By Kip Mikler, VeloNews Editor
If the spring storm parked over the San Francisco Bay area doesn’t move out soon, it could be a gloomy start, weather-wise, to the 2001 Tissot-UCI World Cup series, which kicks off in Napa, California, this weekend. The amateur riders will slog it out in the rain on Friday, before the pro action — featuring all but one of the six medallists from the 2000 Olympic Games — starts Saturday.
A little rain — or in this case, a lot — won’t put much of a damper on an event held at the most elegant of World Cup venues, the Domaine Chandon winery. This year marks the fifth year that the series will start in the Napa Valley.
The four-mile circuit at Domaine Chandon has had a bit of a facelift since its debut last year, when some riders criticized it for being too rough. The track’s had a year to be broken in, but still retains its general characteristics: lots of single-track and jarring, angled rocks. In weather like this, however, the rocky nature of the course is beneficial. As event director Rick Sutton points out, all those rocks help drain water.
U.S. pro Peter Swenson, captain of a new outfit sponsored by Tokyo Joe’s, agreed. After a preview lap, Swenson reported that the course is holding up well under the heavy rain. The start, he said, will be key.
Which brings us to the time trial. “Call-up” for Sunday’s cross-country race will be determined by finishing times in a time trial, scheduled for Saturday. Starting with the lowest ranked riders from 2000, and working up to the defending World Cup champions — Miguel Martinez (Full Dynamix) and Barbara Blatter (Specialized) — every registered pro will race one lap around the course against the clock. Finishing times will determine the order in which they are called to the start line at Sunday’s cross-country race.
In addition to giving spectators another opportunity to see their favorite riders go at, this NASCAR-inspired format means rider’s will have to show good form on the weekend’s course, rather than rely on a high overall rankings. So Olympic champion Paola Pezzo — spotted munching appetizers and chatting up fans at a party in nearby Marin County at Gary Fisher’s house Thursday night — can’t afford to go easy in the time trial.
It all starts Saturday, 1:30 p.m., with the women’s time trial. The pro cross-country races will be held Sunday. Check out VeloNews.com for complete race reports throughout the weekend.