By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
Back in late July at the fourth stop of the NORBA national championship series, Roland Green made it known that he was planning on skipping the two upcoming World Cup races in Europe even though he was the overall leader at the time. Green said he wanted to concentrate on his preparation for September’s world championships in Vail, and though he knew he was giving up something big, it would pay off later.
Well guess what? Turns out Green didn’t give up a thing. On Sunday at the World Cup finals in Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec, the Trek-Volkswagen rider won the tough, technical men’s cross country race, and saw series leader Miguel Martinez blow up like grenade, allowing Green to overtake the diminutive Frenchman in the chase for the overall title.
Green’s win at Mont-Ste-Anne was his second of the season, and gave him 1101 total points. Martinez, meanwhile, faded badly during the final three laps of the seven-lap, 37km race, ending up 36th, 12:42 behind Green. That result dropped the former series leader from first to third with 987 points, while Spain’s Jose Antonio Hermida (Bianchi-Motorex) was third at Mont-Ste-Anne, maintaining his second-place position in the overall, with 1065 points.
Green becomes the first North American to win the overall series title since John Tomac did it way back in 1991, the first year of the series.
“To be honest I had completely wrote it off,” said Green of the prospect of winning the overall. “Opting to stay home was hard decision, but at the time I though it was the right one and now I know it was the right one.”
Making the day even better for Green was the fact that his good friend and training partner Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher) had the best World Cup race of his young career, finishing second, 40 seconds back of Green’s winning time of 1:59:29. Hermida was another 15 seconds behind, followed by Swiss Thomas Hochstrasser (Giant), and yet another Canadian, Haro-Lee Dungarees Seamus McGrath. The podium finish for McGrath was his first ever in a World Cup race.
“I thought I could go top 10 today,” McGrath said. “But I didn’t expect this.”
The early portion of Sunday’s race saw McGrath’s teammate, Michael Rasmussen, sitting up front. The Dane had a 15-second lead heading into the third trip up the course’s only significant climb, a 2km grind up a section of smooth double track. But right behind Rasmussen was an all-star group that included Green, Hesjedal, Martinez, Hermida, and Thomas Frischknecht (Ritchey-Yahoo!).
By the end of the third lap, Green and Martinez had bridged to Rasmussen, and the trio came through the start-finish line 23 seconds ahead of Hesjedal, and three more seconds up on a group that included Hermida, Hochstrasser, Christoph Sauser (Volvo-Cannondale), Lado Fumic (T-Mobile) and McGrath.
But on the fourth trip up the main climb, which came early in each lap, Green pushed away from Martinez and Rasmussen, and cracked a gap he would never relinquish. At the end of the fourth lap Green’s margin was 19 seconds over Martinez. But a lap later, last year’s triple champion – Martinez won Olympic gold, the world championships and the World Cup overall — was in trouble, dropping all the way back to 10th, 1:54 behind Green.
“For a while I was really good,” said Martinez, who had entered the day with a 52-point lead over Hermida, and a 96-point lead over Green. “Then I don’t know. My legs were just finished.”
Green had no such problems, as he motored through the last half of the race, seemingly ready to go a few more laps if necessary.
“I was a little sluggish early,” Green explained. “But my legs really came around. I didn’t even feel them on the last lap. I had no pain at all.”
TISSOT-UCI WORLD CUP CROSS COUNTRY/DOWNHILL/DUAL NO. 8, Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec. August 25-26.; Cross country; Men; 1. Roland Green (Can), Trek Volkswagen, 37.7km in 1:59.29; 2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at :40; 3. Jose Antonio Hermida (Sp), Bianchi-Motorex, at :55; 4. Thomas Hochstrasser (Swi), Giant, at 1:00; 5. Seamus McGrath (Can), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 1:11; 6. Michael Rasmussen (Dk), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 1:14; 7. Christoph Sauser (Swi), Volvo-Cannondale, at 2:24; 8. Lado Fumic (G), T-Mobile, at 2:35; 9. Bart Brentjens (Nl), Giant, at 3:34; 10. Kashi Leuchs (Nz), Volvo-Cannondale, at 3:42; Others;
13. Thomas Frischknecht (Swi), Ritchey-Yahoo!, at 6:00; 14. Chris Sheppard (Can), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 6:28; 16. Ziranda Madrigal (Mex), Turbo, at 6:49; 20. Salvador Barriga (Mex), at 7:57; 24. Peter Wedge (Can), Kona-Ford Focus, at 8:57; 26. Todd Wells (USA), Mongoose-Hyundai, at 9:41; 27. Tinker Juarez (USA), Volvo-Cannondale, at 10:07; 28. Andreas Hestler (Can), Rocky Mountain, at 10:09; 29. Eric Tourville (Can), at 10:36; 30 Jimi Killen (USA), Schwinn, at 10:56; 32. Marc Gullickson (USA), Mongoose-Hyundai, at 11:17; 33. Geoff Kabush (Can), Kona-Ford Focus, at 11:26; 35. Adam Craig (USA), Devo, at 12:01; 36. Miguel Martinez (F), Full Dynamix, at 12:42; 63. Brian Lopes (USA), GT-Fox, -3 laps; 67. Greg Minnaar (SA), Global Racing, -4 laps; — Travis Brown (USA), Trek-Volkswagen, DNF; — Greg Randolph (USA), Tomac, DNF; — Kirk Molday (USA), SunRace-Santa Cruz, DNF; Final overall standings; 1. Green, 1101 points; 2. Hermida, 1065; 3. Martinez, 987; 4. Cadel Evans (Aus), Volvo-Cannondale, 811; 5. Sauser, 793; 6. Julien Absalon (F), Bianchi-Motorex, 759; 7. Brentjens, 705; 8. Leuchs, 693; 9. Roel Paulissen (B), GT, 680; 10. Bas Van Dooren (Nl), Specialized, 655; Other North Americans; 13. Hesjedal, 597; 25. Kabush, 291; 26. McGrath, 287; 43. Hestler, 176; 46. Killen, 154; 47. Juarez, 152