Posted by Editor on 09/3/03
The opening day of the 2003 Mountain Bike Worlds has finished, with Australia and Poland taking the first rainbow jerseys in the Junior Women's cross-country and the Team Relay. Canada, the defending champion in the Team Relay was third this year.
The 6.2 kilometre course has been praised by most riders, who consider it tough and technical, with little room to recover. There is no major climb, just constant ups and downs; plus rocks and roots that demand ongoing attention. One of the only concerns about the course is the lack of passing in many sections, particularly at the start, when positioning is going to be everything.
The 37 Junior Women faced 4 laps, and defending champion Lisa Mathison did not take chances, breaking away from the rest of the field in the first third of a lap to eventually win by nearly four minutes.
"I was a bit behind at the start - I got swamped in the first bit and started the climb in the middle of the group. I was able to make my way up on the climb and the technical stuff, though. I thought it would be way tougher than it was this year, because all the first years are moving up, so everyone is stronger."
Behind Mathison, it was a battle between Almut Grieb, the German champion, and Eva Lechner of Italy, when Poland's Marlena Pyrgies dropped back from second after crashing hard (she raced most of the event with blood running down her chin). Grieb led until the third lap, when Lechner moved to the front of the chase - Lechner had surged on the second lap, after starting it in mid-pack. On the final lap, Lechner looked to be panicking, and crashed numerous times, constantly looking over her shoulder for the German. However, she hung to take the silver medal, with Grieb 21 seconds behind.
Kylie Case was the top Canadian, in 16th place, finishing 18:51 behind Mathison. The other three Canadians in the race - Catherine Vipond, Olivia Gagne and Brook Baker were lapped and pulled before the end, finishing 19th, 23rd and 24th respectively.
Two of the four are first year Juniors, and all are attending their first Worlds, so looked upon it as a learning experience.
"It was very hard and very technical." said Case. "I started right at the back, and managed to work up a few places on the first climb, but then I pretty much stayed in the same position for the rest of the race. This is my first time Europe, so everything is new."
Gagne had a poor start, after getting caught behind a crash at the start. "One minute into the race there was a crash. I didn't go down but I had to stop and lost a lot of places. I'm not really that happy with my ride - I trained very hard, but didn't realize that it would be as hard and fast as it was. The race started much faster than I thought it would. But now I will practice for next year, since I know what to expect.
In the Team Relay, there were a handful of teams expected to challenge Canada - Germany (with all four national champions), Switzerland and Poland, who has come on strong in every category all year. The later two squads finished 1-2 in the Team Relay at the recent European Championships.
Canada's strategy was one adopted by most of the 14 squads that took part in the race - send your fast guys early to open a gap. Roland Green (Elite Men) went first for Canada, followed by Ricky Federau (Under 23), Max Plaxton (Junior) and Chrissy Redden (Women). About the only major contender who didn't follow the same schedule was Spain, who put Jose Hermida in the anchor position.
Green handed off to Federau in third place (behind Poland and Switzerland), only 25 seconds back of the lead. "At the beginning there was a lot of traffic, and it was pretty tough to move up."
Federau rode a steady lap, dropping one place (Denmark moved up), but falling only 12 seconds out of third and 49 seconds out of the lead. The third rider for Canada was Plaxton, who put in a scorching ride - the fastest of any of the Juniors in the race - and came in to hand off to Redden in first place by a one second margin over Switzerland.
"I was hoping to give Chrissy a bigger gap, so she would have clear trail in front of her, but I had some trouble with the Swiss rider. I got stuck behind him and he wouldn't let me pass until he crashed, then he managed to get on my wheel and I couldn't drop him. I'm feeling really good right now, and had a good ride today. I think I have a good shot on Friday."
Redden went up against Barb Blatter, who she has battled innumerable times at the World Cups. However, she knew that the real concern was behind - the Polish Junior, Kryspin Pyrgies, who was chasing them.
"I got the hole shot, but then I made a little mistake and she got ahead; we were switching back and forth. But then she suddenly got off her bike on the technical descent, and I had to get off as well, which really put me off my rhythm, and she got a gap on the pavement climb which I couldn't close.
But I knew that there were guys behind us, and the race wasn't against Barbara, we had to work together to try and stay away. The Polish guy was very strong, obviously the entire team was, and we did the best we could."
Prygies came in 1:23 ahead of Blatter, with Redden a further 20 seconds back.
Green summed up the Canadian feelings about the race: "Anytime you can win a medal at the worlds you have to be happy. I think it says a lot about our program - third straight time in the medals."
- Green is feeling strong and confident after his ride, despite a rough run up to the Worlds."I'm really happy with the way I felt. I was pretty sick the last few weeks - chicken pox and shingles, and then a prostate infection! But even through that I've had good prep, and it has come together well."
- Green rode a prototype full suspension bike, and will do so in the cross-country on Sunday. "My new FS is a pound lighter, and it really the way to go on this course. I did a full race distance ride a couple of days ago (7 laps), and my back felt great. I was having no trouble staying with the front on the climbs, and I think I will really notice the difference towards the end of the race."
We had a chance to check out the bike and talk with Eric Wallace of the Trek-VW squad, who told us that it is a one-off Worlds bike built for Roland, Alison Sydor and Sue Haywood. They took the 110 Carbon used for the top road bikes (usually mountain bikes are 120 Carbon, even the team bikes), plus custom made carbon seatposts, stems and handlebars. "We weighed everything, even the cable guides, to make sure that we had the lightest stuff. We clearcoated the carbon rather than painting them, to save 150 grams. Alison's is identical, but Sue doesn't have the 2003 Rock Shox Black Box fork - those things are stupid light." Photos are going up shortly.
- Marie-Helene Premont and Alison Sydor both declined the opportunity to race the Team Relay, deciding to concentrate on the cross-country. "Marie-Helene was the first choice" said national coach Yury Kacherine. "But she is not arriving until today, having focussed on the cross-country. It was a decision between Alison and Chrissy, but Alison said that she would rather work on the cross-country."
- The organization announced that two riders were injured in downhill training. Both were evacuated by helicopter (second during the Team Relay awards ceremony - very nice to see a copter flying by with a rider dangling underneath in a stretcher...). The official announcement read:
During the today training and the Downhill occurred two accidents that, fortunately, didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have serious after-effects.
The Swiss athlete Pascaline Reusser fell during the downhill training. The accident happened during the jump. Immediately assisted, the rider has been transported by helicopter to the Hospital Civico in Lugano. However, the accident is not serious, and Reusser never lost consciousness: the diagnosis is a suspected dislocation/fracture of the left shoulder.
The French rider Audrey le Corguille has been transported by ambulance to the Hospital San Giovanni in Bellinzona. The rider suffered of a concussion and a suspected lesion to the cervical column. Her personal doctor also assists her, however she remained conscious.
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