Posted by Editor on 06/8/08
Mountain Bike World Cup XC #5 Men's Report - Fort William, Scotland
It may have been the Scottish Highlands rather than the Alps, but the Swiss men were right at home in Fort William for the fifth round of the mountain bike cross-country World Cup, sweeping the top three spots of the podium, led by Florian Vogel (Swisspower). Vogel's team mate and the U23 series leader nino Schurter came in right behind, with Christoph Sauser (Specialized) nine seconds back. Sauser took over the World Cup lead with his third place, in the absence of former leader Julien Absalon (Orbea). The top North American was Todd Wells (GT) in 13th place, followed by Seamus McGrath (Fuji) in 21st and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) in 24th.
The six lap men's race started out fast, with clouds of dust billowing up behind the field. Halfway up the main climb on the first lap the Swiss had already moved up to the front, along with Burry Stander (GT), Jurg Graf (Swisspower), Marco Fontana (Hard Rock FRW), Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Wells, McGrath and Kabush all near the front.
Then disaster struck for Kabush, who was looking for a follow up ride to his third place last weekend in Andorra.
"I was in fourth place when I flatted, by the time I got to the tech zone I was basically last. It was frustrating, because I was definitely feeling good and looking to be on the podium again."
Kabush had one of the unsung top rides of the race, moving up through the field to overtake close to 60 riders.
Kabush wasn't the only rider to suffer mechanical problems, with Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) flatting while in 15th and losing a lap, Hermida flatting twice and Adam Craig (Giant) crashing hard on his elbow and twisting his bars.
At the front, a group of 12 had formed, and would be gradually whittled down until by the third lap there were six still in contention: Sauser, Vogel, Schurter, Graf, Stander and Jakob Fuglsang (Cannondale Vredestein). A chase group of seven was behind, but losing ground. Wells and McGrath were both in this group, and so was cyclo-cross superstar Sven Nys (Belgium), who is training for Beijing, and had a noteworthy sixth place finish.
Graf was the first to drop off the lead group, on the climb in lap four. On the descent, the three Swiss rode away from Fuglsang and Stander, who managed to hold off the chasers for the final two podium spots. The group behind was disintegrating, with McGrath the first to come off, and shortly afterwards Wells.
For McGrath, it was a lack of racing mileage in his legs, after crashing out on the first lap of the Andorra World Cup the previous weekend. "I've got the top end speed to stay with those guys, no problem, but it's just that last 20 to 30 minutes that I need to build back up. Overall, I pretty pleased with my performance, because the speed wasn't a problem, and the endurance is coming back."
For Wells, the legs weren't the same as Andorra, where he rode to a career high sixth. "I just didn't have it today; the legs were flat. I was with the group as long as I could, but then it just wasn't there anymore. It happens."
At the front, the Swiss trio began the final lap together, with Sauser outnumbered by the Swisspower team mates. He tried everything to drop the pair, but to no avail, and in the end they outsprinted him to the final single track section to take first and second.
"This is about the best result I could have hoped for; it was very tactical and hard to win against two team mates," commented Sauser. "For the last lap and a half I led, and I went as hard as I could on the climb, but they were just able to hang on."
"Then, on the gravel road before the single track we started to slow down a lot, but I needed to keep the speed up - they are both more explosive then me, and I wanted to get to the single track before them. But, they were both able to jump in front of me there, and there was no hope after that."
Vogel, who won his first World Cup with the victory, agreed with most of Sauser's analysis, stating: "Me and Nino, we were really on the limit for the last two laps, especially on the climb because Christoph was so strong. I had a plan, but we were so much at the limit that I nearly bonked on the last lap."
"But I know the race here - I've gotten third twice - and I know that for the finish you have to be first into the last single track. Christoph starting sprinting for it really early, and I could just sit on him and then go by to get to the front. After that, it was over."
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