September 11/03 7:49 am - Kaprun World Cup Preview
Posted by Editor on 09/11/03
The international mountain bike season will conclude this weekend with the World Cup Final in Kaprun, Austria, the site of the last year's world championships. Almost all of the teams and riders have arrived from the Worlds in Lugano, Switzerland to pre-ride the courses. Unfortunately, it is raining, and has done most of the week, with no relief in sight. This does not bode well for the weekend - last year, rain at the Worlds here on the final day turned the cross-country course into a quagmire, and the word from riders that it is worse this year for all the circuits.
Two months ago, the region suffered a serious storm which took out many of the trees higher in the mountains, making the top half of last year's Worlds course unusable. The organizers are running the downhill on the lower half of the course only, making it less than 1.5 kilometres long, with the top men expected to do sub-two minute runs. The only 'technical' sections will be some off-camber grassy turns.
This is particularly disappointing because of the tight races in both the men's and women's categories for the overall World Cup titles. Cedric Gracia (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) holds a slim 4 point lead over Nathan Rennie, with Mickael Pascal (Maxxis-MCS) only 9 points back. In theory, new world champion Greg Minnaar (115 points behind), Chris Kovarick (122 points behind) and even 6th place Ivan Ouleg Moreno (247 points behind) could all still win. The win brings 200 points, plus there are up to 50 points available for the qualifying run. A win in qualifying would put either Rennie or Pascal in the lead. Our pick, if the weather stays bad, is Worlds silver medalist Mickael Pascal to take both the overall title and the event win.
The women's series is almost as close, with Tracy Moseley (Kona Clarks Factory Team) 14 points ahead of Fionn Griffiths and 41 points in front of Sabrina Jonnier. Marla Streb (Luna Women's MTB Team) also has an outside chance, although she is 168 points behind and, mathematically, even Marielle Saner (234 points behind) and Nolvenn Le Caer (240 points back) could pull off an upset. Realistically, it will be between Moseley, Griffiths and Jonnier, but we think Moseley will manage to hold onto her lead and take the title. Anne-Caroline Chausson (Commencal), fresh from taking her latest world titles, despite missing much of the season due to a hand injury, is the odds-on favourite for the win here, and her presence could help Moseley, by denying Griffiths and Jonnier the top points.
This one is already decided: a win brings 50 points, and the Series leaders - Eric Carter (Mongoose-Hyundai) and Katrina Miller - both have more than 50 point leads. In fact, neither would have to actually even start the final, since the rules do not require them to do so.
The course for this event is completely new as well, and there appear to be major problems. "It looks like they just scrapped the grass off the side of the mountain, and didn't even pack it down." says Carter. "Cedric (Gracia) walked it yesterday, and was up to his ankles in mud. If it stays like this it will be a running race."
Assuming world champion Chausson races the 4-Cross, she is the pick for the women's race, with world champion Michal Prokop and Carter reprising their battle at Lugano. we give Carter the edge here, since Prokop's lightening fast starts won't help him too much in the mud.
UCI Technical Delegate Kelli Turcotte admitted that the course was not ideal. "The soil on the 4-Cross is not good for this weather, and it doesn't drain well. Unfortunately, with the time remaining and the resources available it is going to be difficult to fix it."
The cross-country course is mostly unchanged from last year's world championships - 5.5 kilometres of grinding climb or push, with a slippery slide down through the mud back to the start-finish. Roland Green (Trek-VW), who won the men's title on this course last year will not be starting (see "Green Skips Kaprun" - September 10/03 1:00 pm European Time), but the new world champion, Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) will be, and he finished only 19 seconds behind Green last year. Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher), who led the men's race last week until running out of gas in the final two laps, is also strong in these conditions, and certainly will be motivated to show that his silver medal as a first year senior rider was no fluke.
While Meirhaeghe is our pick for the race win, he is out of the overall competition, which is limited to four riders: World Cup leader Julien Absalon (Motorex Bianchi) with 760 points, second place Christoph Sauser (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) 695 points, Jose Hermida (Motorex Bianchi) 560 points and Roel Paulissen (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) 510 points. For Paulissen to win the overall, he will have to win here, and all three of the other contenders would have to get no points, so it is realistically between Absalon, Sauser and Hermida.
Sauser looked the best of the three last week until his late race puncture put him out of medal contention, but he has to make up 65 points, meaning if he wins, Absalon must finish no better than third, and if he finishes second, then Absalon must be no better than fifth. Barring a mechanical problem, it looks like Absalon will take the overall title for the men.
The women's series was wrapped up in Grouse, when Gunn-Rita Dahle (Merida) took her fourth straight win. Dahle is also our pick for the victory here in Kaprun, especially since she has to be eager to redeem herself after two punctures at the Worlds destroyed her chances of defending her rainbow jersey. Alison Sydor (Trek-VW), coming off an extremely strong silver medal ride in Lugano, could be the one rider to mount a serious threat to Dahle on this technical, slippery circuit.
World Cup Standings after Grouse Mountain
1. Julien Absalon (Fra) Motorex Bianchi 760 points
2. Christoph Sauser (Sui) Siemens Mobile Cannondale 695
3. Jose Hermida (Esp) Motorex Bianchi 560
4. Roel Paulissen (Bel) Siemens Mobile Cannondale 510
5. Lado Fumic (Ger) T Mobile 480
6. Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) Specialized 443
7. Roland Green (Can) Trek-VW 379
8. Marek Galinski (Pol) Club Deportivo Orbea 352
9. Bart Brentjens (Ned) T Mobile 285
10. Liam Killeen (GBR) Subaru-Gary Fisher 241
1. Gunn-Rita Dahle (Nor) Merida 1000 points
2. Sabine Spitz (Ger) Merida 675
3. Irina Kalentieva (Rus) Merida 565
4. Barbara Blatter (Sui) Specialized 510
5. Marie-Helene Premont (Can) Oryx 414
6. Alison Sydor (Can) Trek-VW 395
7. Anna Szafraniec (Pol) Lotto-PZU S.A. 371
8. Maja Wlosczowska (Pol) Lotto-PZU S.A. 352
9. Ivonne Kraft (Ger) 338
10. Susan Haywood (USA) Trek-VW 324
1. Katrina Miller (Aus) 190 points
2. Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) 95
3. Moi Suemasa (Jpn) Trek-VW 74
4. Jamie Lilly (USA) 55
5. Tracy Moseley (GBR) Kona Clarks Factory Team 50
6. Anneke Beerten (Ned) 46
7. Tai-Lee Muxlow (Aus) 40
8. Jill Kinter (USA) 40
9. Tara Llanes (USA) 40
10. Celine Gros (Fra) Team Morzine 30
1. Eric Carter (USA) Mongoose-Hyundai 180 points
2. Michal Prokop (Cze) 116
3. Mike King (USA) 79
4. Wade Bootes (Aus) Trek-VW 77
5. Cedric Gracia (Fra) Siemens Mobile Cannondale 75
6. Greg Minnaar (RSA) 55
7. Brian Schmith (USA) Mongoose-Hyundai 47
8. Scott Beaumont (GBR) 45
9. Steve Peat (GBR) Team Orange 41
10. Sascha Meyenborg (Ger) 39
1. Tracy Moseley (GBR) Kona Clarks Factory Team 675 points
2. Fionn Griffiths (GBR) 661
3. Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) 634
4. Marla Streb (USA) Luna Women's Mtb Team 507
5. Marielle Saner (Sui) 441
6. Nolvenn Le Caer (Fra) 435
7. Kathy Pruitt (USA) Luna Women's Mtb Team 417
8. Celine Gros (Fra) Team Morzine Avoriaz 405
9. Bernardita Pizarro (Chi) 326
10. Moi Suemasa (Jpn) Trek-VW 319
1. Cedric Gracia (Fra) Siemens Mobile Cannondale 555 points
2. Nathan Rennie (Aus) 551
3. Mickael Pascal (Fra) Maxxis-MSC 546
4. Greg Minnaar (RSA) 440
5. Christopher Kovarik (Aus) 433
6. Ivan Oulego Moreno (Esp) 308
7. Steve Peat (GBR) Team Orange 300
8. Samuel Hill (Aus) 293
9. David Vazquez Lopez (Esp) MSC Bikes 292
10. Fabien Barel (Fra) Kona Clarks Factory Team 281