Posted by Editoress on 06/23/07
Mont-Ste-Anne World Cup
Coverage sponsored by Maxxis, and Vélirium
by Mike Badyk and Rob Jones
Julien Absalon (Orbea) continued his stellar season with his third consecutive World Cup XC win of the season. This one was hard fought, with Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) giving him a true battle throughout the race. Much to the pleasure of the Canadian fans gathered here at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) rode hard and smart to claim third place.
For the first non-European World Cup of the season, only 101 competitors were on the line. Compared to the opener in Houffalize, Belgium where over 200 started, this was a much more manageable field. The field managed to stay together through the one and a half start loops, but the fireworks started as soon as the riders reached the first climb. Immediately the pack was shredded with a select group including Absalon, Hermida and Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) leading the charge. By the end of the first of seven laps the leaders were well established. Hermida and Nino Schurter (Swisspower) had built a 15 second lead over Paulissen and Absalon. A further 5 seconds back from them was a chase group of Christoph Sauser (Specialized), Ralph Naef (Multivan Merida), and Cedric Ravanel (Lapierre). Kabush was riding hard and had already moved up to 11th. Seamus McGrath (Rocky Mountain Haywood) had also moved up well through the pack and was sitting in 13th.
In the second lap Hermida attacked on the climb and built a small lead by the end of the lap. Schurter and Absalon were 10 seconds back, and Kabush continued to move up to 7th place.
Hermida continued to look strong through the end of three laps, extending his lead to 15 seconds over Absalon, who had dropped Schurter. Forty five seconds back from the leader were Fredrik Kessiakoff (Cannondale-Vredestein) and Paulissen in fourth and fifth place respectively. Kabush remained in seventh. Hermida was holding nothing back on the descents and riding very aggressively.
Through the end of four laps, Hermida maintained his lead over Absalon. Paulissen and Schurter were 55 seconds down, with Kessiakoff 1:05 back, followed by the charging Kabush and Sauser at 1:08. However, Hermida was beginning to show some signs of fatigue and by the end of the fifth lap, Absalon was only 8 seconds down.
In the sixth lap Absalon made his move at the bottom of the Zig-Zag climb. He caught Hermida and immediately attacked. Hermida tried to counter but had nothing left. By the top of the climb Absalon was already 10 seconds up and never looked back. At the same time Kabush was continuing to reel in riders and had moved up to third place thanks to the fastest laps of the field in both the fourth and fifth laps. Meanwhile, Paulissen had a flat on the rocky descent, and had to run a long way to get to the tech support zone. Paulissen was a little frustrated. "I felt good. I felt strong and it happened at the worst possible moment. It was on the rocky descent so I had to run a long way. I think today I had the legs to be on the podium."
By the end of the sixth lap Absalon was sitting comfortably 15 seconds up on Hermida, with Kabush alone in third, one minute down. Not much changed in the final lap, as Absalon cruised home for the win, 23 seconds up on Hermida. Kabush faded in the final lap but had built enough of a gap to finish 30 seconds up on Sauser for third. Schurter took fifth, a further 48 seconds behind Sauser.
Absalon was very satisfied with how he performed. "It was a hard race. I pushed a lot. The only reason I attacked was that I saw that Jose was showing some signs of fatigue. When I went by I took a look at him and decided to attack. Fortunately, he wasn't able to catch me. I wasn't sure that the gap would last because I was having a difficult time staying with him earlier in the race. I'm very happy to win here. This has always been one of my favourite courses.
Hermida was pleased, despite finishing second. "Absalon is the guy right now. You maybe only find a rider like him every 10 years. I felt pretty good. I'm happy and I gave my best. To finish so well on one of the most beautiful courses in the World is great. Even though I got second I'm proud to lose against a guy like Julian. I'm pretty happy. This is my best finish here. I hope one day to win here on one of my favourite courses."
Kabush looked very tired at the end thanks to a sore back. "I felt fabulous today but unfortunately they got a gap on the first lap. I just rode my own pace and worked my way up to that little chase group and then on the fifth lap opened a gap on the others. I thought I had a chance to close in on second with two to go but they put the gas down. I'm just happy to be able to hold on for third. I'm really happy with my ride here and I'm really looking forward to St. Felicien next week."
Kabush also spoke about his decision to skip the third round of the World Cup in Champery, Switzerland. "Last year I didn't stay healthy with the travelling. So this year I skipped the third race in Europe and stayed in North America. Training and racing over here worked much better for me. Every year I think I get a better handle on what works best."
McGrath finished in 14th (second Canadian) which put him in the qualification pool for the Beijing Olympics. "I feel pretty good about my race. I faded a bit near the end, but overall I'm happy. At the start I managed to get around some people and up near the front and then I just tried to maintain my pace."
Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain Haywood) finished in twentieth position, the third U23. "I felt good but maybe a rode a bit too conservative for the first couple of laps. The races start so fast that I wanted to make sure that I didn't overcook it. But the last two laps I opened it up a bit and I managed to have a solid race." Plaxton is now fourth in the U23 category of the World Cup.
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