Posted by Editoress on 06/5/04
Fort William World Cup
World Cup coverage sponsored by Vélirium 2004 and ORYX
For the third consecutive week Gunn-Rita Dahle (Merida) won the women's World Cup cross-country race, and for the third consecutive week we had a new winner in the men's race, with Christoph Sauser (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) soloing in ahead of his team mate and World Cup leader Roel Paulissen. North American riders had mixed results, with Canadians finishing 2-3-4 in the women's race, but the men only managing a 13th place with Ryder Hesjedal. Roland Green (Trek-VW) went out of the race early when he collided with a drunken spectator on the course in the first lap.
It was no surprise to see Dahle off the front by the end of the first lap in the four lap women's event, but the woman chasing her was new: Marie-Helene Premont (Oryx). Premont rode an impressive race - only her third of the season - and only conceded 1:46 to Dahle by the end, the closest result of this season.
"I was feeling very good from the start of the race. At the end of the first lap I was with Alison (Sydor, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects), and I could tell she was not as strong, so I increased my pace. I knew I was strong on the hills, so that is where I went."
Behind, a group consisting of Sydor, Annabella Stropparo, Irina Kalentieva (Merida), Kiara Bisaro (GearsRacing.com), Elsbeth Van-Rooy Vink and world champion Sabine Spitz (Fusion) were fighting for third. Spitz came off first, blown after chasing up from a poor starting position, the result of not starting the first World Cup in Madrid (illness) and not finishing the second in Houffalize (mechanical).
The others rode together until the final two kilometres, when Sydor made an attempt to get away. Bisaro managed to get by, but Kalentieva locked bars with Sydor and went down, blocking the others. Sydor managed to get on Bisaro's wheel, but could not get by her.
"I could see that some of the other riders in our group were having a hard time on the climb with two kilometres to go, so I tried to get a gap. I was time trialling at my limit, but Kiara got by and I couldn't do anything more. I think it is just incredible that we were able to get three Canadians on the podium, and this sends a strong statement about our preparation for Athens."
Bisaro seemed slightly stunned afterwards by her first podium appearance at a World Cup. "That finish was the hardest sprint I have ever done. I passed Alison and Irina in the last technical section, and I knew she was right behind me, so all I could do was go as hard as I could. I didn't know the others weren't there - I thought they were all chasing. I just think it is pretty cool that a development team like Gears Racing can get a rider on the podium at a World Cup. it shows that the program is working."
Alison Dunlap (Luna), second last week in Houffalize, Belgium, dropped off the pace early and finished back in 20th place. The top American finisher was Mary McConneloug, in 11th.
In the overall World Cup standings, after three rounds, Dahle leads the women with a perfect score of 750 points, followed by Irina Kalentieva with 401 and Alison Sydor at 380, tied with Annabella Stropparo. Marie-Helene Premont is fifth with 370 points, and Kiara Bisaro seventh at 320 points.
Last week in Houffalize, it worked perfectly for Sauser and Paulissen to team time trial away from the rest of the field, so why not do it again? By the end of the first technical descent the duo had a 15 second gap and never looked back.
Sauser was riding one slippery downhill better than his team mate, and waiting for him each lap (of five). With two laps to go, the wait was getting longer, so he kept going on his own, to take his fifth World Cup win.
"Before the race, we talked about it (if the two were off the front), and said that if it comes together like last week, this time it is my turn to win. In the downhill I had a gap, and waited each time for Roel, but with two to go the gap was too big. This was good because it was my first solo World Cup win. Sometimes I think I am a little lazy, and am just waiting for the final attack, but this time I was the strongest."
World champion Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) chased on his own after the second lap, but continued to lose time to the front pair, and became content to protect his third place. Behind him it was a race of attrition, with Miguel Martinez (Commencal-Oxbow) dropping out after a crash and Julien Absalon (Bianchi Agos) abruptly pulling off while in 15th, saying he had no power in his legs.
Brit Liam Killeen (Subaru-Gary Fisher), the World Cup U23 leader put in the best World Cup ride of his career to finish fourth in front of a cheering crowd, a few seconds in front of Jean-Christophe Peraud (Lapierre International) and Jose Hermida (Merida).
Hesjedal, still working his way back into mountain biking after spending much of the spring riding on the road for US Postal, started out strong with the front group, but had to stop on the first lap to pull his spare tube out of his rear spokes after it became detached. After that he managed to work his way back forward to 13th, but was obviously disappointed and quickly disappeared after the race.
Matt Toulouse (GearsRacing.com) had another solid ride, finishing 24th. "I had an 18th at Mont Ste Anne (2002), but I think this is probably a better result, since there is more depth to the field. Definitely having the improved start position (after his results in Houffalize and Madrid) makes a difference - I didn't have to play catch up all race. It was a fast race, with lots of drafting, so you had to find a group to ride with."
Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) had a frustrating race, eventually finishing 59th. "I got caught behind two crashes, and I had to bridge up each time. I was feeling really good. Then I got a front flat, and had to stop four times in the first two laps because the sealant wasn't working properly. I was 8 minutes down after two laps. It was pretty disappointing."
Green's accident happened in the first kilometre. He had to stop when an accident in front took down many riders, and then when he was chasing back to the main field with Moriz Milatz (Merida) a drunk spectator walked out in front of them, with both going down hard. Green was holding his right elbow, but fortunately an x-ray showed no damage other than deep cuts and bruising. He received a local anesthetic so that the wound could be cleaned out, but should have a full recovery fairly quickly.
Along with all the Canadians except Hesjedal, he will skip Schladming, Austria (it does not count in Canadian Olympic selections).
In the men's standings, Paulissen leads with 650 points, followed by Sauser at 580 and Meirhaeghe at 570. Horgan-Kobelski is the top North American in 21st with 144 points, one (point and position) ahead of Ryder Hesjedal, followed by Mathieu Toulouse in 27th with 118 points.
A huge crowd came out in wet conditions to watch the first 4-Cross World Cup of the season. To no one's surprise, Anne Caroline Chausson (Commencal-Oxbow) dominated the women's competition with Tara Llanes taking second, but the men's final was a complete surprise, with none of the favourites making it through. Guido Tschugg (Fusion) won ahead of Sam Hill.
Chausson made it look easy as she worked her way through the heats, to face Llanes, Sabrina Jonnier and Katrina Miller in the final. First out of the gate, Chausson was only challenged once by Llanes at the halfway mark when she swung wide in a corner, but by the next corner she was back in control.
Tschugg, Hill, Romain Saladini (Commencal-Oxbow) and Robin Baloochi made up the final four. Wade Bootes (Trek-VW) was taken out by Nathan Rennie in the third round, world champion Michal Prokop crashed in the same round and Steve Peat (Orange) lost a tight race in the semi-final after knocking Cedric Gracia (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) out.
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