Posted by Editor on 06/8/02
Mont Tremblant - Commonwealth Games Trials
We have two unexpected winners at the Commonwealth Games mountain bike trials, held at the Mont Tremblant Canada Cup. Geoff Kabush (Kona), after being nearly invisible thus far in the season, scooped the CG automatic berth ahead of rival Seamus McGrath (Haro-Lee Dungarees) on the men's side, while relative newcomer Kiara Bisaro (Gears Racing) benefited from the weather and a more experienced rider's classy move to secure the women's spot.
Canada has three spots each for men and women at the mountain bike cross-country races in Manchester. Roland Green and Alison Sydor (both Trek-VW) have two of the spots, after medalling at the Worlds last fall. For the other positions it would be decided by top finisher at Mont Tremblant, with the final spot coming as a selection committee choice.
The stakes were high and the competition was fierce. On the women's side the favourites were Chrissy Redden (Gary Fisher-Subaru), Marie-Helene Premont (Oryx) and Bisaro. Outside chances were Trish Sinclair (Gears Racing) and two-time Olympian Lesley Tomlinson (Rocky Mountain) - who was a late scratch due to illness. Premont had the best form, based on previous results at the European World Cups and the Hardwood Canada Cup the week before. However, the course did not suit her, especially when it began to rain just prior to the start.
On the the other hand, it did favour the more technically inclined Bisaro. "I've been doing a rain dance all week.", the young B.C. rider said, smiling before the start.
Premont started out very fast, trying to get in front for the singletrack, to slow her rivals. Unfortunately for her, both Redden and Bisaro were able to get by and then, to add insult to injury, Premont suffered chain and rear derailleur problems that dropped her well back into 8th by the start of the second (of three laps). She would battle back during the race to finish fourth, but admitted that "I knew that this was not the course for me. It is too bad because I am feeling really strong, but there is nothing you can do about it."
At the front, it was the Chrissy and Kiara show. The two rode together steadily for the remainder of the race, as they put time on their rivals. Everyone clustered around the finishing area waiting to see who would come through the village first for the finish, but when the two hove into view with less then 200 metres to go they were still together.
In some senses the finish was anticlimactic, with Redden hanging back to allow Bisaro to take the win, but there was no mistaking the stunned joy on the B.C. rider's face.
"This is pretty unbelievable, I don't really know what to say. Chrissy and I rode together all race, both tried to attack a few times, but we were faster together. In the last lap we talked a bit and Chrissy said she would not contest the finish. I've never been in a position like that before, but both Chrissy and Alison (Sydor) have been helping me and advising me so much this season; I couldn't have done this without a lot of peoples' support."
Redden, the Olympic and World Cup veteran, recognized that "this was Kiara's only chance to make the team, so I didn't want to ruin it for her. We've been training together, and rode together really hard today. On one lap I missed a feed, and Kiara took it for me, so we were supporting each other out there."
Redden, a World Cup winner and Team Relay World Champion, is virtually assured the third spot on the squad.
The men's race was already causing speculation before it even started. Ryder Hesjedal (Gary Fisher-Subaru) did not race, and neither did Chris Sheppard (Haro-Lee Dungarees). This left McGrath the odds-on favourite, after a strong showing at the Madrid World Cup last month. However, there was Mat Toulouse (Gears Racing), riding strongly in North America this spring, experienced pro Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain) and a pair of Kona question marks - Peter Wedge and Kabush.
Wedge has proven that he can never be counted out in any bike race on the road and the dirt, and Kabush went up against the favoured McGrath in 2000 at the Olympic selections, winning the Sydney spot and then going on to finish 9th at the Olympics. The Victoria rider has not been seen much this season, staying close to home, "training and going in a few local races."
If McGrath won the selection, the committee choice would be Hesjedal; simple. But if Kabush won, then would the committee select McGrath or Hesjedal? Both had one good result in Europe, and some strong spring finishes in the southern U.S. Now that the latter scenario has come into play, the committee has to do some serious debating before announcing the third spot (which is expected mid-week).
McGrath went out fast, and had a small gap on the chasers on the first lap. Besides Kabush, Toulouse and his Gears team mate Ricky Federau were at the front chasing. Kabush joined McGrath at the front on the second lap (of four), and the duo were well clear of the chasers - Toulouse, Federau, Wedge, Hestler, Lucas Curran (Rocky Mountain) and Bruno Lafontaine (OGC/Fisher).
On the third lap Kabush came through on his own at the front but, according to McGrath, it wasn't the result of an attack. "There were too many other categories on the course (Junior, Senior and Master Expert Men, in addition to the elite men and women). Some (lapped) riders got between us and wouldn't move aside in the singletrack, and that was when Geoff got his gap. It's not right for that to happen in a selection race."
Kabush wouldn't comment on that, but did agree that his gap was "not an attack. I kept a steady pace and increased the pressure on the third and fourth laps."
Kabush soloed in for the victory and CG team position, with a very disappointed Seamus McGrath in second. Federau moved up through the ranks to take third, with Toulouse fourth and Wedge fifth.
"This (selections) was my first big goal of the year, so life's good right now. I didn't go to Europe, stayed home and trained and it paid off. When Seamus went (at the beginning), he got a gap but I settled into a good rhythm and caught him by the second lap. I kept the pressure up in the third lap and gradually opened it up after that. I had felt a little dead in my legs earlier in the week, but right from the start today I knew I was good to go."
- at the Olympic selection race in 2000, McGrath and Kabush were together when McGrath flatted, leaving an open door to Kabush.
- all selection races have now taken place except for the men's road, which will be on June 18th - the second stage of GP de Beauce. Eric Wohlberg (Saturn) and Mark Walters (Navigators) are already selected after last year's Nationals, as are Lyne Bessette (Quebec/Canada), Genevieve Jeanson (Rona) and Clara Hughes (Quebec/Canada). The rest of the women's team should be announced this week, as will the mountain bike team. Lori Ann Muenzer is the only automatic for the track.
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