World champion Gunn-Rita Dahle led her Merida team to a 1-2-3 finish in the opening round of the women's cross-country World Cup in St Wendel,Germany, while Christophe Sauser (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) surgically dissected the men's field to earn the right to don the blue Series leader jersey. Top North American finishers were Alison Dunlap (Luna) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (RLX-Polo Sport), a distant 12th and 15th respectively. St Wendel, nestled among the rolling hills in the picturesque Saarsland region, just south of the Mosel River, is a regular stop on the World Cup circuit, with 2003

By Robert Jones, VeloNews Correspondent

Gunn-Rita Dahle
Gunn-Rita Dahle

Photo: Mark Dawson – Fattirefotos.com

World champion Gunn-Rita Dahle led her Merida team to a 1-2-3 finish in the opening round of the women’s cross-country World Cup in St Wendel,Germany, while Christophe Sauser (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) surgically dissected the men’s field to earn the right to don the blue Series leader jersey. Top North American finishers were Alison Dunlap (Luna) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (RLX-Polo Sport), a distant 12th and 15th respectively.

St Wendel, nestled among the rolling hills in the picturesque Saarsland region, just south of the Mosel River, is a regular stop on the World Cup circuit, with 2003 marking the sixth year it has been included in the series. Christophe Sauser is a four time World Cup winner, but reserves high praise for St Wendel: “Here and Houffalize are the best to win, I think. Mentally this is a very hard race.”

In the days leading up to the race there was considerable concern about the weather and the trail conditions. When it rained two days before the race, the 7.9 kilometer course became unrideable on the climbs and descents. It rained on Saturday morning, leading to more worrying by the riders, but the sun shone all day after that, drying things up considerably. Race day dawned with overcast, damp skies, but the rain held off, and the course was 100% rideable – albeit with sticky, strength-sapping mud in the woods.

Alison Sydor (Trek-VW) led the charge out of the start loop and up the first paved climb of the women’s 5 lap race, but once the riders hit the first steep technical climb, Dahle went to the front and rode the field off her wheel. Prior to the start, the Norwegian had admitted being nervous about starting the World Cup with the rainbow jersey. “I want to show that I am worthy of this jersey.”

No one could say that she disgraced it after such a dominant performance. Dahle was 25 seconds clear of a chase group containing her teammates Sabine Spitz and Irina Kalentieva, Marga Fullana (Orbea) and Annabella Stropparo after one lap, with Sydor, Barb Blatter (Specialized), Laurent Leboucher, Alison Dunlap and Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) a further 30-plus seconds in arrears. One lap later Elena Giacomuzzi was 32 seconds down, with Spitz and Kalentieva at a minute, Fullana at a minute and a half, and Blatter leading a small chase group containing Dunlap at 2:18.

Giacomuzzi was replaced by Spitz and Kalentieva in the chase, steady at 90 seconds, but the rest of the field was now 3 minutes behind Dahle, who continued to pour on the pressure. By race end she was 2:33 in front of Spitz, 2:57 ahead of Kalentieva, and 3:25 in front of two late charging Polish riders – Maja Wlosczowska and Anna Szafraniec (both Lotto-Pzu S.A.).

“The race course was fine – sticky, but everything could be ridden. It was easy to make a mistake, and then you had to get off and run, so I was very focused, very careful.”

While the women’s race was decided early, spectators needed a scorecard to keep track of what was going on in the men’s 7 lap (plus start loop) event. Defending World Cup champion Filip Meirhaeghe, world champion Roland Green and German champion Lado Fumic led the field up the first climb, but there were still 15 riders in contention at the end of the first lap, with Sauser, Marco Bui, Jose Hermida (Bianchi-Motorex), Roel Paulissen (Siemens Mobile Cannondale), Bart Brentjens (T Mobile), Julien Absalon (Bianchi-Motorex), Seamus McGrath (Haro-Lee Dungarees) and, in a rare off-road appearance, Olympic champion Miguel Martinez (Full Dynamix), all in the fast front group.

One lap later, Meirhaeghe was out with a flat, but Thomas Frischknecht (Swiss Power) had moved up and the group was still doing sub-22 minute laps. Fumic was doing a lot of work at the front, as was Green and Bui, but Sauser was lurking.

Sauser wins a battle of attrition
Sauser wins a battle of attrition

Photo: Mark Dawson – Fattirefotos.com

“I was always trying to stay at the front group, and keep the pace high. I could see that when we were in the woods in the technical portions that I was one of the best riders today, and that if I was focused and smooth I could be the strongest.”

The front group was gradually shrinking, lap by lap, as the pace (which increased in laps three, four and five) took its toll. Brentjens was one of the first to go, then Frischknecht and McGrath. Martinez succumbed on lap 5, and on lap 6 Sauser made his move, exploding the remainder of the group.

“I went hard at the base of the first technical climb, and (Marek) Galinski (Orbea) was the only one to go with me. That was okay, because I wanted someone to work with on the flat sections. On the last lap I attacked again in the same place and was able to ride away.”

Behind him, Bui, Fumic, Absalon and Cedric Ravanel (Orbea) managed to limit the damage, but the others went quickly backwards, including Green. The world champion, who was forced to drop out of Big Bear last weekend, is still feeling the effects of the crash he suffered last month.

“It was better than last week, but I just haven’t had any good training since Georgia. My shoulder is pretty much healed up, and now I just need a couple of good weeks of training to get my endurance and intensity to where it needs to be.”

Sauser cruised in for an 11 second victory over Galinski, who is fresh off an 11th place overall finish at the Peace Race – part of his training for the World Cup. Julien Absalon, who just moved up to the senior ranks from Espoir, dropped Fumic in the last half lap to take the third podium spot.

Race Notes
Horgan-Kobelski equaled his best ever result with his 15th place, but was particularly pleased because he had started well back in 87th place. “I decided to make the best of the situation, and rode exactly the way I had planned. My plan was to ride extremely hard the first lap and pass as many riders as possible, and then just be consistent and keep picking off riders every lap. I’m really happy with this race, because it is so much harder in Europe.”

For a short time it appeared that Miguel Martinez might have to race the qualifier, since he is no longer ranked in the top 125 riders in the UCI rankings. However, officials decided to follow the road regulations, which states that the current world or Olympic champion is not required to qualify for certain elite competitions. “It’s the first time this has ever come up in mountain biking” explained UCI TechnicalDelegate Kelli Turcotte, “and the chief commissaire decided that we should handle it the same as on the road.”

Photo Gallery

Results

St. Wendel World Cup,
1. Christoph Sauser, (Swi), 2:24:19
2. Marek Galinski, (Pol), 2:24:30
3. Julien Absalon, (F), 2:25:17
4. Lado Fumic, (G), 2:25:43
5. Cedric Ravanel, (F), 2:26:01
6. Marco Bui, (I), 2:26:18
7. Roel Paulissen, (B), 2:27:00
8. Jean-christophe Peraud, (F), 2:27:11
9. Jose Antonio Hermida, (Sp), 2:27:19
10. Josè Marquez, (Sp), 2:28:33
11. Thomas Frischknecht, (Swi), 2:28:56
12. Marcin Karczynski, (Pol), 2:29:05
13. Manuel Fumic, (G), 2:29:05
14. Kashi Leuchs, (NZ), 2:29:25
15. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, (USA), 2:29:30
16. Christoph Soukup, (A), 2:29:52
17. Dario Acquaroli, (I), 2:29:53
18. Silvio Bundi, (Swi), 2:30:05
19. Roland Green, (Can), 2:30:07
20. Bart Brentjens, (Nl), 2:30:08
21. Alejandro Diaz De La Pena, (Sp), 2:30:15
22. Liam Killeen, (GB), 2:30:32
23. Miguel Martinez, (F), 2:30:40
24. Radim Korinek, (Cz), 2:31:12
25. Peter Riis Andersen, (Dk), 2:31:18
26. Martino Fruet, (I), 2:31:27
27. Bas Peters, (Nl), 2:31:35
28. Stefan Sahm, (G), 2:31:35
29. Seamus Mcgrath, (Can), 2:32:05
30. Ralph Naef, (Swi), 2:32:12
31. Ivan Alvarez, (Sp), 2:32:41
32. Todd Wells, (USA), 2:32:46
33. Iouri Trofimov, (Rus), 2:33:00
34. Marc Hanisch, (G), 2:33:11
35. Olivier Maignan, (F), 2:33:19
36. Jochen Kass, (G), 2:33:34
37. Johannes Sickmueller, (G), 2:33:36
38. Siegfried Bauer, (A), 2:34:04
39. Marc Golz, (G), 2:34:10
40. Michael Weiss, (A), 2:34:25
41. Massimo De Bertolis, (I), 2:34:38
42. Ivan Seledkov, (Rus), 2:34:53
43. Jimmy Tielens, (B), 2:34:53
44. Christian Poulsen, (Dk), 2:34:54
45. Till Marx, (Swi), 2:35:05
46. Erwin Bakker, (Nl), 2:35:14
47. Tomas Vokrouhlik, (Cz), 2:35:16
48. Daniel Soler, (Swi), 2:35:16
49. Balz Weber, (Swi), 2:36:16
50. Klaus Nielsen, (Dk), 2:36:37
51. Lubos Kondis, (Slo)v), 2:36:41
52. Jorg Scheiderbauer, (A), 2:36:44
53. Craig Gordon, (A), 2:36:44
54. Roman Rametsteiner, (A), 2:37:18
55. Mariusz Kowal, (Pol), 2:37:47
56. Pavel Boudny, (Cz), 2:37:56
57. Simon Richli, (Swi), 2:37:58
58. Mirko Pirazzoli, (I), 2:38:00
59. Johann Pallhuber, (I), 2:38:17
60. Carlos Coloma, (Sp), 2:38:58
61. Fredrik Kessiakoff, (S), 2:39:04
62. Yader Zoli, (I), 2:39:07
63. Michal Talavasek, (Cz), 2:39:08
64. Rene Henke, (G), 2:39:26
65. Ondrej Zeleny, (Cz), 2:39:44
66. Thomas Nicke, (G), 2:39:50
67. Thys Al, (Nl), 2:39:59
68. Sandro Spaeth, (Swi), 2:40:08
69. Ludovic Fahrni, (Swi), 2:40:22
70. Milan Spesny, (Cz), 2:40:44
71. Alban Lakata, (A), 2:40:51
72. Sid Taberlay, (A), 2:41:01
73. Chris Jongewaard, (A), 2:41:09
74. Thomas Roccaro, (Swi), 2:41:44
75. Lukas Flueckiger, (Swi), 2:41:52
76. Maarten Wijnants, (B), 2:42:03
77. Jiri Vavra, (Cz), 2:42:11
78. Matthias Mende, (G), 2:42:19
79. Torsten Marx, (G), 2:42:33
80. Jelmer Pietersma, (Nl), 2:42:57
81. Benjamin Joerges, (G), 2:42:57
82. Allan Oras, (Sp), 2:42:59
83. Adam Craig, (USA), 2:43:03
84. Jose Guadalupe Cruz, (Mex), 2:43:09
85. Jens Schwedler, (G), 2:43:15
86. Andreas Dilger, (G), 2:43:23
87. Benjamin Rudiger, (G), 2:43:45
88. Franz Hofer, (I), 2:44:02
89. Jody Crawforth, (GB), 2:44:45
90. Abraao Azevedo, (Brz), 2:44:57
91. Gerald Burgsteiner, (A), 2:45:09
92. Stuart Houltham, (NZ), 2:45:11
93. Dominiek Ranson, (B), 2:45:43

Women

1. Gunn-Rita Dahle, (N), 2:03:38
2. Sabine Spitz, (G), 2:06:11
3. Irina Kalentieva, (Rus), 2:06:35
4. Maja Wlosczowska, (Pol), 2:07:03
5. Magdalena Sadlecka, (Pol), 2:07:17
6. Marga Fullana, (Sp), 2:07:48
7. Barbara Blatter, (Swi), 2:07:51
8. Elena Giacomuzzi, (I), 2:08:00
9. Anna Szafraniec, (Pol), 2:08:15
10. Katrin Leumann, (Swi), 2:08:23
11. Petra Henzi, (Swi), 2:08:32
12. Alison Dunlap, (USA), 2:09:03
13. Ivonne Kraft, (G), 2:09:06
14. Maria Ostergren, (S), 2:09:37
15. Alison Sydor, (Can), 2:09:54
16. Annabella Stropparo, (I), 2:10:02
17. Silvia Rovira Planas, (Sp), 2:10:03
18. Jacqueline Mourao, (Brz), 2:10:26
19. Laurence Leboucher, (F), 2:11:12
20. Chrissy Redden, (Can), 2:11:21
21. Severine Hansen, (F), 2:11:21
22. Marie-Helene Premont, (Can), 2:11:34
23. Jimena Florit, (Arg), 2:12:03
24. Nina Gohl, (G), 2:12:20
25. Barbel Jungmeier, (A), 2:12:49
26. Alla Epifanova, (Rus), 2:13:06
27. Anna Enocsson, (S), 2:13:31
28. Hilde Van Deun, (B), 2:13:47
29. Mette Andersen, (Dk), 2:14:51
30. Maroussia Rusca, (Swi), 2:14:54
31. Elsbeth Van Rooy-vink, (Nl), 2:15:21
32. Jenny Copnall, (GB), 2:15:27
33. Helene Marcouyre, (F), 2:15:27
34. Birgit Jungst, (G), 2:15:51
35. Adelheid Morath, (G), 2:16:01
36. Anna Baylis, (A), 2:16:05
37. Susan Haywood, (USA), 2:16:51
38. Alexandra Hober, (I), 2:17:23
39. Janet Puiggros Miranda, (Sp), 2:17:58
40. Corine Dorland, (Nl), 2:18:28
41. Sabrina Enaux, (F), 2:18:34
42. Monica Brunati, (I), 2:18:43
43. Andrea Huser, (Swi), 2:18:43
44. Vivianne Baud, (F), 2:18:50
45. Petra Schorkmayer, (A), 2:18:52
46. Lisa Mathison, (A), 2:19:07
47. Franziska Roethlin, (Swi), 2:20:00
48. Yan Ping Ma, (Ch, 2:20:02
49. Regina Marunde, (G), 2:20:03
50. Gretchen Reeves, (USA), 2:20:04
51. Maaris Meier, (Sp), 2:20:36
52. Laurie Copans, (Is, 2:20:54
53. Katerina Hanusova, (Cz), 2:21:14
54. Birgit Braumann, (A), 2:21:16
55. Sochocleous Elina, (Cy, 2:21:33
56. Giuliana Tovaglieri, (I), 2:21:38
57. Nadja Walker, (Swi), 2:22:08
58. Saskia Elemans, (Nl), 2:22:12
59. Bernardine Boog Rauwerda, (Nl), 2:22:15
60. Kelli Emmett, (USA), 2:22:37
61. Simonetta Marone, (I), 2:22:44
62. Jindriska Bejstova, (Cz), 2:22:52
63. Katrin Schwing, (G), 2:23:00
64. Janka Stevkova, (Slo)v), 2:23:50
65. Suzy Pryde, (NZ), 2:23:57
66. Sandra Gockert, (G), 2:24:21
67. Daniela Louis, (Swi), 2:24:41
68. Mirjam Dieleman, (Nl), 2:25:12
69. Karen Matamoros, (Cr, 2:25:49
70. Laura Turpijn, (Nl), 2:26:01
71. Jenny Mccauley, (Irl), 2:26:38
72. Evelyn Staffler, (I), 2:27:23
73. Blaza Klemencic, (Slo), 2:27:44