Sauser, Dahle take World Cup Opener|
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
A perfect World Cup Start - St. Wendel at its Best:
St. Wendel (Germany). With a top class field and 30 participating nations the 2003 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup was kicked off this weekend at St. Wendel. "City Manager" Klaus Boullion and his entire crew once more proved their skills in setting up an excellent venue which is known for its quality for many years. Swiss rider Christoph Sauser and reigning World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle from Norway claimed the wins.
Riders, the race organization and 25,000 spectators alike doubted that the rain might completely stay away from St. Wendel today but the conditions turned out to be perfect. Most had stated the length of the course to be quite long for season opener: After a start loop of 1.2 kilometres length, a lap of 7.9 kilometres had to be done seven times by the men and five times by the women.
For the men, German rider Lado Fumic set the early pace with Filip Meirhaeghe from Belgium and Swiss rider Christoph Sauser right behind him but Meirhaeghe had a technical problem already in the second lap and dropped out. In the beginning of lap four Miguel Martinez from France attacked the leaders and started a sudden spurt but he was kept right away and could not make it up to the top again.
Fumic and Sauser faught hard switched positions in the lead but Fumic stepped back to third place in the fourth lap while Italian Marco Bui, Marek Galinski from Poland and French rider Julien Absalon pushed from behind. Sauser was the one to finally claim the win. "I always wanted to be part of the leading group," he said. "This is a tactical course and you have to be prepared that someone suddenly attacks. On the other hand nobody likes to take the lead all the time so I just tried be with the top and follow any attacks. In the last two laps I was still in a pretty good shape so I knew I could do it. I'm so glad I worked it out. It's so nice to take the leader's jersey and I'll try to keep it for a bit."
Marek Galinski finished second ahead of Julien Absalon and Lado Fumic. The German was exhausted but happy about his result: "I was a bit impatient," he said. "It obviously was a question of too much pressure in the early race. I always tried to close the gap whenever someone attacked but I had a lot of fun riding today and I don't feel that I lost the podium - it's more that I won fourth place. I think I could have won today but fourth place was kind of a confirmation that I belong to the top riders. It was just great to ride in front of a home crowd although there's also some more pressure since everyone expects you to do good. This result also gets me a lot of self confidence."
For the women, Gunn-Rita Dahle from Norway almost made it a start finish win today: She had been with the leaders after the start loop, opened up the gap right after and increased the lead from lap to lap. In the finish she built it up to 2:33 minutes. With German Sabine Spitz finishing second ahead of Irina Kalentieva from Russia all top three positions were taken by the Merida International team. "It is unbelievable to be one, two, three, that's for sure," Dahle said, smiling all over. "The course was a bit sticky today and you didn't have a lot of speed but you could ride everything but you really had to keep concentrated to prevent from mistakes that might have forced you to get off the bike. I'm so glad I made it - my last World Cup win was back in 1999 at Canmore, Canada. I would love to win the World Cup again and winning the first one is kind of a bonus - you know you are on the right path and just keep on working. I really believe I will have more great days like this. The crowd here was amazing as it has always been - they are the best in the world - and I really like it a lot riding here."
Sabine Spitz had been in third position most of the first half of the race but made it up to second when Italian rider Elena Giacomuzzi crashed half way down the third lap and never let anyone pass her again until the end. "This was kind of a confirmation that I did well in getting prepared for the season. Especially on the road sections I was able to make up time. It was great to see and hear all those people shouting. They were really pushing us through the race."
The World Cup heads on to Fort William, Great Britain, where the second World Cup stage takes place next weekend.