Posted by Editoress on 05/27/06
Fort William World Cup
Reports made possible with the support of Vélirium Mountain Bike Festival
Round four of the cross-country Mountain Bike World Cup, in Fort William, Scotland, featured some of the best racing of the season, despite cold rain and high winds. Julien Absalon (Bianchi Agos) took his third consecutive victory in the men's race, but perennial women's favourite Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) ceded the top spot on the podium to her young team mate Nina Gohl, after suffering a flat on the first lap.
The Fort William circuit is a marvel of design, which sheds water and remains rideable even after days of rain. The rain actually made the course more rideable, according to many riders, cutting down on sticky muddy sections. The riders did a slightly shortened lap the first time round (to help spread them out), and then a further three laps for the women and four for the men.
Dahle went to the front at the start of the women's race, as usual, but when the leaders came through at the end of the lap, the blue jersey of the World Cup leader was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) held a 40 second lead over Gohl and Irina Kalentieva (Topeak-Ergon).
Dahle had flatted, and then found out after changing the tube that her air cartridge didn't work. So, she had to make a two kilometre run to the tech zone.
"I lost many spots, I think I heard 59th or 60th when I got going again. Plus, it was hard to have to pass so many people."
However, Dahle motored straight through the field and managed to work her way back onto the podium in fourth place by the end of the race, calling it "my strongest effort this year. I felt so good out there all day today."
While Dahle was working her way back up, Premont was riding a steady pace at the front of the race, still 40 seconds ahead of Gohl and Kalentieva by the third lap. However, she was struggling to maintain that distance.
"I felt prettty strong up there, but on the top of the course there was a lot of wind, so the two riders behind me had a better time, I think."
On the main climb of lap three Gohl left Kalentieva when the Russian rider dropped her chain at the start of the main climb. This possibly turned out to be a good thing for Gohl, as she quickly reeled in Premont so that the pair started the last lap together.
"Michel (Leblanc, National coach) told me that she (Gohl) was much faster than me on the downhill, maybe gaining 20 seconds there. I tried to make up time where I could, but she was just stronger today."
Gohl dropped Premont before the climb, and managed to extend her lead to over a minute by the finish. Kalentieva held on for third, with Dahle catching the fading chase group of Lene Byberg (Bikin' Cyprus), Sabine Spitz (Specialized) and Marga Fullana (Spiuk Illes Balears) to take fourth ahead of Byberg.
Gohl called her win "the biggest of my career, this is absolutely the best I have done. Irina and I were working very well together, but when she had her mechanical problem I could not wait. I could see that I was riding better than Marie-Helene, so I did an attack before the big climb and descent and was able to get a gap."
Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) rode a consistent race just behind the top-10, finishing 13th, followed by Kiara Bisaro (Team R.A.C.E.) in 15th and Wendy Simms (Kona Velo Bella) in 16th. Simms was taken down in a crash in the first 100 metres of the race, and spent the day chasing up through the field.
The men's race split up quickly on the first lap, with a group of ten distancing themselves from the rest of the field. Absalon, Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), Bart Brentjens (Giant), Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Florian Vogel (Swisspower), Moritz Milatz (Multivan Merida), Michael Weiss and Ralph NÃƒÂ¤f (Multivan Merida) were all in the lead group. Among significant riders who didn't make the front were Roel Paulissen (Giant), who dropped out on the first lap (stomach problems the night before) and Filip Meirhaeghe (Versluys) who also disappeared early.
NÃƒÂ¤f dropped out shortly after the first lap after a crash, and the front group split up further as riders couldn't handle the pace. By the third lap, Absalon felt it was time to break things up some more, and only Hermida and JHK could respond to his attack. JHK backed off on the fourth lap, aware that he couldn't maintain the pace of the front group, dropping back to a groupo containing Sauser, Brentjens, Vogels, Milatz, Cedric Ravanel (Lapierre), U23 series leader Nino Schurter (Swisspower) and Ludovic Dunau (Pro).
"I had a good start" commented Absalon, "and we had a strong group at the front after the first lap. By the third lap I wanted to try and break it up some more, and only Jose and the American (Horgan-Kobelski) could come. Then after we had dropped (Horgan-Kobelski) I tried to go again in the final lap on the first steep climb, because I had seen that I was stronger there"
In the last lap Absalon's surge gained him a few seconds on Hermida, which he was able to hold to the finish. Vogel won a three-way sprint over Brentjens and Horgan-Kobelski for third.
Horgan-Kobelski considers this result among the best of his career. "I took a big step forward today; I was in the mix with the big guys all day. This is definitely one of my best results. I came into the race pretty motivated, maybe too motivated. When I found myself at the front with Absalon and Hermida it took too much out of me so I dropped back a bit to recover and try and hold on for a podium."
Seamus McGrath (Canadian National-Felt Bicycles) rode a consistent race in the mid-teens to finish 18th, while Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) hovered in the high 40's all race finishing 46th.
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