By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
Luna’s Alison Dunlap and Volvo-Cannondale’s Christoph Sauser won the opening stages of the two-day International Cross-Country Omnium, as the pro mountain-bike racing portion of the Telluride 360 Adventure Festival got underway Friday in southwestern Colorado.
In the women’s race, Dunlap turned her three laps around the 5.1-mile loop in 1:45:21, 48 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Shonny Vanlandingham (SoBe-Cannondale). RLX-Polo Sport’s Jimena Florit was another 2:53 behind in third. Mary Grigson (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Katerina Hanusova (Luna) completed the podium.
“I felt terrible in my warm-up but altitude is the great equalizer,” said Dunlap, of the course that started at 9540 feet and had 1100 feet of climbing per lap. “There’s no pressure for me at a race like this, but it’s great to do well because I have so much family that came.”
The Omnium is a two-stage event where riders receive points based on their finish (one point for first, two for second and so on) in Friday’s cross country and Saturday’s short track. The lowest combined score wins the overall title. Short track results will break any ties.
After sitting back for the early portions of the first lap, Dunlap came past early leader Florit, then rode alone at the front for the remainder of the race. At the end of the first lap Dunlap had a 20-second advantage on Florit, with Vanlandingham third at 0:34. But shortly after the women headed up the opening climb of lap 2, Vanlandingham came past Florit, and was nearly a minute up on the Argentinean at the end of that second lap.
“I blew big time,” said Florit. “I started too hard and when Alison came by me and attacked, I couldn’t respond. I knew then I was racing for second.”
But second would soon turn into third, as Vanlandingham put together her best ride in some time after taking time off to mend a torn hip flexor.
“This was the first time I’ve ridden without pain in a long time,” said Vanlandingham, who lives three hours east of Telluride in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
The men’s race wasn’t nearly as close, as reigning Swiss national champion Sauser ran away from the small field, putting 3:24 into second-place finisher and teammate Kashi Leuchs. American Travis Brown (Trek-Volkswagen) was third, at 6:05, followed by Specialized’s Jay Henry and Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher).
“It was a perfect race for me,” said Sauser, who was second at the Grouse Mountain cross-country World Cup last Sunday. “It had a long climb and technical downhills. I rode from the front almost the whole race, but I was always at a comfortable speed.”
“[Sauser] took off right away,” added Leuchs. “No one could hang with him.”
The New Zealander had little trouble hanging onto second, though, as he consistently put time on the chasers during the 4-lap, 20.4-mile race.
Hesjedal sat third at the end of the first lap, but then started a slow fade to fifth, while Brown and Henry moved up.
“Most of us are coming off four weekends in a row of racing,” said Hesjedal referring to a pair of NORBA races that were followed by the two Canadian World Cups. “It’s no easy thing to do that and then come up to this altitude. You just suffer and try to finish the race.” Cross-country racing concludes tomorrow, with the women’s short-track at 3 p.m., then the men at 3:30. Saturday also marks the start of downhill/four-cross World Cup No. 4, with the four-cross set for 7 p.m. The downhill finals start Sunday at 2 p.m.
In its first year, the Telluride 360 Adventure Festival is a weeklong event that also includes an adventure race, rock climbing, trail running and fly-fishing. Originally World Cup mountain biking was not on the festival schedule, but when two other venues cancelled because of financial problems, Telluride stepped in. Organizers had actually wanted to put on a triple event, with a World Cup cross country as well, but because of numerous conflicts with races already scheduled in Europe the UCI declined the overture.
— Haro Lee Dungarees rider Kirt Voreis was taken to the hospital in nearby Montrose to undergo a cat-scan after a hard crash in four-cross practice left him momentarily unconscious.
“He’s lucky he wasn’t wearing his skateboard helmet otherwise he’d probably be a vegetable,” said Haro team manager Mike King, who was behind Voreis on the course when the accident happened.
— Walker Ferguson, who grew up in nearby Norwood and attended Telluride High School, was back racing after taking some time off to heal a broken collarbone. The first day back didn’t go very well, though, as Ferguson DNF’d after double flatting.
Ferguson said he suffered the injury at a road race in Germany, but didn’t realize he was hurt right away.
“I raced both the European World Cups with a broken collarbone,” he said. “I’m feeling better now. Next month I’m planning on doing the Durango NORBA and the Saturn Cycling Challenge (a road race from Boulder to Breckenridge, Colorado).”
— Both the men’s and women’s cross-country races were shortened (from 6 to 4 laps and 5 to 3) after racers and organizers got together in the day’s leading up to the event.
“With all the racing they’ve been doing lately, plus the heat and the altitude here, it just made sense,” said Rick Sutton, whose GaleForce promotion company was one of the driving forces behind the event in Telluride.
Even with the shorter distance, fields for both races were on the small side, with many of the world’s best riders opting to take some time off during one of the few soft spots on the international mountain-bike racing schedule. Twenty-two riders started the women’s race, while 25 men showed up.
— After a few nervous days, downhiller Steve Peat received his 5-year work visa last week, meaning he won’t have to worry about coming in and out of the U.S. anymore. The Orange-England rider is in a tight battle with Australian Chris Kovarik for the World Cup overall title, with Kovarik in first just 43 points ahead of Peat.
TELLURIDE 360 ADENTURE FESTIVAL; Telluride, Colorado; July 12-13; International Cross-Country Omnium; Two-Day Points Race; Cross Country; Women; 1. Alison Dunlap, Luna, 15.3 miles in 1:45:21; 2. Shonny Vanlandingham, SoBe-Cannondale, at 0:48; 3. Jimena Florit (Arg), RLX-Polo Sport, at 3:01; 4. Mary Grigson (Aus), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 4:50; 5. Katerina Hanusova (Czh), Luna, at 6:11; 6. Sue Haywood, Trek-Volkswagen, at 8:02; 7. Melissa Thomas, Ritchie-Roots, at 9:22; 8. Jamie Whitmore-Cardenas, K2-Michelin, at 9:31; 9. Heather Irminger, at 10:36; 10. Katherine Zambrana, Ionic, at 13:47; 11. Gina Hall, Luna, at 14:44; 12. Julie Emmerman, Ritchie-Roots, at 15:11; 13. Sarah Tescher, 3D-Easton, at 18:52; 14. Lyn Damato-Frankliin, Tokyo-Joes, at 19:10; 15. Kelli Emmett, Luna, at 20:22
Men:; 1. Christoph Sauser (Swi), Volvo-Cannondale, 20.4 miles in 1:54:04; 2. Kashi Leuchs (NZ), Volvo-Cannondale, at 3:25; 3. Travis Brown, Trek-Volkswagen, at 6:05; 4. Jay Henry, Specialized, at 6:48; 5. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 9:54; 6. Frank Mapel, Specialized, at 11:19; 7. Marc Gullickson, Mongoose-Hyundai, at 13:51; 8. Carl Swenson, RLX-Polo Sport, at 13:59; 9. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, RLX-Polo Sport, at 14:35; 10. Skyler Reeves, Specialized, at 14:53; 11. Cody Peterson, Cost River, at 16:07; 12. Josh Bezecny, Fox/Dragon, at 16:33; 13. Dave Wiens, RLX-Polo Sport, at 18:44; 14. Jason Moeschler, Giant, at 19:30; 15. Matt Pacocha, Ritchey-Roots, at 20:59