Posted by Editoress on 05/8/05
MTB World Cup XC #2 Madrid, Spain
Reports brought to with the support of Human Kinetics Publishers and Gestev
As expected, Madrid was hot, dusty and fast for the second round of the Mountain Bike Cross Country World Cup. World and Olympic champions Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) and Julien Absalon (Bianchi Agos) won their respective races, with Dahle taking over the leader's jersey from Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects), while Absalon took his second straight win, to solidify his lead in the men's standings.
Premont, who, two weeks ago in Spa, Belgium had become the first woman to beat Dahle since 2002, knew that Madrid was not suited to her. "This is a fast road type course, and I prefer a more technical course; it is my least favourite course of the series here. I asked Gunn-Rita on the line how she liked the course, and she said she liked it, so I thought 'Oh no!' "
The course was indeed to Dahle's liking. After letting Premont lead through much of the first lap of the five lap race, the Norwegian went to the front on the steepest climb and powered away. For the next couple of laps the gap grew steadily, to over a minute by the start of the last lap. Then, Dahle backed off a bit to be more careful, and Premont was able to close to 42 seconds by the finish line.
Dahle said that the "biggest difference was my legs - Two weeks ago I had no feeling in my legs, but today I could feel that my legs were good. This is a hard, hard course, very fast, and no room to make any errors. But this will not be the end (of the battle with Premont), I think I will have to battle Marie-Helene all season."
Behind the two leaders it was a race of attrition. Premont's team mate Alison Sydor initially held third, but is still recovering from having been ill, and having raced the Marathon World Cup in Italy the weekend before.
"I'm happy enough with my result. I've been pretty sick; I'm feeling better now, but I didn't know how I could go. I moved up from the fourth row in the start (42nd place) to second after the first kilometre, which was good, but I couldn't maintain the pace that Marie-Helene and Gunn-Rita were doing. I'm almost there, so it will come soon."
Sydor was overtaken first by Dahle's team mate Irina Kalentieva and Spanish favourite Marga Fullana (K2-Zero RH+). Sabine Spitz (Specialized) bridged up to the duo, and then Kalentieva and Spitz got away from Fullana in the last lap when the Spaniard crashed. Spitz made sure she went into the final section first, and Kalentieva couldn't come by her at the line.
Other Canadian results include Kiara Bisaro (GearsRacing.com) 18th, Trish Sinclair (Scott) 25th and Sandra Walter 45th.
Local favourite Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) said it best, when he stated: "It was a war out there, just without the countries involved."
The race started fast, and got faster, with the lead group gradually getting whittled down to five. Constant attacks and counter attacks made it appear to be more of a road race than a mountain bike race.
Marco Bui (Full Dynamix) started the action with an attack inside the first kilometre. Absalon, Hermida, Roel Paulissen (Giant), Christoph Sauser (Siemens Cannondale), Jean-Christopher Peraud (Lapierre International), Fred Kessiakoff (Siemens Cannondale), Miguel Martinez (Commencal Oxbow) and Lado Fumic (Fumic Bros. Racing) were all part of the lead group initially, but some couldn't hang on as the pace increased and the attacks intensified.
By the final two laps it was down to five riders - Absalon, Hermida, Sauser, Paulissen and Bui. Sauser was thinking "if we go into the last lap with five guys it is going to be fucking hard, and it was."
The attacks kept coming, but then Hermida made a slight mistake in a loose gravelly corner, according to Sauser. "His wheel slipped, and he had to jump off his bike. Julien passed him, and I did as well, but Julien was going flat out and I could not stay with him."
"Jose came back to me, and we chased, but Jose is so explosive in the corners that he got away again. This isn't my course - I need longer climbs - and I have been doing marathon races, so I have lots of power but suffer sprinting out of the corners."
Paulissen hung on for fourth, and Bui, probably the most agressive rider in the race, took fifth.
Absalon is beginning to look unbeatable, having now won on a technical, muddy course in Spa and a dry fast one in Madrid. "It is like Athens here, with the heat and dry air." he commented afterwards, looking much fresher than many of his rivals, who were wilting. However, he does not feel that the course, in its present form, is suitable for the Olympics.
"For a World Cup it is okay, the overall winner needs to be strong on all tracks, but this is too tactical for an Olympic course, it is too much like the road. It needs more hard climbs, longer climbs and more technical pieces. But, the amount of spectators was very impressive, we need to see more of that in the World Cup."
The last word goes to Jose Hermida, who was soaking up the support of the partisan crowd. "Julien and I, we are good friends but when we are racing it is different. He has me two to nothing now, but I will get him back."
Canada had one rider in the race - Max Plaxton (Maxxis-MSC). Plaxton had a poor start position, seven rows back, but had worked his way up into the 40s, before disappearing in the fourth lap, a victim of some unknown mishap.
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