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Blatter Wins Women's World Cup Opener At Napa

Specialized continued its roll on Saturday as defending World Cup champion Barbara Blatter won the opening race of the 2001 Tissot-UCI World Cup series at the Domaine Chandon winery, near Napa, California. Blatter took control of the 22-mile race midway through the third of five laps. She never really attacked, but on one of the steep climbs, Blatter left Alison Dunlap (GT) and Alison Sydor (Trek-Volkswagen) behind, and quickly gained a 30-second lead.

“I just [sped] it up a little from lap to lap, and that was enough,” said the 30-year-old Swiss, who has been living with her sister in Redlands, California, since January.

After Blatter made her move, the battle for second was left to the two Alisons. They went into the final lap together, and Dunlap, who was doing the majority of the work between the two, knew what she had to do.

“I had to drop [Sydor] on the climbs so I went as hard as I could, and I got enough of a gap, then descended for my life,” Dunlap said. “I was able to hold her off.”

The next battle was for fourth, between Canadian Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher), winner of Saturday’s time trial, and Blatter’s Specialized teammate Caroline Alexander. Eight miles from the finish, the two were together, 37 seconds behind the leaders. At different points around the course, Redden would gap the Brit, who won the Sea Otter Classic two weeks ago, but on the climbs, Alexander would catch back on.

But Alexander, who suffered a badly bruised wrist a week ago at the Sizzler AMBC race in San Jose, was hurting. “I was in so much pain,” Alexander said. “The downhills were just so bumpy.”

Then, on one of the last short descents before the finish, Alexander couldn’t hold on any longer. “I crashed because my wrist was so weak,” she said.

Conditions on the four-mile circuit were good. Rains on Friday kept the dust down, but it dried up quickly. Interestingly, all five women in the top-five rode full suspension bikes. The course at Domaine Chandon is not known for being overly technical, but the rocks buried in nearly every inch of the single-track are relentless. The rear shock, according to those who chose it, helped take the edge off.

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