Dunlap Takes First Women's XC World Title Since 1991 |
Monday, September 24, 2001
VAIL, Colo. (Sept. 16, 2001) -- In 1994, American Alison Dunlap (Colorado Springs, Colo.) competed in her first world mountain bike championship cross-country in Vail, Colo. She finished 26th. Seven years later, America's newest sports hero snagged her first world championship title, taking home the women's cross-country gold medal at the 2001 World Mountain Bike Championships in Vail.
"This is the greatest day of my life, except my wedding. It's by far the greatest day of my cycling career. This is bigger than the Olympics for me," the two-time Olympian said. She won the 31km race in one hour 51 minutes and 28 seconds.
Canadian star Sydor kicked the race off with a quick charge to the front, leading the field of 64 women through the first lap. Dunlap came out of the first lap in fifth.
During the second of three laps, Norway's Gunn-Rita Dahle stole the top spot from the Canadian. Sunday's event was one of the first major races for the Norwegian after taking a two-year hiatus from competition. During the second lap, Dahle increased her lead and it looked as if she couldn't be caught. At the end of the second of three laps, she breezed through the venue area well ahead of the field, which included a now third-place Dunlap.
The fight wasn't over though, and during the final lap, Dahle was struck with bad luck, suffering a flat tire. Dunlap took advantage of the Norwegian's misfortune, turned on the gas and put the screws to the rest of the field.
"I did what my coach and I talked about. I relaxed and conserved during the race, got faster as it went on and started picking off riders," explained Dunlap.
The 32-year-old Colorado native, born in Denver, was familiar with the Vail course, taking several practice rides in the weeks prior to the event. Altitude and climbing courses have traditionally suited her as well.
When word came back to a packed finish stadium, the crowd exploded. Dunlap entered the finish area, picking up a large American flag from the fans and held it high as she crossed the line. At the line waiting to meet her were her parents, husband, grandmother and family.
"It's in my backyard and to win in front of thousands of Americans, my friends and family, it's just incredible," she said. "The crowds were cheering loud and it was so inspiring. I was grimacing and smiling at the same time."
Dunlap added that last week's tragedy weighed heavy on her mind throughout the event.
"After this week's terrorist attacks, it's great to give Americans something to be proud of. It was mentally hard, and earlier this week, I wanted them to cancel the race. It just seemed so pointless," she said. "As the week wore on, I realized it could be a great day to be an American and a great day to be alive. During the race, I was thinking about suffering and this (bike racing) isnít suffering. You could be suffering more."
Dunlap may have been the big winner for the day, but her American teammates put in outstanding performances of their own, namely Ruthie Matthes (Durango, Colo.) and Shonny Vanlandingham (Pagosa Springs, Colo.). The championship event was the last race of Matthes; professional cycling career. She finished eighth. Vanlandingham had the race of her life, taking ninth at her first-ever world championships and only two years after turning pro.
"I felt really good out there," Vanlandingham said. "The lap after the start I suffered a little, and during the last lap I lost three places. I wanted to go as hard as I could and get a top-10 finish. Ruthie (Matthes) and I pushed each other on the last lap and that really helped out."
The elite cross-country men had a tougher go at it. Carl Swenson (Boulder, Colo.) led the American charge for some of the race, but in the end it was Todd Wells (Tucson, Ariz.) who put in the best performance for the U.S. men at 26th.
In the espoir (under-23 men) race earlier in the morning, Adam Craig (Exeter, Maine) led part of the race from the start, but faded slightly to finish 13th. In the end, it was 2000 junior world champion Walker Ferguson (Norwood, Colo.) who put together one of his best rides of the season to put the bronze medal around his neck.
"During the first lap, I took a bad line and crashed into the bushes. After that I was a little nervous," Ferguson said. "Doing well here was one of my goals for the season, and I did that. It's all experience for the future."
2001 WORLD MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS, ELITE AND ESPOIR CROSS-COUNTRY, SEPT. 16, VAIL, COLO.
Elite Women: 1. ALISON DUNLAP, Colorado Springs, Colo., at 1 hour, 51 minutes and 28 seconds; 2. Alison Sydor, Canada, @ :12 back; 3. Sabine Spitz, Germany, @ :50
Americans: 8. Ruthie Matthes, Durango, Colo., @ 3:01; 9. Shonny Vanlandingham, Pagosa Springs, Colo., @ 3:12; 13. Audrey Augustin, Williston, Vt., @ 4:59; 29. Susan Haywood, Davis, W. Va., @ 11:47; 30. Melissa Thomas, Lakewood, Colo., @ 13:48; 48. Willow Koerber, Horseshoe, N.C., @ 34:00
Elite Men: 1. ROLAND GREEN, Canada, @ 1 hour, 58 minutes and 52 seconds; 2. Thomas Frischknecht, Switzerland @ :44 back; 3. Christophe Sauser, Switzerland, @ :50
Americans: 26. Todd Wells, Tucson, Ariz., @ 7:04; 37. Tinker Juarez, Downey, Calif., @ 9:40; 52. Carl Swenson, Boulder, Colo., @ 14:18; 56. Travis Brown, Boulder, Colo., @ 16:09; 62. Jimi Killen, Fort Collins, Colo., @ 18:26; DNF Kirk Molday, Temecula, Calif.; DNF Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Boulder, Colo.
Espoir (under-23) Men: 1. JULIEN ABSALON, France at 1 hour, 59 minutes and 9 seconds; 2. Ryder Hesjedal, Canada @ 1:38 back; 3. Walker Ferguson, Norwood, Colo., @ 2:47
Americans: 13. Adam Craig, Exeter, Maine, @ 9:45; 28. Cody Peterson, Durango, Colo., @ 14:32; 38. Ross Schnell, Grand Junction, Colo., @ 18:54; 48. Mike Wilk, Durango, Colo., @ 23:28; 56. Matt Hawkins, Cumberland, Maine, @ 26:38