Posted by Editoress on 07/7/02
Grouse Mountain Men's World Cup XC Story
by Mike Badyk
This report made possible by Snowcovers and Rocky Mountain.
Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) proved once again to be an absolute bull on the bike. With his second consecutive win on the World Cup circuit he solidifies his hold on the World Cup Points Series. Meirhaeghe took the race lead in the 3rd lap and never looked back.
The early portion of the race wasn't without incident and it did have an effect on the top riders. Christoph Sauser (Volvo-Cannondale) was boxed in during the start loop and had to come to a stop in the first tight corner. Seamus McGrath (Haro-Lee Dungarees) crashed as well. The issue was riders slicing and dicing to be well positioned going into the first piece of singletrack.
At the end of the first lap (a shorter lap without the technical sections) the lead of the race was a large pack consisting of Lado Fumic (Team T-Mobile), home town favourite Roland Green (Trek Volkswagen), Meirhaeghe, Christophe Dupouey (Giant Global), Roel Paulissen (Lanabau-RW), Bart Brentjens (Giant Global), Julien Absalon (Motorex-Bianchi), and Kashi Leuchs (Volvo-Cannondale). The first victims to drop out of this group were Absalon who broke his chain on the main climb 500m from the start/finish, and Fumic who clearly had expended too much energy early on.
Going out too early and too hard was unfortunately an issue for World Champion Green. Although he had the lead from Meirhaeghe at the end of the first full lap, Meirhaeghe had built a 19 second lead by the next lap. Fifteen seconds behind Green was the powerful tandem of teammates Dupouey and Brentjens, with Sauser just a few seconds further back. Then came Marco Bui (Lanabau-RW) and Leuchs, with Jose Antonio Hermida (Motorex-Bianchi) just behind. An interesing battle began for 9th place with Martino Fruet (Ita) in a small group with McGrath and Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher). Hesjedal showed evidence of a muddy fall on his left shoulder and thigh, but was still riding strongly.
By the end of lap 4, Green was truly suffering. He had dropped to the back of a pack of four riders (Dupouey, Brentjens and Sauser ahead), 25 seconds behind Meirhaeghe. He was still riding technical sections, such as Peak Plunge, better than anyone, but the climbs were taking their toll.
With Meirhaeghe seemingly unbeatable, the next move was to try and take over second place. It was Sauser, showing great form, who took the flyer, building a 25 second lead over Dupouey and Brentjens. Green was another 10 seconds back yet. Leuchs held 6th, with Freut breaking free of McGrath and Hesjedal.
Positions remained unchanged through the next lap. However, in the final lap the pace proved to be too much for Green and Dupouey. Taking advantage of this was Leuchs who still looked very fresh. In the final climb he managed to pass both Green and Dupouey to take 4th place at the finish. The finishing order was Meirhaeghe, Sauser at 57 seconds, Brentjens at 1:38, with Leuchs at 2:02. Managing to bring it home in 5th was Dupouey, with Green grimly hanging on for 6th. Fruet rode strongly for 7th, with Hesjedal just nipping McGrath at the line for 8th. Rounding out the top 10 was Geoff Kabush (Kona) who rode very strongly in the latter parts of the race.
Meirhaeghe was very happy. "I like Canada. Both the courses in Canada were very technical. It was a more technical downhill here than Mont Ste-Anne and I'm a technical rider. The aim of the game today was to extend my lead (in the World Cup). I didn't expect to win today. It is not so often that you can win a World Cup. To win two in a row is very difficult and special. I went away earlier than I planned. I was planning to go on the 4th or 5th lap. Then I saw that Roland and I had a gap. In the 3rd lap I saw that I was making a gap on Roland so I knew that I had to go then, because it is better to be in front and make them chase."
At the awards he just danced up on to the podium, obviously very pleased. He once again wore his Specialized crown. After his victory, Meirhaeghe would have to finish 5th or lower in the final race, and Brentjens would have to win, for him to lose the World Cup Series.
Sauser had a very bad start. "I was in the inside at the start and all the riders on the outside moved in at the corner and I had to stop and wait in line to get going again. I tried to chase really hard in the first couple of laps but I couldn't reach Filip. It is hard mentally to always chase, chase, chase. It is unfortunate. It would have been an interesting fight. It was sketchy in the downhills. You had to be full on concentration all the time. It was almost more comfortable to climb because then all you had to do was pedal! I caught up to Bart and Christoph and then just rode by them. I didn't attack. I'm more of a diesel rider than an attacker."
Green was visibly disappointed. "I just had no legs today. I did the best I could with what I had. 6th place is the best that I could manage today. I wanted to stay with Filip in the technical sections, but my legs started to fade by the 3rd lap. Christophe and Bart caught me and I went backwards. I wish I could explain it."
Brentjens was one of the few people who didn't like the course. "I thought the course was maybe a bit too dangerous in the downhills. When Christoph came up to us I just couldn't follow him in the downhills. I was going to crash if I did. You have to know your limits." He also spoke about his poor showing at Mont Ste Anne: There was just too much happening before Mont Sainte Anne. In the 10 days before we had our first baby, I won the national championships (of Holland) and I was leading the World Cup. Maybe it was just too much on my mind."
Dupouey was somewhat disappointed with his performance. Ã¢â‚¬Å¾I rode very well last week (2nd place) and I was hoping to be as good. I just didn't have the same sensation as last week. The climb after the descent is very hard. It just isn't possible to prepare for this short 5km lap. However, I am very happy for Bart (Dupouey's team mate).Ã¢â‚¬Â°
McGrath and Hesjedal were clearly stoked on their battle. Hesjedal said "It was war. Gladiators by day, princes by night!" McGrath was a little more prosaic. "I just wished I hadn't crashed in the start loop. That took a bit out of me. I was way back. Some guy fell on top of me and I lost 20 spots. Ryder and I were just working together trying to pick off guys."
Despite the cloudy conditions the event was well attended. There were spectators all over the course, with any technical section packed full. We estimate well over 10,000 people. It is still unfortunate that the Downhill and 4-Cross had to be cancelled, but talking to the Grouse Mountain staff, this was just an exceptional year for snow. Everyone is looking forward to the return of the gravity events for next year. It's a great facility and Grouse has some of the best race courses around.
We media types were also greatly impressed by the fantastic food in the VIP tent. It is not that often that we are treated to such a spread. Many thanks from us here at Canadian Cyclist.
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