June 12/00 4:42 am - Elite Cross-country Story
Posted by Editoress on 06/12/00
Elite Men and Women: Mountain Bike World Championships, Sierra Nevada Spain
This World Championships may have begun poorly for Canada, but ended with a bang. Alison Sydor and Roland Green both took silver in their Elite cross-country races today, showing that Canada will be a force to contend with as the World Cup starts up again in Canada next month.
Alison Sydor took it out hard in the start loop, and her effort immediately split the field, with only Marga Fullana (Spain) and Paola Pezzo (ITA) able to respond. Fullana then cranked it up a notch higher on the next shortened lap, dropping Sydor and Pezzo as the riders began the first of three full laps of the course. The front riders then settled into their own pace, trying to handle the 7000' altitude. "I focussed on my own race." said Sydor. "I was riding at a level a little below what I would normally do, and it seemed to work for me."
Pezzo went out harder than Sydor, and paid the price in the final lap. "I was cramping and my legs felt stiff. Alison came up on the steep climb, and I had no chance to stay with her." Indeed, she came perilously close to being caught by fourth place Barb Blatter (SUI), finishing only 9 seconds in front of her. Blatter rode steadily in the fourth spot all race, and the world number 1 ranked rider was pleased with her result. "This race, with the altitude, was not good for me, so I am happy. I tried to stay steady all race. Maybe if it had been a little longer I would have caught (Pezzo)." Mary Grigson (AUS) rounded out the top 5, catching a fading Alison Dunlap (USA).
Behind, Chrissy Redden was slowly moving up, after a poor start. "It was a bad start for me, I lost a lot of time when I couldn't get by people on the first descent. But it turned out to be good, because I started to ride my own race, and pick off other riders on the flats and false flats." Redden improved from 15th after the start loop to 8th at the start of the final lap. She then moved up another spot to challenge Dunlap for 6th.
"I got by her in the final sections before the last climb and Yury was trying to give me instructions in my earpiece as I went up the climb to the finish, but the crowd was so loud that I couldn't hear him and didn't know that she was on my wheel. She was better geared for the last little sprint, and took 6th." Redden's gashed leg didn't bother her too much: "it was throbbing towards the end, but didn't slow me down."
Lesley Tomlinson and Trish Sinclair were also having excellent races. Both riders were keying on the Olympic qualification spots that opened up with a top-16 result. "I came here early to get used to the altitude, and was trying to ride a solid race for that Olympic spot. I tried to be very consistent." It showed, as she never varied much from 14th or 15th, and eventually got her qualification with a 14th place result.
Trish Sinclair was having the race of her life at this level of competition, moving from 25th to 18th by the end of the first full lap, and to 17th a lap later. She was battling Ruthie Matthes (USA) for that 16th position and, unfortunately, could get by. "I would catch her on the climbs, and then she would drop me in the technical stuff. My result is sort of bittersweet - I'm happy to ride so well, but wish I could have made the qualification." Other Canadian results were Marie-Helene Premont in 33rd and Melanie Dorion in 40th.
- 4 Canadian women finished in the top 20, the best of any country.
- both Redden and Sinclair rode full suspension bikes.
- Alison Sydor had her mechanic put brake levers with longer arms on her bike. "The descending is so rough that I didn't want my hands cramping."
Miguel Martinez (FRA) led the men's race from start to finish. Last year was his first year out of the Espoir ranks, and he definitely wanted to improve upon his silver to Michael Rasmussen (DEN). "I was not worried about going so early, I felt confident. My strategy was to take it easier on the climbs, for my breathing, and to go harder in the technical sections." It certainly worked, as he steadily built up a gap on the chasers.
Roland Green used the same strategy to finish second - Canada's highest ever placing in the Elite men's cross-country. "I stayed steady, and felt like I was pacing myself perfectly. The bike (a full suspension GT) make a big difference - I was a lot fresher later in the race."
Green went from 10th at the end of the short loop, to third by the end of the first full lap (of 4). At this point he was only 25 seconds behind second place Marco Bui (ITA), and rolled by him in the next lap. Bui retired a lap later with a broken collarbone, suffered in a crash on one of the descents, and former world champion Hubert Pallhuber (ITA) moved into the third spot, later to be replaced by 1996 Olympic champion Bart Brentjens, but it didn't matter - Green was solidly in second, and actually started to reel in Martinez on the second and third laps - getting as close as 1 minute behind - before the French rider put his foot down to open up the gap again on the last lap. Jose Marquez of Spain would take fourth, and another French rider - Ludovic Dubau - fifth.
"I can't believe it." said Green after his second place finish. Even an hour later, on the awards podium, he easily had the largest smile (as you will see from the photos we are putting up later).
- this is probably the best finish every for a full suspension bike. Roland was riding 80mm of travel up front, and 3.5" rear. By contrast, Martinez was on a rigid bike with only 50mm of front travel.
- Other Canadians also fared well, with 4 in the top 30. Seamus McGrath was 20th, Geoff Kabush 22nd, Chris Sheppard 27th (after a crash), Eric Tourville 38th and Peter Wedge 54th.
- Cadel Evans, coming back strongly from a broken collarbone suffered at the Napa Worlod Cup, had a lock on fifth until his rear derailleur broke with 3 kilometres to go.