Posted by Editoress on 08/28/02
2002 Mountain Bike World Championships - Team Relay Kaprun, Austria
Canada has successfully defended its world title in the Team Relay, holding off a last lap charge by France. The team of Ryder Hesjedal, Roland Green, Max Plaxton and Alison Sydor dominated from the start, with Hesjedal finishing the first lap just a few seconds behind Julian Absalon (France). Green took over from Hesjedal and blew by the second French rider, espoir Jean Eudes Demaret, to take the lead. Thomas Frischknecht put in a strong ride to move the Swiss into second place, while Great Britain moved up from 6th to third and Italy also passed France for fourth.
However, Green had some early trouble with the French rider. "I was in the big ring for the first climb, and I came up on him fast. I went left to pass and he moved left, then I went right and he moved over again. He was holding me up so I had to rough him up Canadian hockey style to get by."
Once that problem was disposed of, Green came in to hand off to Plaxton who also put together a solid ride, conceding only 7 seconds to the chasing Swiss rider. Denmark's Christian Poulsen put in the fastest ride of the third group, but his team was well back, and out of the picture. The USA put in a strong ride to move into fourth at the end of the third round, with Great Britain still third.
So, it came down to the final rider, with Sydor starting the lap a minute clear of Petra Henzi of Switzerland. The Swiss rider faded, finishing third, while Frenchman Cedric Ravanel blasted through the field, moving from fifth to second. Caroline Alexander had a terrible ride for Great Britain, dropping them down to eighth at the finish.
Sydor took the last lap conservatively, secure in first and not wanting to take any risks. Ironically, that got her into trouble in the final kilometre, when she crashed at the end of the last descent and in the final 10 metres while high-fiving the rest of the team. Both times, she said was because she was too relaxed and not concentrating. "All that matters is that you are able to crawl across the finish line with enough time to win."
"I was probably more nervous this morning then I will be on Sunday. This is not just for yourself, but for your team mates, so 3 other riders are relying on you. When I started my legs felt bad, but I looked at my heart rate monitor and saw that it was 195 so I thought, 'Okay, it's supposed to feel bad.' There was lots of info on the course about where everybody was, so I was really confident. The three guys did a super job and gave me a good lead."
Sydor also pointed out "this year we won with half the team different from last year (herself instead of Chrissy Redden, and Plaxton instead of Adam Coates), so it shows the depth we have in Canada. Plus, last year, some people were saying, 'oh, so and so wasn't there because they couldn't get a flight (after September 11th)', but this year was a strong, large field. It was a very proud moment for me as a Canadian to repeat our victory from last year. We have now won (the Team Relay) two of the three times it has been run."
Vancouver Island can take special pride, since Sydor, Hesjedal and Green are all Victoria-based, while Plaxton is back living in his hometown of Tofino.
- Germany, expected to be Canada's strongest competition, was never in the picture. Leadout man Manuel Fumic had 'bad legs', and then their third rider, Benjamin Rudiger, flatted. Jose Hermida of Spain, a member of the 2000 winning squad, also flatted on the last lap, and there is an unconfirmed report that Susan Haywood of the US squad did as well.
- Max Plaxton has gone from living and racing in Spain, to moving back to Canada in late June, winning the national Junior title in July and now a world title. "It feels so great, I'm just spaced out right now. I am enjoying being here with these great riders. They are my idols, so to race with them is unbelievable."
- Hesjedal pointed out that Canada's winning formula from last year is starting to be copied by other countries. "It's a good formula. Having Roland to go second makes us pretty confident, so I just try to have a solid ride and put him in good position to open it up. Max has shown he is strong, and Alison to close it out - it's a no brainer."
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