Posted by Editoress on 09/14/03
Kaprun MTB World Cup Final Kaprun, Austria
Gunn-Rita Dahle (Merida) has completed her streak of World Cup victories, taking the fifth and final race in Kaprun in decisive fashion, ahead of her teammate (and the new world champion) Sabine Spitz of Germany. Marie-Helene Premont (Oryx) confirmed her status among the elite women riders by finishing third.
The weather gods finally smiled, and for the first time in a week racegoers were treated to sunshine. Marga Fullana led the charge up the first steep climb, but by the end of the first lap (of four), it was Dahle at the front and pulling away. Fullana steadily dropped back, leaving Spitz and Premont to battle for second. It was only on the final lap that Spitz was able to drop her rival.
"I had her (Premont) in my focus for the Worlds and here; she is a very strong rider. At the beginning my tactic was to stay in the top-5, but be more passive and save a little bit for the last lap. When I could see that she was not as good on the climb at the end, then I was able to get away."
Dahle began the race having already won the series, with four straight victories under her wheels. Besides having the chance to become the first cross-country rider to sweep a season, she also wanted to erase the poor showing she had at the Worlds when she suffered two flats.
"I was considering sitting on the sidelines and having wine, but I wanted to race, and winning was payback for Lugano."
Dahle and Spitz finished 1-2 in the overall standings, with Premont moving into fourth (Barb Blatter (Specialized), previously in fourth did not start, after crashing hard at the Worlds last week), behind Irina Kalentieva (Merida). Alison Sydor (Trek-VW) suffered a rear flat on the first lap, dropping as low as 22nd before recovering to finish 13th. Her misfortune dropped her out of the top-5 in the World Cup rankings.
- Gunn-Rita Dahle showed EVERYBODY who was boss when she came on stage for the World Cup presentation wearing a leopard catsuit (including ears) and cracking a whip! It showed a fun side that we often don't see from this serious Norwegian.
"I had to show who was the best. If anyone had doubts, I don't think they do anymore." - Filip Meirhaeghe
That may sound boastful, but when you are the world champion, and have just ridden away from the top pros in the world to win the World Cup Final, maybe you can be excused.
Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) came into the Final in Kaprun, Austria relaxed and ready to have fun. This was in contrast to World Cup leader Julien Absalon (Motorex-Bianchi), who had Christoph Sauser (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) breathing down his neck, only 65 points back in the standings.
"I was nervous before the start." admitted Absalon. "After a bad race in Lugano, I wasn't too confident."
Meirhaeghe took off on the first climb and never looked back, stretching his lead to over a minute, before backing off to win by 44 seconds over a resurgent Thomas Frischknecht (Swiss Power). Frischknecht had worked his way up from seventh to join Sauser, Absalon and Roel Paulissen (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) on the fifth lap of the six lap race, as they halfheartedly chased Meirhaeghe while Absalon and Sauser watched each other carefully.
He reanimated the group, which was spending most of its time watching each other, and then attacked off the front to solo in for second place. Absalon managed to drop Sauser in the final kilometres to take third, and secure the World Cup title. Sauser finished second overall, and Meirhaeghe's win vaulted him into third. Roland Green (Trek-VW) was the top North American, despite missing the Final, in seventh, followed by Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher) 13th and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (RLX Polo Sport) 15th.
North American riders did not have a strong day, with Chris Sheppard (Haro-Lee Dungarees) finishing 16th. His teammate Seamus McGrath hovered around 10th for most of the race, before "I fully ran out of energy on the last lap, that was it for me." Adam Craig was the top U.S. rider in 23rd place.
- Liam Killeen (Subaru-Gary Fisher), the leading rider in the Under 23 World Cup competition had a nerve wracking day: He flatted twice in the third lap, and his quick fill didn't work properly, so eventually he was lapped and finished ranked 85th. Manuel Fumic (T Mobile) was next in the standings and needed to finish 23rd or higher to get enough points to take the title. Entering the last lap he was 24th . . . He faded on the final lap, finishing 29th, so Liam's title was safe. Whew.
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