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Christoph Sauser wins Andorra World Cup

Julien Absalon (Orbea) can be beaten. After three rounds of the World Cup, when the world champion looked untouchable, he faltered on Saturday in the high altitude conditions in Andorra, while Christoph Sauser gave Specialized their first World Cup victory of the season.

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By Rob Jones

2008 Andorra WC: The start

2008 Andorra WC: The start

Photo: Bodenmueller/cbgphoto.com

Julien Absalon (Orbea) can be beaten. After three rounds of the World Cup, when the world champion looked untouchable, he faltered on Saturday in the high altitude conditions in Andorra, while Christoph Sauser gave Specialized their first World Cup victory of the season.

The race saw one of the closest finishes in recent memory, as Sauser crossed the line a slim eight seconds in front of the phenomenal young South African Burry Stander (GT), with Canada’s Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) only 17 seconds back. American Todd Wells (GT) continues to go from strength to strength, recording his best ever World Cup result with sixth place.

After the rain from the first half of the women’s race, the course was slowly drying by the time the men started their seven lap race — reduced by one lap due to the conditions. U23 World Cup leader Nino Schurter (Swisspower) set a fast pace up the first climb, and by the halfway mark in the first lap there were three Swiss riders off the front — Schurter, Sauser and Florian Vogel (Swisspower).

Vogel and Schurter couldn’t maintain the pace of Sauser, and dropped back to the chase group that was forming behind, with Burry, Wells, Absalon, Italian Marco Fontana, Lukas Fluckiger (Athleticum), Tony Longo (Full Dynamix), Cedric Ravanel (Lapierre), Sergio Gutierrez (Cemelorca) and Jakob Fuglsang (Cannondale-Vredestein). Missing from the group were Jean-Christophe Peraud (Orbea) and Jose Hermida (Multivan-Merida). Peraud suffered a broken chain on the first lap, and Hermida was struggling with the altitude. Both eventually abandoned.

Also missing were Kabush, fellow Canadian Seamus McGrath (Fuji) and Adam Craig (Giant). Kabush and Craig steadily made their way up to the chase group, but McGrath had crashed hard on the first descent, breaking a buckle on his shoe and falling to last place, and eventually abandoning.

While Craig moved up quickly, getting into the top-eight by lap three, Kabush took a slower pace to the front. This proved to be the wiser move, as Craig faded in the final two laps, after almost catching the top five, and eventually finishing 16th.

2008 Andorra WC: Giant's Adam Craig was 16th

2008 Andorra WC: Giant’s Adam Craig was 16th

Photo: Bodenmueller/cbgphoto.com

“I had a bit of a slower start,” explained Kabush, “but I didn’t go as far back as usual, only falling to 16th, so I knew I was on a good pace. I may have actually ridden it a bit too conservative, and could have possibly done even better at the end.”

At the front, Sauser was untouchable; 45 seconds clear by the third lap. The chase was disintegrating into small clumps, with Stander and Fontana dropping the rest, followed by Fluckiger and Wells. By the fifth lap it was Stander on his own, after Fontana suffered a flat. Longo had moved up to join Wells, and Kabush was surging, just behind Wells.

2008 Andorra WC: Geoff Kabush had his best World Cup finish of the season.

2008 Andorra WC: Geoff Kabush had his best World Cup finish of the season.

Photo: Bodenmueller/cbgphoto.com

“I had a real flat period in the fifth lap, which is when Geoff caught me,” said Wells afterwards. “I tried to just limit my losses, and then I was able to recover a bit for the final laps. But that’s how I have to race, put it all out there and try to hang on.”

Meanwhile, Sauser seemed to be slowing, and Stander was catching him; only 15 seconds back early in the sixth lap, with Fluckiger at 90 seconds and Kabush just about to move past him into third. Was Sauser flagging?

“I backed off a bit, and kept it at around 15 or 20 seconds,” explained Sauser, “which made Burry chase harder and use more energy.”

That may have been the strategy, but it backfired when Sauser flatted shortly before the tech zone. Stander went by him and, for the first time, a South African was leading a cross-country World Cup.

2008 Andorra WC: South African Bury Stander was second.

2008 Andorra WC: South African Bury Stander was second.

Photo: Bodenmueller/cbgphoto.com

At the start of the final lap, the race for the win was very tight — Stander led Sauser by 15 seconds, with Kabush only 20 seconds behind the Swiss rider. Could the 20 year old hold off the more experienced Sauser and Kabush for an upset?

2008 Andorra WC: Sauser rolling in for the win

2008 Andorra WC: Sauser rolling in for the win

Photo: Bodenmueller/cbgphoto.com

Unfortunately, not this time, but it was a lot closer than Sauser would have preferred.

“That was hard, very hard,” said Sauser afterwards. “I was quite sure that I could catch him, but it was pretty close and I didn’t get to the front until the last 1500 meters.”

Race Notes

  • Living at altitude definitely seemed to help, with a race that peaked at 2000 meters. Sauser lives at 900 meters, Kabush at 1800 and Todd Wells “higher than this, it wasn’t a factor at all for me.” But then there is Stander who lives at sea level …
  • Kabush, despite the disappointment of not finishing even higher, is well pleased with his form. “This is where I want to be. There is Fort William (Scotland, World Cup #5) next week, then some time to prepare for the Worlds. So I think I can improve some more.”
  • Wells, who had his first top-10 World Cup result, was ecstatic with his season. “This is my best result of my career. I don’t know … I just keep waiting for a race where I will suck, and it isn’t happening.”
  • Absalon still leads the World Cup, with 840 points to Sauser’s 695. Sauser could take the lead next weekend, since Absalon will not be racing. Even if he does, it will be a temporary lead, since the Swiss rider will not attend the two Canadian rounds (Mont Ste Anne and Bromont) in late July. So this opens the opportunity for North Americans like Kabush or Wells to move to the front, depending upon who else skips the Canadian rounds. In the U23 race, Schurter’s lead has dropped to 17 points over Stander, so we may be about to see the first South African World Cup leader in Fort William.

Photo Gallery

Results

Men’s results:

1. Christoph Sauser ((Sui)), Specialized Factory Racing
2. Burry Stander ((RSA)), GT Bicycles / Mongoose Bicycles at 0:09
3. Geoff Kabush ((Can)), Team Maxxis at 0:18
4. Lukas Flückiger ((Sui)), Athleticum-Mtb-Team at 1:09
5. Cédric Ravanel ((Fra)), Team Lapierre International at 1:42
6. Todd Wells ((USA)), GT Bicycles / Mongoose Bicycles at 2:17
7. Tony Longo ((Ita)), Full-Dynamix-It at 2:28
8. Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez ((Esp)), Cemelorca-Seguros10.com at 2:52
9. Inaki Lejarreta Errasti ((Esp)), Orbea at 3:02
10. Fredrik Kessiakoff ((Swe)), Full-Dynamix-It at 3:13
11. Julien Absalon ((Fra)), Orbea at 3:48
12. Roel Paulissen ((Bel)), Cannondale-Vredestein at 3:58
13. Kashi Leuchs ((NZl)), Cannondale-Vredestein at 4:16
14. Jakob Fuglsang ((Den)), Cannondale-Vredestein at 4:24
15. Nino Schurter ((Sui)), Swisspower Mtb Team at 4:34
16. Adam Craig ((USA)), Giant Mountain Bike Team at 4:37
17. Florian Vogel ((Sui)), Swisspower Mtb Team at 4:46
18. Ralph Naef ((Sui)), Multivan Merida Biking Team at 5:01
19. Thomas Frischknecht ((Sui)), Swisspower Mtb Team at 5:12
20. Emil Lindgren ((Swe)), Full-Dynamix-It at 5:20
21. Ruben Ruzafa Cueto ((Esp)), Orbea at 5:30
22. Marti Gispert Labarta ((Esp)), ECP-Tau Ceramica at 5:43
23. Moritz Milatz ((Ger)), Multivan Merida Biking Team at 6:04
24. Christoph Soukup ((Aut)), Fuji at 6:26
25. Milan Spesny ((Cze)), Merida Biking Team at s.t.
26. Matthias Flückiger ((Sui)), Athleticum-Mtb-Team at 6:53
27. Jürg Graf ((Sui)), Swisspower Mtb Team at 7:18
28. Yader Zoli ((Ita)), Giant Italia Team at s.t.
29. Andreas Kugler ((Sui)), Fischer-BMC at 7:33
30. Hannes Metzler ((Aut)), Giant Mountain Bike Team at 7:41
31. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski ((USA)), Subaru-Gary Fisher at 7:53
32. Kristian Hynek ((Cze)), at 8:12
33. Martin Gujan ((Sui)), Athleticum-Mtb-Team at 8:37
34. Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez ((Esp)), Giant Italia Team at 8:48
35. Karl Platt ((Ger)), Team Bulls at 8:59
36. Gion Manetsch ((Sui)), Athleticum-Mtb-Team at 9:47
37. Manuel Fumic ((Ger)), Fumic.Brothers.International at 9:49
38. Jochen Kass ((Ger)), Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike at 9:54
39. Bas Peters ((Ned)), at 9:59
40. Samuel Schultz ((USA)), Subaru-Gary Fisher at 10:10
41. Jeremiah Bishop ((USA)), Trek-VW at 10:31
42. Dario Alejandro Gasco ((Arg)), Massi at 10:37
43. Marco Aurelio Fontana ((Ita)), Hard Rock Frw at 10:46
44. Nicola Rohrbach ((Sui)), Central Ghost Pro Team at 10:58
45. Bart Brentjens ((Ned)), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike Racing Team at 11:11
46. Andras Parti ((Hun)), at 11:30
47. Maxime Marotte ((Fra)), BH-SR. Suntour at 11:41
48. Martin Fanger ((Sui)), at 11:50
49. Jiri Friedl ((Cze)), Merida Biking Team at 12:01
50. Marc Colom ((Fra)), at 12:23
51. Klaus Nielsen ((Den)), Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike at 12:40
52. Chris Jongewaard ((Aus)), Dolphin-Trek Mountainbike Racing Team at 12:50
53. Stéphane Tempier ((Fra)), Gewiss Bianchi at 12:58
54. Paul Van Der Ploeg ((Aus)), at 13:05
55. Pierre Geoffroy Plantet ((Fra)), Team Lapierre International at 13:10
56. Andrea Tiberi ((Ita)), Giant Italia Team at 13:21
57. Lado Fumic ((Ger)), Fumic.Brothers.International at 13:53
58. Michael Broderick ((USA)), at 14:11
59. Jonathan Galante ((Fra)), at 14:27
60. Israel Nunez Baticon ((Esp)), Massi at 14:58
61. Javier Eduardo Puschel ((Chi)), at 15:15
62. Guillaume Vinit ((Fra)), Scott Valloire Galibier at 15:39
63. Fabien Canal ((Fra)), Team Lapierre International at -1Lap
64. Nicolas Vermeulen ((Bel)), Lingier-Versluys Team at s.t.
65. Oriol Morata Abril ((Esp)), at s.t.
66. Alexis Chenevier ((Fra)), at s.t.
67. François Bailly Maitre ((Fra)), Scott Valloire Galibier at s.t.
68. Sid Taberlay ((Aus)), at s.t.
69. Marco Minnaard ((Ned)), Beone Chainreaction Mountainbiketeam at s.t.
70. Vivien Legastelois ((Fra)), Team Lapierre International at s.t.
71. Robert Gehbauer ((Aut)), Multivan Merida Biking Team at s.t.
72. Josef Kamler ((Cze)), Ceska Sporitelna MTB at s.t.
73. Lachlan Norris ((Aus)), at -2Laps
74. Mathieu Toulouse ((Can)), Team Maxxis at s.t.
75. Anders Hovdenes ((Nor)), Team Etto Hoydahl at s.t.
76. Alejandro Diaz De La Pena Lopez ((Esp)), at s.t.
77. Lee Williams ((GBr)), at s.t.
78. Jeremy Mounier ((Fra)), at s.t.
79. Marc Trayter Alemany ((Esp)), ECP-Tau Ceramica at s.t.
80. Giuseppe Lamastra ((Ita)), at s.t.
81. Carlos Coloma Nicolas ((Esp)), ECP-Tau Ceramica at s.t.
82. Ji Jianhua ((Chn)), at s.t.
83. Sébastien Le Naour ((Fra)), Breiz Mountain at s.t.
84. Matous Ulman ((Cze)), at s.t.
85. Christof Bischof ((Sui)), at s.t.
86. Tim Bohme ((Ger)), Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike at -3Laps
87. Kohei Yamamoto ((Jpn)), at s.t.
88. Freddy Betremieux ((Fra)), BH-SR. Suntour at s.t.
89. Paul Gaillard ((Fra)), at s.t.
90. Ian Field ((GBr)), at s.t.
91. Hugo Navarian ((Fra)), Team Cibf Keops at s.t.
92. Luka Kodra ((Slo)), at s.t.
93. Ludovic Mottet ((Bel)), Windose Houffalize at s.t.
94. Jo Thorson Nordskar ((Nor)), Team Etto Hoydahl at s.t.
95. Chun Hing Chan ((Hkg)), at s.t.
96. Alexandre Geniez ((Fra)), at s.t.
97. Benoît Thyreault ((Fra)), Team Cibf Keops at -4Laps
98. Joel Martinez Fernandez ((And)), at s.t.
99. Ricardo Hazbun Velasquez ((Chi)), at s.t.
100. Pierre Fuseau ((Fra)), Team Cibf Keops at s.t.
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