2001 Mountain Bike Worlds Team Relay |
Monday, September 24, 2001
VAIL, Colo. (Sept. 13, 2001) -- In the first day of competition after the recent American tragedy, USA Cycling’s world mountain bike squad took ninth place in Thursday morning’s team relay at the 2001 World Mountain Bike Championships in Vail, Colo. The race was originally slated for Wednesday, but race organizers moved the event to today given Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.
A strong and unstoppable Canadian team captured first place in the team relay, while Australia and Spain took second and third, respectively.
The 2001 American team relay team was comprised of Susan Haywood (Davis, W. Va.), Todd Wells (Tucson, Ariz.), Walker Ferguson (Norwood, Colo.) and Nick Waite (Davis, W. Va.).
The team relay is comprised of four riders – one elite man, one elite woman, one espoir (under-23) man and one junior male – from each participating country. Each rider completes one cross-country lap. The order of riders is left up to each team director and is not usually revealed until the day of the race. A transition area allows riders to pass the "baton", which this year was a white sweatband worn on the arm.
The Americans got off to a good start, with Wells (elite male) shooting off at the start for what is considered in mountain bike racing to be a "hot lap", 21 minutes and 58 seconds. The past collegiate champion came into the transition area in second behind Canada, who already had 30 second lead on the field.
"It was pretty good. It was like any start of a race … you go as hard as you can, but not so hard that you detonate," Wells said. "It’s hard to be comfortable when you go that hard. Ryder (Hesjedal, from Canada) attacked and I just couldn’t go that hard. After awhile I settled in and just went hard on the downhills. Just to ride up there with some of the best riders in the world was great for me."
Junior star Waite took the handoff from Wells for the second lap. Waite was up against Canada’s junior racer and other international stars like 2000 Australian Olympian Mary Grigson.
"It was hard. I told myself ‘C’mon man, you can push it a little harder.’ It’s hard to stay steady though with the hard effort and the legs fill up. I had fun though and the sections I was worried about before, I rode clean," said Waite, who came in fifth at the end of his lap.
Midway through the race, Canada’s stronghold increased to two minutes over second-place Germany.
Reigning national short-track cross-country champion Haywood was the third American sent out. Haywood is familiar with team events, scoring several victories on the team 24-hour racing circuit. Haywood commented that the tough men’s field with her on the lap provided a challenge.
"The steady climbing … that was intense. It was mentally intense too knowing your country and team are waiting for you and counting on you," said Haywood. "I knew what to expect with a team event because of the 24 hour racing I do. Except in 24 hour racing, I’m used to winning or coming in second place. It was a good warm-up for this weekend."
Going into the fourth and final lap, the Americans stood in seventh. Cycling phenom and 2000 World Junior Champion Ferguson was left to take the team to the finish line. Out of the transition area, the Polish team quickly caught Ferguson, and later the Italian team overcame him.
"I didn’t feel great. I’ve done easy riding this week, so the first hard effort was tough. It gave me a chance to open though for tomorrow," Ferguson said.
The team from Great Britain was disqualified from the race after accepting mechanical help for a busted tire. In mountain bike racing, competitors are not allowed to accept help from anyone and may only use the tools and equipment they have packed out with them.
Action picks up Friday, Sept. 14, with three races: junior women’s cross-country, junior men’s cross-country and espoir (under-23) cross-country. Waite will compete in the junior men’s cross-country, while Ferguson hits the trails again in the espoir cross-country. Haywood and Wells both compete Sunday, Sept. 16, in the elite cross-country.
World Mountain Bike Championships, Sept. 13, Vail, Colo., Team Relay
1. CANADA at 1 hour, 35 minutes and 13 seconds; 2. Australia @ 0:00:26 back; 3. Spain @ 0:00:50; 4. France @ 0:01:41; 5. Switzerland @ 0:02:14; 6. Germany @ 0:03:26; 7. Poland @ 0:04:35; 8. Italy @ 0:04:36; 9. United States @ 0:04:55; 10. Austria @ 0:05:53; 11. New Zealand @ 0:12:36; 12. Slovenia 0:13:01; Great Britain - DQ