Posted by Editor on 05/19/02
World Cup MTB #1: Madrid, Spain - Men's Race
This report made possible through the sponsorship of FACT Canada & Schwalbe Tires
"I'm still here."
Madrid was Bart Brentjens' answer to the critics who said that he was no longer able to win the "big ones". The 1996 Olympic champion's victory in the first round of the 2002 World Cup was his first World Cup win since 1996 at Liege. The Dutchman has been close a number of times, but hasn't managed to put together the necessary ride until today. World Champion and defending World Cup champion Roland Green won a hard fought three-way battle to take the silver medal, followed by Roel Paulissen.
Brentjens led from the gun, at the front as the riders headed out of the short starting loop to complete 6 laps of the 8 kilometre circuit. His lead grew steadily through the race - a minute after 2 laps, 1:45 after four laps and just over two minutes by the end.
"This is a course where you can ride best on your own. It is difficult to ride in a group because you cannot get a rhythm. Yes, I went early, but when you feel it is time to go, you should go."
Brentjens actually felt he was getting stronger through the race: "The first two, three laps I did not feel as good, but I still went away. Then in the fourth and fifth laps I felt stronger and was able to go harder."
Green agreed that Brentjens was 'the man' today: "At the start he got a gap and then there was a hesitation in the (chasing) group. We were all looking at each other and no one wanted to chase."
Three laps into the race Green, Jose Hermida and Paulissen finally mounted a chase ... of sorts. "We weren't really chasing, all of us were at our max and Bart was still gaining. We were really racing for second."
Hermida was strong for the fourth lap and then faded badly, leaving Green and his former GT teammate Paulissen to battle it out. To no one's surprise, the rainbow jersey was seen first in the finishing straight. Hermida hung on for fourth and Lado Fumic took fifth.
The rest of the Canadian contingent had mixed results. Seamus McGrath pulled off a very strong, consistent ride, sitting in a group battling for 10th for most of the race, and eventually finished 13th. Chris Sheppard started slow, but moved up steadily during the race, reaching as high as 15th before crashing into a fence post in the last lap and dropping to 28th. Ryder Hesjedal, one of the favourites coming into the race, had an uncharacteristically off day, which wasn't helped when someone hooked his bars at the start, instantly dropping him back 20 spots. He would finish 29th. Andreas Hestler rode steadily all day in the 50s and 60s before dropping out.
- Heat was a factor for all riders. The course had no shade, and the riders baking under the relentless sun. Roland Green came across the line cramping badly, and all riders went scrambling for shade and drinks as they crossed the line.
- The series moves to Houffalize, Belgium next week, where Brentjens and Fullana will wear the World Cup leaders jerseys. Julien Absalon, the Espoir World Champion, takes the lead in the Espoir category after finishing 10th. Hesjedal is 4th in the espoir standings.
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