Posted by Editoress on 09/8/02
Men's XC World Cup Final Les Gets, France
Ryder was the rider today in Les Gets for the World Cup Final. Not only did Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher) win his first World Cup, he also took over the lead in the Under 23 category and won the series ahead of Julien Absalon (Motorex-Bianchi). Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) easily hung onto his lead in the Elite men's category for the overall series victory, finishing third, behind Christoph Sauser (Volvo-Cannondale).
"It's ridiculous, I don't think I realize yet just what happened. I just wanted to ride strong today."
Hesjedal went to the front early, after Lado Fumic (T-Mobile) had to back off when a knee injury started to bother him. Hesjedal cruised off the front, with a chase group forming behind, led by Sauser and containing Meirhaeghe, Roland Green (Trek-VW), Seamus McGrath (Haro-Lee Dungarees), Roel Paulissen (Lanabau-RW) and, a later arrival, Kashi Leuchs (Volvo-Cannondale).
Sauser was the obvious strong man in this group, and eventually bridged up to Hesjedal on the fourth lap, taking his teammate Leuchs with him. But Hesjedal did not panic, and attacked again in the final lap, soloing in to take his first ever World Cup victory.
Behind the top three, Leuchs managed to hold off Roland Green to take fourth, with Green in fifth and McGrath in sixth.
"You always worry about these guys, but I felt that I had the legs today all day. I know some people were disappointed after last week, but I just had to put that behind me today. I didn't think too much, I just did it; I stayed smooth, i knew that it could be my day today. I was trying to push the pace on the climb, and when those guys came up, I just put it in the big ring at the end of the first climb and pushed it. I'll take a win in my final espoir race!"
Meirhaeghe started slow, to preserve his World Cup lead, but soon changed his tactics. "In the beginning I missed the start group, and Bart (Brentjens, Giant - in second overall in the standings) was with the first four, so I was really worried. Then I started to pull them back, and Bart came off. I decided to forget about the tactics for the World Cup and race for victory. I was hearing that Bart was further and further behind, so I didn't have to worry about that. It was completely different from other World Cups for me because of the nerves and tension with protecting my lead. I knew that I could only lose the World Cup at this race."
Green, expected to challenge for the race win, struggled all day. "Every once in a while I have a bad day with breathing problems, and today was one of those days. It felt like there was a weight on my chest all day, compressing it. I felt half as strong as last week. Also, I think it is true that the body knows; I can't quite put my finger on it, but after a big result your body seems to relax a bit. But when I saw that the top-3 were gone, then Kashi, I knew that I had to attack to take fifth so that i could be on the podium."
- We can now reveal that Ryder Hesjedal has signed a stagiaires agreement with Rabobank to race for them this fall. He will be doing one race with the national development squad, and then join Rabobank for stage races in Spain and France, before going into final preparations for the Road Worlds time trial. He hopes also to race the road race at the Worlds.
- Trek-VW took the team award in the cross-country World Cup. It is still up in the air as to whether Sydor and Green will return to the team (if indeed the team decides to stay with such a high profile program). Green is expected to be heavily headhunted (as discussed in last weeks Worlds coverage).
- the World Cup next year is expected to be 6 races, with two triples in Canada in the works - Mont Ste Anne and Grouse. After Lugano, Switzerland for next years world championships, and back here in Les Gets for the 2004 Worlds, Mont Ste Anne has bid for the 2005 Worlds (with 2006 as a backup).
- Roland Green returns home tomorrow, and after a few days rest starts to prepare for the Road Worlds time trial. "I haven't heard yet if I will be selected, but I am going to train as if I have. I have a new bike, and nothing else to distract me. I know that I can do top-10 this year with preparation." Green was 14th last year.
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