September 8/03 5:30 am - Women's XC Report
Posted by Editor on 09/8/03
Two silver medals for Canada on one of the toughest course in recent memory. In both races, Canadians led for most of the race, and lost by seconds. Both Alison Sydor and Ryder Hesjedal led a strong Canadian contingent that also recorded a fifth place (Marie-Helene Premont), 16th by Chris Sheppard and a pair of 19ths by Kiara Bisaro and Roland Green.
Defending world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle of Norway was the clear favourite, having won every World Cup this year, but she had a terrible day, flatting on the first lap and dropping back to the mid-50s. She worked here way back to the 30s very quickly and then flatted again, dropping to 60th. Her race was basically over, but she rode it out, smiling and waving at the large Norwegian contingent.
At the front, Alison Sydor followed an early attack by Marga Fullana and took the lead at the end of the first lap. She set a hard pace, and was easily the strongest in the technical sections, flying through one rough downhill when many others were inching their bikes around or walking. Fullana dropped out a couple of laps later (she was officially disqualified for assistance after her chain got wrapped between the spokes and cogset, and she got help to unclog it), and Sydor took the lead until lap 5 of the 6 lap race, when Sabine Spitz (Germany) caught her.
"I was letting Marga take the lead, but she kept making mistakes in the technical parts. Having her to pace was good, but I was left in the lead earlier than I wanted. I didn't want to be at the front that early, but it feels good to be in the lead, and I was going well.
This was definitely a very hard course; there was no long climb and no descent to coast down, so you are driving all the time. With two laps to go I could feel on the climb that I wasn't as strong - just a little bit, but the difference among the top riders is so small that it was enough for Sabine (to come up to me). On the paved climb she went a notch higher and I closed the gap a couple of times, but I started to make technical mistakes and had to go my own pace. On this course you couldn't go beyond 100%, or you would make mistakes. But it was fantastic that the race came down to this (16 seconds) at the end."
Spitz started a little slower and was in fifth after the first lap, 15 seconds behind Sydor and Fullana, riding with Premont in third and her Merida team mate Irina Kalentieva (Russia) in fourth. Sydor managed to maximize the gap at about 40 seconds, before Spitz and Kalentieva started to reel her in on the fifth lap. Spitz dropped Kalentieva to chase solo on lap 4, catching Sydor on the fifth so that they came through to start the last lap together. it was on the one paved climb, about 1.5 kilometres into the final lap that Spitz was finally able to drop Sydor and pull away for the win. Kalentieva continued with a steady ride to take the bronze, with another German, Ivonne Kraft, riding steadily in fourth for most of the race, finishing 1:17 in front of Premont.
Spitz, after winning silver last year, was one of the favourites, but she knew that there were others to watch out for, including Sydor.
"Gunn-Rita, Alison, Irina and Marga were all on my list to watch. I tried to set my own pace in the earlier part of the race because it was too fast at the front, and it was a long race. On the second last lap i saw Alison on the paved climb in front of me, and I could see that her pace had finally slowed a bit. i was able to increase my own pace - not too much, not too fast, or I knew I would get into difficulty - and we came into the Start/Finish together. On the last lap I attacked on the climb again and got a gap, but I was scared right until the end that she would catch me again in the technical sections."
Premont confirmed that she is a now at the top ranks with her ride. After a start that was too fast, she slipped back a bit and then steadied down for the latter half of the race.
"I started very fast, and was third after the first lap, but maybe I was a bit over paced. I lost some places on the second lap, but then I started recovering in the next few laps. On the first two laps I was making mistakes in the technical sections, but after I calmed down a bit I got better, although i hit a tree on the third lap! I am pretty happy with top-5, because this was not really the best course for me."
- Marie-Helene Premont confirmed that she has had preliminary discussions with Subaru-Gary Fisher. "We talked a bit here, but I wanted to concentrate on the Worlds, so we will talk more next week in Kaprun. It will also come down to what program they want me to do, and that I am willing to do." Subaru-Gary Fisher will definitely want Premont at the Norbas, and she has skipped them in the past to concentrate on World Cups and UCI-sanctioned Canada Cups.
- We mentioned earlier that Chrissy Redden crashed. It was in the fourth lap. Redden had a poor start, falling to 17th. She had begun to work her way back up, when the accident happen. Redden continued for one more lap, partially to ensure important UCI points for Canada in the upcoming Olympic selection (top-3 countries get 3 places on the start line). After that she was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery for a broken wrist, having 3 pins inserted.
The editor is on the road for the next few hours - the men's report will go up later today, along with more photos.