April 9/01 12:09 pm - Napa Story
Posted by Editor on 04/9/01
Canadians got off to a strong start for the first race of the 2001 Mountain Bike World Cup in Napa, California, with Alison Sydor and Chrissy Redden finishing third and fourth in the women's race, and 20 year old Ryder Hesjedal cracking the top-10 in the men's race. Switzerland's Barbara Blatter and Spain's Jose Antonio Hermida took top honours and the leader's jerseys for the overall series.
For the second year, the race took place in the vineyards of the Domaine Chandon winery, just north of Napa. Unlike the perfect conditions of last year, riders faced cool weather and, in the case of the men, rain and even hail.
After two start loops the women covered 5 laps of the 6.4 kilometre course, and the men 6. Since the course made an immediate transition from wide, paved opening circuit to narrow, bumpy dirt climb, it was crucial to get a good position, thus ensuring a very fast start to the races.
The selection in the women's race was made early, with top ranked Blatter, Sydor, Redden, American Alison Dunlap and British rider Caroline Alexander riding away from the field. For the first three laps this group stayed together, and then Sydor, Dunlap and Blatter rode away from the other two on the main climb. Blatter proved to be the stongest climber; Sydor the strongest descender.
On lap 4 Blatter dropped her two companions, and soloed in for the win, confirming her world number one ranked status is no fluke. Behind, it was a battle between the two Alisons. "Alison (Dunlap) got a gap on the climb in the last lap, and I was just hoping that maybe I could catch her on the descent." explained Sydor. "But I got my chain jammed about a kilometre and a half from the finish, and just lost too much time untangling it."
Sydor was philisophical about her misfortune. "I've been on the circuit long enough and have the experience to know that although I just couldn't climb that extra little bit faster right now, it will come. Top three in a World Cup isn't so bad - I was thinking that top-5 was a realistic goal."
Redden was luckier in her two-up duel, powering away from Alexander in the last climb and hanging on for fourth place. "I'm so happy with my results", the Campbellville, Ontario rider exclaimed. "I came into the weekend unsure of my form after racing below expectations earlier in the season. I'm pleased that it is coming together."
Redden is also fighting off a severe case of poison oak, showing off a frighting rash that, at one point covered a third of her body. "We can't take any drugs, so I have been using homeopathic remedies for the past two weeks. It is getting better, but it still affects your performance."
The men's race began, if possible, even faster than the women's, with a long stream of riders heading up into the hills surrounding Domaine Chandon. The early leader was Canada's Ryder Hesjedal, who had shown his form the day before with a second place result in the World Cup time trial.
Hesjedal was joined by Marco Bui of Italy, former world champion Christophe Dupouey of France, Marc Hanisch (Germany) and Jose Antonio Hermida of Spain. Victoria's Roland Green was just back of this group, hovering around 10th place. Hesjedal set the pace for the first two laps, until the rain and hail set in.
"I had the wrong tire selection", admitted Hesjedal afterwards. "It got so slick out there with the rain that I came off the course and crashed into a bush, and that's when I lost contact with the front riders." He would chase for the rest of the race, holding his ground, but not able to make up any places. Despite this, he professed himself very pleased. "This is the strongest group of pros in the world. For me to finish 10th is amazing. It is my best result as a pro."
Roland Green was also a victim of the trail conditions, dropping from the top five early in the race to as low as 17th when the rain hit. "I had my tire pressure set way too high. I had to stop and let some air out. Once I did that I was fine, and I started to move up. I just ran out of time - I needed the race to be a lap longer." Green would recover enough to take 11th place at the end.
Hermida had none of these problems, moving up through the pack steadily to reach the front on lap 3. "I was just trying to keep a high rate, and I got a few meters (on the chasers). I was alone for about a lap and a half, and then I realized I was working too hard, so I let them (Hanisch and Bui) catch me, so that I could sit in and recover."
Hermida then launched a final decisive attack on the final climb in the circuit to cruise in for his first ever World Cup victory. Behind, Hanisch held off time trial winner Bui to take second.
- Hanisch, a newcomer to the podium, revealed that he has put in 10,000 kilometres of training this past winter!
- All five women on the podium rode full suspension - a first.
- Lesley Tomlinson was doing her first race on a full suspension bike
- Alison Sydor has become a firm fan of full suspension: "A year can make a big difference in the level of refinement (of FS designs). They are lighter, and I was even climbing faster. I had my choice of hardtail or suspension, and I tried out both, but FS was better for this course, definitely."