September 2/05 1:05 am - MTB World Championships: Espoir Men's XC Report
Posted by Editoress on 09/2/05
MTB World Championships Livigno IT
Today Yury Trofimov became the first Russian to win a world title in mountain biking, when he took the Espoir men's cross-country rainbow jersey. Trofimov took the win after Nino Schurter (Switzerland), who had led the race almost from the start, double flatted in the final kilometres.
The Espoir men faced three and a half laps of the 12.1 kilometre circuit for a total of 43 kilometres, and Trofimov's winning time of 2:17:30 put him significantly over the UCI time limit for Espoirs of one hour and 45 minutes to two hours. One rider finished after over threee hours - more of a marathon time than a cross country.
Schurter, the Junior world champion last year, had the fastest splits for the opening short lap and the first full one, and was only six seconds slower than Trofimov on the second full lap (when Trofimov had the fastest lap of the race). As the riders began their final lap, Schurter was a comfortable 1:03 ahead of Trofimov and his Swiss team mate Lukas Fluckiger, and looked set to cruise in for the rainbow jersey. However, misfortune struck in the final four kilometres, when he suffered a slowly deflating front tire.
"I had serious mechanical problems. My front wheel was losing pressure, so I was trying to keep the weight on the back wheel, but then it began to go flat also, so I had to stop and replace both wheels in the technical assistance zone."
A brief rain shower didn't help matters, making the trail slick, and Schurter was having difficulty controlling his bike in the corners. Behind, Trofimov could see Schurter was moving slowly, and put a surge on, bringing up Fluckiger with him. The pair passed Schurter, who could not stay with them.
Trofimov admitted that prior to catching sight of Schurter he did not think much of his chances of winning.
"At the beginning of the race there were five riders at the front, and then it separated and I was third. I felt good at that point, and thought that maybe I could be second, but not first, that was not possible. But then I saw that something was happening to the rider in front, and I realized that I could catch him.
Our team had problems with the radios, so I had no information during the race. I had thought, after riding the Team Relay, that if it rained it could be good for me. I am not acclimatized to the altitude, like riders from Switzerland, Austria or France, so I thought that the rain could maybe compensate."
When the duo caught Schurter, Trofimov did not hesitate. He and Fluckiger drove on through the rain along the final flat two and half kilometre flat section into a headwind. Fluckiger took the lead initially, but then sat up and began massaging his right thigh, letting Trofimov take the lead. This proved to be a fatal mistake, since there was no where to pass before the final corner and double bump section in the last 100 metres.
"I was suffering from cramps" admitted Fluckiger, "so I had to try and control them and save energy. They mostly went away, but not completely, so I had difficulty when I tried to sprint."
Trofimov has been competing on the road and on mountain bike for the past few years, and is a former Russian national road champion. His most recent road results include third in the Tour of Serbia and fourth in the Tour Saint Ciers on the road, and he represented Russia at the Athens Olympics for mountain bike, finishing 26th. When the question was put to him - are you a mountain biker or a road racer, he smiled and said:
"Last year I was mainly road (before the Olympics), but now I am only a mountain biker, and the road will be for a hobby. The Gold has changed my mind!"
- Canadian Max Plaxton also double flatted on the second lap, while in the group riding for fifth place (and less than a minute out of third). An interesting point is that Plaxton is using Stan's (a tire sealant) with regular tires and no tubes. The technique is used by a number of top riders (including Alison Sydor), and provides for very light wheels; considerably lighter than a normal tubeless system, or regular tire and tube. However, it appears to be more prone to flatting on the rocky trails in Livigno. Canadian Neal Kindree was running the same setup in the Junior men's race yesterday and his tire blew off the the rim in a small crash, slowing him at a point when he was only 25 seconds out of second place. It is unknown whether Cedric Ravanel was also running this setup when he flatted while in the lead of the Team Relay. Canadian team manager Sean O'Donnell commented "the riders may have to re-evaluate that setup for the elite races on Sunday."
- UCI Mountain Bike president Daniel Baal admitted that the Livigno course is too long, and said that it will not happen again. "The cross-country course is too long, but for spectators it is not too bad. For next year the decision has been made that the length will be 5.6 kilometres, and for future championships we will be careful that the course is not longer than 6.5 kilometres. In the rules we also have it that the minimum distance is 5 kilometres."
The UCI also said that they are trying to cut down on the requirement for qualifying races in the men's field at World Cups by strictly instituting an 80% cutoff rule, that will see riders pulled from the course as early as after the first lap if they are more than 80% slower than the lap time estimated by the commissaires. They will be ranked in the results according to when they are pulled. However, this means there could be huge starting fields, possibly as many as 300 riders.
In other world championship changes, quotas will be retained for men's categories in cross-country and downhill, based on results at the preceding world championships. The Marathon Worlds will remain open to both national squads and individual entrants.
- The top Canadian finisher was Andrew Watson, in 26th place. Watson set a strategy and stuck to it. "It went pretty much according to plan. I had gear problems on the first lap - it wouldn't stay in the big chainring - so I spent the first lap adjusting everything. But I went out conservative, so that I made sure that I had something left at the end, and I started passing guys in the last lap. I was hoping for top-20, I didn't quite make it, but I'm happy to have finished in the top third. This qualifies me for carding for next year, which will make a huge difference. This is my best international result, my best race definitely. The course is the longest and the toughest I have ever raced, it's a real fitness course - you can't hide on it."
Marty Lazarski, who had been riding in the twenties, suffered mechanical problems, dropping him to 41st, one spot behind Freddie Bussieres. "Everything pretty much went wrong. The second time through the rock bed (on the second lap) my front derailleur twisted and I couldn't do a full pedal stroke, so I had to half pedal two kilometres to the tech zone. I got an allen key, but the derailleur was broken, so I spent the rest of the race shifting with my hand and my leg. The chain kept falling off in bumpy sections, so it was slow going. Then, shortly after I left the tech zone, I got a front flat and had to nurse the bike to the next tech zone! I felt that I could have been top-25, my legs felt good until the end. You can't always have a perfect day, unfortunately, my bad day happened at the most important race of the year."