings] from [Jose] Hermida," explained Kulhavy, " but we dropped him, and I could see that I was riding the technical sections better than the others, so I was able to move up there. I tried to get by Nino before the downhill, but he beat me there, so I just had to wait for the right moment. This is an incredible win, the highest of my career, and it is very good timing, just before the world championships."
Schurter took the overall title with 1136 points, followed by Absalon at 1040 and Kulhavy, also at 1040 points. Absalon got the nod for second, but it took some calculating: they both had one win, but Absalon had two second places results to Kuhavy's one; a very tight finish to the season. Vogel jumped from sixth to fourth overall and Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) took the fifth and final podium spot.
- Nino Schurter raced in the world champion's rainbow stripes rather than the World Cup leader's jersey, a big no-no, for which he received a substantial 5000 Swiss Franc ($5100 Cdn/$4865 US) fine. Team director Thomas Frischknecht claimed that the leader's jersey he had been provided with was too small to race in. Frischknecht also pointed to Absalon as the source of the protest that saw Schurter fined, sending out an inflammatory e-mail:
Julien was at all times a great sportsmen when I raced against him and after too. I did not only respect him for his great results, I liked him as a person as well. Now he showed his real face of a sorry loser. Nino beat him over the whole season fair and square. A wrong jersey does not change the fact that Nino was better in 2010.
When I raced against the French armada with Martinez, Dupouey, Chiotti and Absalon I had to live with a second place many times. Sometimes even under special circumstances [when Chiotti won the world title and later admitted to doping]. But I tried to be a fair loser. A champion, and as such I counted Julien up till today, also is a champion in losing.
Sorry Julien. I don't know what you were thinking!
Update to jerseygate
According to the UCI delegate, Nino Schurter should never have been allowed to start without the World Cup leader's jersey, and the commissaire on the start line made a mistake in allowing him to start. Extra jerseys were available at any time, up to and including 90 minutes before the start... However, that being said, feelings among the riders and teams that it was very unsportsmanlike to protest the situation. The UCI could only say that team (Orbea) protested the jersey, and not that it was specifically Julien Absalon. (However, one team manager pointed out: "Would they (Scott-Swisspower) have done the same thing if the situation was reversed? I'm sure they would have...")
- Matt Hadley (Xprezo) was the top Canadian man for the day, in 38th place, followed by Derek Zandstra (3 Rox Racing) in 41st. Geoff Kabush was the top Canadian in the overall World Cup standings, finishing 31st, with Zandstra 55th.