Martinez and Fullana dominate Italy|
Wednesday, May 23, 2001
For the second year in a row, mountain bike cross country racing, at the World Cup level, returned to this beautiful northern Italian village. Known in the German language as Sarntal, and in Italian, Sarentino, this village has a course that won wide acclaim last year as a real highlight on the circuit.
Time trial winners Miguel Martinez (FRA, Full Dynamix) and Marga Fullana (ESP, Specialized) completed a stellar weekend of racing on Sunday, when they also won the cross-country event.
Weather was again ideal for racing, with dry course conditions and sunny skies greeting the hundreds of professional competitors. Women raced four laps at 10:30 a.m., while the men completed seven laps at 13:30.
Like Fullana before him, Miguel Martinez (FRA, Full Dynamix) also repeated his win from Saturday's Time Trial, narrowly beating Canadian Roland Green (Trek-Volkswagen) in the final metres of a seven-lap event. Racing was very tight amongst a seven-man lead pack, which didn't yield its victor until the final seconds.
The lead group asserted itself from the 160 starters by the second lap, as Bas Van Dooren (NED, Specialized) led Martinez, Bart Brentjens (NED, Giant Bicycle), Marco Bui (ITA, A.S. Marin Helly Hansen) and Roland Green up the first climb. Round one winner Jose Hermida (ESP, Bianchi Motorex) was also in the lead group, along with Filip Meirhaeghe (BEL, Specialized).
These seven men built up a 20-second lead by the beginning of the third lap, while local favorite Hubert Pallhuber (ITA, Diamondback) led a large chase group up the green hills above Sarentino. Soon, Brentjens attacked the group when Van Dooren experienced mechanical difficulties - while Martinez and Hermida joined in the chase toward the back side of the course.
The group was soon back together on the flat section toward the finishline, but was missing Van Dooren, as he struggled 25 seconds back and soon fixed his shifting problems before expending a huge effort to rejoin the other six leaders. The seven then rode through the start/finish to begin the fifth lap.
In lap five, Van Dooren took the lead again with his teammate Meirhaeghe in second, while Martinez tested the pack by moving up from 7th position to 4th. Green was riding in third position, waiting for an opportunity to attack.
That opportunity came in the sixth lap, when he took the lead from Van Dooren in a technical set of climbs and descents, quickly building up a lead of several seconds as the pack failed to respond. He held the lead throughout the lap, heading into the final loop still in the lead.
In the 7th and final lap Green was alone up front, while Van Dooren, Brentjens, Bui and Martinez chased ten seconds back - followed by Hermida and Meirhaeghe ten seconds further back.
Martinez had been waiting for his opportunity to attack, and finally raced away from the others to chase down Green. It took him until the two were within two kilometres of the finish line before he finally made contact with Green - the two heading into the finish together.
Then, with just metres remaining, Martinez attacked Green one last time and Green was unable to respond. Martinez stood up and sprinted for the finish, crossing the line a mere three seconds ahead of Green. Brentjens finished third, 22 seconds back while Van Dooren finished 4th at 23 seconds. Bui rounded out the top five at 26 seconds.
"It was a tactical race and I had to work hard to catch Roland Green," said Martinez. "The biggest difficulty for me was the motivation coming into this race, but this race was a big objective for me and my [Italian] team - and when I have my objective clear, I can't miss. I attacked in the last lap just like I did in the Olympics - at the last moment. I attacked twice - once early in the lap and then again at the sprint even harder. I'm very happy with the result."
"Coming into the finish we were 1-2," said Roland Green. "He led it out into the final corner, and got away. It was a real cat-and-mouse game, and he won it. I felt good with my preparation and had spent time in Italy preparing, so I'm happy with my performance today."
Nearly 26 kilometres of racing on Sarentino's technical track separated the top women from their goal of a win at this second round of racing. World cup champion from 2000, Barbara Blatter (SUI, Specialized) was wearing the blue Tissot leader's jersey after her win in Napa. But her teammate Marga Fullana (ESP, Specialized) is the 2000 World Champion and was looking to prove that she is still the fastest in the land, after having missed the season's opening round.
Fullana came out of the start quickly with five other top riders, including Italy's Annabella Stropparo (Be-One) who led the first lap. Blatter was also there, along with Alison Dunlap (USA, Team GT) as the pack moved quickly through the first of four technical laps.
Fullana and Blatter were still leading in the second lap, riding together with Dunlap and Stropparo just seconds behind. But, by the end of the lap, Fullana attacked and opened up a 30 second lead, as each of the top women were forced to ride solo efforts for much of the fast-moving race. Top riders in the third lap included Sabine Spitz (GER, Merida) in 4th position, while Stropparo dropped to 5th.
By the fourth and final lap Fullana held off any attacks by her teammate Blatter, increasing the lead to a minute, with Dunlap 1:45 back and Spitz at 2:30. By the end, Fullana crossed the finish 1:14 ahead of Blatter, and 2:23 ahead of Dunlap.
"I had to find my rhythm, because I didn't really know how good my shape was at this point," Fullana said. "I watched the other women for the first lap, seeing how everyone was doing, and then I decided that I can win, and then just tried very hard, and it all came out good."
For Blatter, it was a hard-earned - and well-deserved second place finish. "I knew Marga was fast, but today she was just too fast! But only one person can win. I hoped she would slow later in the race, but she didn't."
Dunlap was also satisfied with her finish, as she remains in second place overall in the world cup. "I'm happy with my ride - I struggled here last year and did better this year."