September 10/04 10:02 am - MTB World Championships: U23 and Junior Men's XC Stories
Posted by Editoress on 09/10/04
Mountain Bike World Championships Les Gets, France
U23 Men XC
Manuel Fumic delivered the first ever world title for a German man today in the Under 23 Men's cross-country, as he eked out a slim four second victory over his perennial rival Liam Killeen of Great Britain. Florian Vogel added to the growing Swiss medal count by taking the bronze. Canada did not have as good a day as hoped for, with top prospect Max Plaxton getting caught up in traffic multiple times on the first lap and eventually finishing 24th. Kris Sneddon was squeezed into the barricades and went down in the first 100 metres to fall back to last place, and then chased all race, managing to moved up to 31st by race end.
The Espoir race started fast; too fast for Fumic, who hung back in the early laps, behind the charging trio of Killeen, Vogel and Inaki Lejarreta Errasti (Spain).
"The start was very fast, too fast for me" explained Fumic. "Killeen, Vogel and the Spanish rider were setting a very fast pace, and I decided to go my own speed for the first two laps. Then I went a little faster and was able to catch them. I knew Killeen was the fastest one, so I knew that I had to try and stay with him. I had my eye on him the whole time."
Killeen, for his part, knew that Fumic was the one to watch. "Off the line I made a bit of a mistake and dropped to fifth, but I was able to get up to Florian (Vogel) and Lajarreta. They were driving it really fast; maybe too fast. But, I knew that Manny was coming back, and that he was the guy to watch"
Fumic caught the front runners on the third lap (of six plus a start loop), at the same time that Lajarreta went backwards. The German T-Mobile rider caught the Spaniard, rode with him for a short period and then jumped across to Killeen and Vogel. The three stayed together for another lap (the fourth), before Vogel was dropped for good on the fifth lap, as Fumic and Killeen upped the pace.
The British and German riders, rivals in the Under 23 World Cup competition (which Killeen is leading), rode together through the fifth lap, with Killeen taking lead on the climbs. On the final lap there was a switch, with Fumic coming to the front and putting pressure on. Killeen responded on the first climb of the lap, but on the longer second climb Fumic was able to open up a small gap, which he held to the finish.
"At two laps to go, when we were alone, then we started to attack." said Fumic. "First me attack, then he attack, then me - all the time. I could see that I was getting a small gap on the biggest climb, so on the last lap I attacked him again and got maybe 15 metres, which I was able to hold to the finish line."
Killeen confirmed the analysis, "I led for the most part on the climb, then Manny managed to get in front going into the woods, and got a bit of a gap over the top. I felt that maybe I went a bit into the red (earlier in the race). Maybe the Worlds wasn't the best place to change tactics and ride like that."
- Plaxton commented afterwards on his first U23 Worlds experience: "It was frustrating, I got taken out three times on the first lap. I spent the whole race trying to move up, but into every bit of singletrack it would turn into a bottleneck. It was really unmotivating."
- Both Fumic and Killeen admitted that the U23 race is a bit of an unusual occurrence, since they race all season with the elite (ie, 23+) riders, and has an effect on how they race.
Fumic: "It is a totally different race from something like the World Cups and the Olympics, where the elite riders are present. They are stronger and at the front, and we are more mixed in with them. Here, we are always looking at each other - there are more tactics."
Killeen: "We don't get to race as a category very often - this is my first U23 race this year. So, we watch each other more, take more turns at the front. There was definitely more strategy here then we normally face at a World Cup."
- Manuel Fumic had his own question for Liam Killeen at the press conference: "There were so many people from Great Britain! Every corner we went around there were people shouting 'Liam, Liam' . How did you get so many here?"
Killeen: "I've got a pretty big family."
- The UCI carried out 22 blood tests before today's race, on riders from Spain, France and the Czech Republic. One rider was declared unfit to race - Alejandro Diaz de la Pena Lopez of Spain. The UCI also collected a whopping 2700 Euros in fines from 18 countries for late entries and substitution of riders less than 48 hours before the start of the competition.
- Filip Meirhaeghe, the 2003 cross-country world champion, who tested positive for EPO earlier in the year (and promptly retired), has been spotted in Les Gets.
Junior Men XC
Switzerland confirmed that their development program is in great shape, with Nino Schurter taking the Junior Men's cross-country title less than 24 hours after countrywoman Nathalie Schneitter won the Junior Women's gold medal. Host country France took both the silver and bronze medal podium spots with strong rides from Stephane Tempier and Maxime Marotte.
Schurter led the five lap race from start to finish, with the fastest lap splits on all but the final lap, when he slowed to savour his victory. Behind, Russia's Denis Vorontsov moved into second, and looked to be heading for the silver medal through the first half of the race. However, the French duo were moving up steadily, and overtook Vorontsov on the fourth lap, with Tempier dropping his team mate in the final lap for the silver medal. Vorontsov faded badly in the last lap, and was overtaken by Germany's Andi Weinhold for fourth.
While Schurter did not disappoint his pre-race favourite status, he came into the race worried,
"Last week I was very worried because I had pain in my throat and ears, and I had to take antibiotics. I was concerned that they might affect my condition, but during my lap in the Team relay it was okay, which was a big relief.
For me, this is like a dream come true. I had a perfect race, with no crashes or incidents. I was able to ride at my own speed, never over the red line, at a comfortable pace for me."
Canada's national junior champion, Raphael Gagne, had a strong race, finishing seventh after moving up as high as fifth on the third lap. Gagne is a first year junior, so this is his first Worlds, and he comes away with a top-10 finish (his goal) and a rainbow jersey as a member of the Team Relay team.
"It was a really good race for me, I'm really happy. I just kept my own pace, because the first laps were really fast. I was with the French riders (Tempier and Marotte) on the climb for a while, but they lost me there, they were too fast."