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September 5/02 8:57 am - Masters Mountain Bike World Championships: Story & Photos


Posted by Editoress on 09/5/02
 

2002 Masters Mountain Bike World Championships Bromont QC

Story and photos by Kris Westwood

Photos

Cross Country

Close to 400 cyclists from 23 countries gathered in Bromont, Quebec, as competition got underway Saturday in the cross-country events at the masters world mountain bike championships, for athletes aged 30 and over.

Americans dominated the results sheets in most of the events, including the first race of the day for women aged 60 to 64, won by the lone starter, Cherie Oates from Colorado. Defending champion Ann Budge from Ontario did not start due to a knee injury.

"I made it!" said Oates after crossing the line with blood running down her leg from one of several crashes.

Oates said back home she usually trains with younger riders, but has never considered racing before.

"This is really my first mountain bike race," she said.

Canada's only gold medal of the day came in the women's 45-49 category, won by two-time defending champion Nancy Manning of Chelsea, Quebec.

Manning finished the 16-kilometre race almost three minutes ahead of Mary Ann Davies (Montana), despite some technical problems.

"I couldn't get my foot in (my pedal) at the start, and later my chain fell off," said Manning, whose two sons were at the finish line to congratulate her.

Two Flagstaff, AZ, residents won the marquee events in the 30-34 age group: Jason Tullous took the men's title and defending champion Mary Lanie Mason won the women's. Tullous, who hadn't raced for a month since Big Bear, only decided to come to Bromont three weeks ago after winning a local event.

"This course is the exact same conditions as Flagstaff," said Tullous, who manages a coffee shop for a living. "This was a great competition – there was always somebody close behind me."

Mason ran away with her race, which she described as "pretty straightforward," putting over three minutes into Quebec's Brigitte Lacaille.

Steve Tilford from Kansas, who was one of the top international riders during mountain biking's formative years in the early 1990s, won the men's 40-44 race for the third year in a row with yet another dominant performance and was quick to praise the race course.

"This is a good venue," he said.

Tilford's only complaint was the dust the riders kicked up in the dry conditions. "It was crazy dusty out there," he said.

Although because of poor exchange rates fewer Europeans made the trip than last year, the foreign contingent still put on a strong showing: Italy picked up two golds and a silver, and French riders won three events.

Frenchman Jean-Claude Grange repeated his 2001 win in the 50-54 event, to add to his world cyclocross title, and echoed Tilford's praise of the course.

"It's an excellent course here," he said. "It's a real pleasure to ride."

A surprise entrant in the 54-59 event was American cycling legend John Howard, who only decided to come to Bromont two weeks ago after winning the U.S. masters championships.

Howard, who finished fourth, said his performance was "a little bit of a let down." His long list of accomplishments include a bronze medal at the worlds in Chateau d'Oex in 1997.

The masters worlds have been held in Bromont each year since they were first organized in 1998. Competition concludes Sunday with the downhill events.


Downhill

Three years ago, Bernard Unhassobiscay woke up and knew something was wrong in his chest. The next day he was on the operating table having two of his heart valves replaced.

This Sunday, Unhassobiscay, who lives in California, rode faster than anybody else in his 40 to 44 age category to win the masters world mountain bike downhill championship in Bromont, Quebec.

Unhassobiscay's story underlines what makes the masters worlds so special. Many of the athletes here never had a chance at a cycling career when they were younger, and some, like Unhassobiscay, are fortunate to be here at all.

"My objective was to come and have a good time, and maybe medal," said Unhassobiscay after winning the title. Unhassobiscay deliberately chose a conservative approach to the fast but slippery corners at the top of the course and rode more aggressively at the bottom.

The strategy paid off, as he beat both the defending world champion Guido Fulgone (Italy) and highly-favored Frenchman Jean-Pierre Bruni.

Canadian Barb Haley won the women's 30-34 race despite adopting the opposite approach to Unhassobiscay's: Haley crashed twice in the top portion of the course and had to pull out all the stops to finish with the fastest time by four seconds.

"Everyone was telling me, 'Take your time,' and I'm like, 'Are you kidding?" she said at the finish. "That was harder than I've ever gone before."

But Haley still had a nervous few minutes' wait before the final rider in her category, who had been delayed at the start, completed the course.

Haley's race mirrored her difficult season so far. Without a bike sponsor at the beginning of the year, the British Columbian raced at first on borrowed equipment, then took some time off until her own bike showed up. When the Grouse mountain World Cup was cancelled, she switched focus to the masters worlds.

But Haley's problems weren't over. Unable to afford the trip on her own, friends donated her a plane ticket paid for with their air miles. And once in Bromont Haley's frame cracked and she had to scrounge a new one from the local bike store.

"A big thank you to Eric at the bike shop here," she said.

Joe Lawwill, who won the hotly contested men's 30-34 category, had no such problems. Lawwill has put his talents to good use as a suspension designer for Trek, and spent the weekend developing new equipment. He even raced in - and won - a separate, regional race Sunday morning.

As last rider down, Lawwill's stunning time of 4:11.23 was eight seconds faster than his qualifying time and almost four seconds quicker than the runner up, Stéphane Fichant of the French team.

"I was a little better everywhere," said Lawwill, who was racing in Bromont for the first time. "I wasn't perfect, but I was good enough,"

"This was a great course, no dumb, dangerous sections," he said, adding that he thinks many of the courses on the pro circuit are too dangerous.

 


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