July 8/01 8:46 am - Men's XC Story
Posted by Editor on 07/8/01
Men's Race by Mike Badyk
Roland Green (Trek Volkswagen) was in position to put himself into the Canadian cycling record books with the first ever men's World Cup win in North America. Mere minutes from a commanding win, Green flatted at the bottom of the course on the last lap. It only took him 1:35 to fix his flat, but it was enough Christophe Sauser (Volvo Cannondale) to pass him and take the victory by 11 seconds.
Green had taken the lead from the opening gun. By the top of the climb at the end of the first lap he had opened a 20 second lead over Sauser and a small pack. The gap continued to widen. For the last few laps the gap was 1:25. That time difference over Sauser proved to be critical. With a slightly bigger gap Green could have conceivably fixed the flat and had a margin for victory. When word from Canadian Cyclist crew low on the course was radioed to the finish there was an audible gasp from the crowd. Thousands of spectators had moved to the Finish expecting a grand victory for Green and Canada. Unfortunately it was not to be. Sauser came through with the win in 1:57:08 with Green 11 seconds back.
Still Green was happy with his placing. With it he has maintained the World Cup
leaders jersey. "When I got my gap at the beginning I let the bike do the work on the descent. When I looked back I had a gap so I worked it. I felt really good today. Having the course at home was such a big advantage. The biggest difference for me this season is that I have been so consistent. Of course I'm disappointed. Anything less than a gold is a disappoint when you're at home." He spoke about his flat. "It wasn't a slow leak. It went flat instantly. I changed it really quick but it wasn't fast enough. Christophe came by me and I ran out of hill. If I had more hill I think that I could have caught him."
Sauser was very pleased. "I didn't know about his flat. I didn't get a message from my team. Somebody yelled that there was a rider on the course fixing a flat. I knew it must be Roland. I pushed as hard as I could. He made it very hard on me on the uphill. I didn't know until the last corner that I could hold him off." This was Sauser's second ever World Cup win.
In third was Cadel Evans (Volvo Cannondale), who rode a smart race. Despite troubles early on, he finished 3rd in a time of 1:57:21. "I had a really bad start. There was a bottleneck and I had to dismount. Then someone ran into me. I was way back in the twenties. I was making all of my time on the climbs. With Sauser in second I was under team orders (both Volvo Cannondale) not to bring anyone up to him so I hung back a bit. It was just as well because it took me awhile to get into a rhythm."
Other Canadians had stellar rides. Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher) proved to be a revelation today. Stuck in the middle of a moderate size pack, Hesjedal launched attack after attack to get himself free for 5th place (1:58:57). "I tried to pass Miguel (Martinez - Fully Dynamix - 4th place 1:58:43) on the last climb but I crashed (ie. no energy). I tried to attack often. It was all or nothing out there. I didn't have a strategy. Just go! The fans were incredible. It was so noisy. It was so great to be racing here in B.C.." With his placing he has assumed the World Cup Espoir leaders jersey.
Martinez was very pleased with his result and was clearly having a good time. "(through his coach doing translations). The singletrack was so much fun. It twisted and turned all over. I really love Canada. The people are so great here."
The other notable Canadian finish was Geoff Kabush (Kona Ford Focus) in 7th with a time of 2:00:52. After being as far down as 22nd on lap 2, Kabush worked his way steadily up through the pack, thanks to some powerful climbing.
Seamus McGrath (Haro/Lee Dungarees) rode a strong race to finish 18th in 2:04:40. Places 30, 31 and 32 were Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain Bicycles), Eric Tourville (Oryx) and Chris Sheppard (Haro/Lee Dungarees).
As the host nation, Canada proved to be the strongest. We had 4 riders in the top 20, more than any other country. Much has to be said about the home course advantage. The crowd was often deafening. Hesjedal and Kabush noticeably accelerated when the cheering was the loudest.
The course proved to be a hit with the racers and the spectators alike. With the looping nature of the circuit, spectators would rush in packs from place to place to cheer the riders on. With a lap of just 4.7km the racers were in view very frequently, which the spectators really enjoyed.
The course itself was centered on a wide ledge near the top of Grouse Mountain. This ledge has the top of the ski runs and the chalet. Gorgeous views of Vancouver and Mt. Baker in Washington State were seen to the south. For easterners in the grasp of summer, the flowers were out at the top of the mountain, but there were still large snow packs in among the trees.
The course started with a short climb followed by a winding technical descent over rock ledges into a small valley. From here the course worked its way back to the start area before looping down the skill hill through some dramatic sections of single track. Roots, rocks, drop offs, little wooden bridges and loose twisty turns challenged everyone. From the lowest point of the course, a series of switchbacks on some terribly steep grades brought the racers over 1.5km back to the finish. The climbing clearly had a toll on the pack. The "80% rule" was in effect for this World Cup. This meant that any riders that weren't withing 80% of the leaders time were pulled. 29 of 62 riders (Dnf's not included) were pulled through this rule.
Overall it was an extremely successful event. Talking to the organizers, they have indicated that they have a 3 year sanction for this venue. Much depends on the World Cup calendar. If the event is early in the year, the persistent snow cover could make the race impossible.
As a last point, the fans were incredible. 9000 were in attendance yesterday and it had to be much larger today. With a level of support such as this it has to look good to the future.