Posted by Editoress on 07/6/02
Grouse Mountain Women's XC World Cup #4
by Mike Badyk
Report made possible by Snowcovers and Rocky Mountain.
It was absolutely beautiful day for the spectactors on top of Grouse Mountain, but it was a tough, long struggle for the racers. On the course widely regarded as the toughest on the entire World Cup circuit, mechanical difficulties cost many riders top placings, and many more bore cuts and scrapes from encounters with the ground. Throughout the entire race the rider near the front was, winner Sabine Spitz (Merida Inter.), recording her first World Cup win, and the first ever World Cup victory for a German woman.
The dropouts began to happen early, with Barbara Blatter (Specialized) crashing within the first 500 metres of the race. She was forced to withdraw after hitting her head. From the early pack, Mont Ste-Anne winner Annabella Stropparo (Be One XC), Alison Sydor (Trek Volkswagen), Spitz and Marie-Helene Premont (Oryx) managed to forge a small lead over the pack. Premont was only with this group for a short while as she was one of the first victims of the plague of mechanical problems, as was Jimena Florit (RLX Polo Sport).
Stropparo managed to pull away and open a 20 second lead over Spitz by lap 3 (who had passed Sydor on the same lap), thank's to some fine descending skills, but a slow leak in her tire finally forced her to pull off to the side to fix it in lap 4. This was not without some controversy. Many people felt that she had re-entered the course in another location, or possibly even had received some mechanical aid. She seemed reluctant to go into details at the finish. " The course is really hard. It is very easy to get a problem." After the announcers said she had abandoned, she was miraculously back into the race and took the final podium spot in 5th, 9:31 behind the leader. She was yelling and crying when she went off of the course. The spectators were yelling at her to fix it. She said she couldn't fix it. Then she went back into the course with the flat further down the course from where she left it. She then went down the hill and by the time she had finished the climb she had a full tire. Very strange indeed.
Spitz was riding very strongly and was closing rapidly on Stropparo before the Italian pulled off. After Stropparo had to pull over, Spitz never looked back, finishing in 1:58:28. Her lead was 2:20 going into the bell lap, and was ultimately 2:07 at the finish. At the line she stopped, lifted her bike up in the air, then put it down and walked over the line with one arm in the air. This was followed by a very graceful pirouette. Her ear to ear grin was a pleasure to see. "I wasn't trying to win, especially this race because it was so hard, but after the start loop I knew I felt good today. I knew I had to go out very fast at the beginning to get in front at the single track. I went into the woods 4th then I caught Alison and then I could see Annabella in front of me. I was behind her in the switchbacks and she went out (of the race) with a flat. I got goosebumps on the last climb when I realized that I had got it. It is very special to the first German World Cup winner."
With first place a lock for Spitz, the real race became a duel for second between Alison Dunlap (Luna Women's MTB) and Sydor. Sydor had a 40 second lead going into lap 5, but World Cup leader Dunlap rode very steadily to reel her in by the last lap. Dunlap was 52 seconds up on Sydor at the finish. Early on she was somewhat behind the leaders. "I just remembered from last year that this course takes a toll. I was concerned, but I wasn't freaking out about it. It was a bit of luck for me when two girls in front flatted, but the priority for me today was to protect the jersey. I wasn't really happy when Stropparo was out in front, but she typically starts fast and then we can reel her in."
Sydor ran a very good race, but seemed to tire noticeably in the last 2 laps. She was one of the few to escape mechanical problems. After her disappointing race last weekend, she was anxious to improve. "It was definitely hard mentally here and I would have liked a boost before this race. I decided to ride my race to stay at the front as long as I could. I had a really hard last lap. I was really tired, but that's the risk you take when you start hard. I don't think that there is a more technical course on the World Cup. It's so hard that when you hit the descents you are maxed out and you just keep your fingers crossed as you're going down."
Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) was as high as 6th, but lost places due to a flat in lap 5, dropping all the way back to 9th at one point.. She fought hard and was able to pull herself back up into 6th, just 12 seconds behind Stropparo. "I flatted on the back part of the course that's really fast. It was a rear flat, but I had a fast fix. I ended up coming back into the race in 10th." She also had a bad crash on the lap 5, sporting a big cut on her knee at the finish. "Maroussia (Rusca) crashed right in front of me and then I went down hard on the rocks, landing on my side and my knee. It was important for me to do well here because this gets me halfway to my (National team) carding."
The ride of the day went to Gunn-Rita Dahle, who was far back in the early laps, but poured it on to move into 4th place going into the bell lap. Then a mechanical happened to her in the lower part of the course that forced her to drop out. It was very unfortunate, considering how well she was riding.
One rider who benefited from the problems of others was American Susan Haywood (Trek Volkswagen). She managed to avoid any difficulties to come in a solid fourth place, 7:08 back, for her best ever World Cup finish.
Also having a very great ride on home turf was Kiara Bisaro (Gears Racing). She rode strongly to finish in 8th place, 10:49 behind the leader. "I'm so happy to have a good day here at home. I would have liked to have retained some spots (in the last lap), but I'm still happy. This course is very technical. There were so many people who had problems." Kiara is acquiring the moniker "Smiling Girl" from the bike press because of her ever present ear-to-ear grin while she is racing.
During the awards ceremony there was a bit of a glitch. The German National anthem was of course supposed to be played. Unfortunately even though the CD said it was the right track, it was the wrong anthem. After two misfires Spitz the took the microphone and sang the anthem much to the delite of the crowd. Maybe this will be a new trend and riders will be required to know the words to their national anthem.
With the perfect weather conditions it proved to be a magnet for spectators. People were easily 5 deep at the finish and made some really great noise for the racers. Course conditions are a huge leap from the goo of Thursday. There are a few muddy patches remaining, but overall the course is dry. Things are looking outstanding for the men's race tomorrow. Anyone with a sunblock concession would do really well up here on Grouse Mountain.
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