Cyclocross

Cyclo-cross world’s: Who else but Hanka?

She almost wins on intimidation alone. When asked how they assessed their chances at start of the women’s race at the 2001 World Cyclo-cross Championships in Tabor in the Czech Republic, most riders framed their responses in terms of how they might fare against Hanka Kupfernagel. As the sport’s first world champion, the German has come to dominate the relatively young women’s side of cyclo-cross. And, in its second year as a world championship event, Kupfernagel made sure that the biggest competition of the day would be for second place.

Grande, Lloyd earn top-ten spots

A little help from her friends. Kupfernagel celebrates with Germany's biggest fan.

A little help from her friends. Kupfernagel celebrates with Germany’s biggest fan.

Photo: Charles Pelkey

She almost wins on intimidation alone. When asked how they assessed their chances at start of the women’s race at the 2001 World Cyclo-cross Championships in Tabor in the Czech Republic, most riders framed their responses in terms of how they might fare against Hanka Kupfernagel.

As the sport’s first world champion, the German has come to dominate the relatively young women’s side of cyclo-cross. And, in its second year as a world championship event, Kupfernagel made sure that the biggest competition of the day would be for second place.

And it was that race for the remain spots on the world’s podium that saw a tough fight between two Dutch riders, France’s Laurence Leboucher and a surprisingly strong pair of Americans, Ann Grande and Rachel Lloyd.

It has been cold in Tabor for the past few days and this morning showed there would be no change in the weather. A slight dusting of snow and temperatures around freezing made the 2.8km loop on the northern edge of Tabor “slippery but manageable,” said Grande.

Kupfernagel looked comfortable as she rode practice laps in the hour before the 11:00 a.m. start. “I feel pretty good,” she said with a shrug, after testing out the approach to one of the three run-ups. “The weather has been pretty good in Germany and I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road. I also spent a couple of weeks in Majorca training with the under 23 riders of Deutsche Telekom.”

Road work. But watching her technique at the run-ups and barriers showed that 26-year-old Kupfernagel didn’t need a lot of work on her technique.

At the line, the 40 starters bounced in a combination of nervous energy and efforts to fend off the cold. At the gun, the race quickly shaped up as predicted.

True-to-form, Kupfernagel charged from the gun, moving quickly into the top spot, but this time she was surrounded by a trio of orange-clad Dutch riders. Then Lloyd joined the lead bunch. Then Leboucher. Would there be a challenge to Hanka’s dominance? Well, for a while. With Lloyd and the Dutch riders at her heels, Kupfernagel set about to rid herself of company. By the end of the first seven-minute lap, she was alone and began a solo ride to her second world ‘cross title.

With Kupfernagel ahead by 8 seconds, the Netherlands’s Corine Dorland battled with Lloyd for the second spot. The Dutch rider shed her rival on the first run-up, holding a small three-second advantage.

And so it stayed for two of the four laps. Dorland lost time to Kupfernagel, put a bit more on her lead over Lloyd. Leboucher battled for the fourth spot with the Netherlands’s Daphny van den Brand. The Dutch rider passed her French rival and then was joined by Grande, who had been working her way up the field.

“And then I just began to blow,” Lloyd said. “The run-ups got tougher and at one point I thought I had a flat. I looked back and crashed.”

And suddenly it was Grande’s turn for a shot at the podium. Having fought her way through the field, through the field Grande found herself passing her teammate and then moving on into third.

“I would have made it, too,” said Grande. “I had at least third sewn up, but then I had a little crash and (Van den Brand) passed me by.”

Kupfernagel smiled as she relished her second cyclo-cross gold medal. “I was a little worried about the ice,” she said, “but I guess in terms of cyclo-cross, I have a bit more experience. I’ve been accompanying my husband to these for, what, seven or eight years. Sometimes as a mechanic and, whenever, I can, to race.”

And, whenever she races, she does it to win.

Cyclo-cross World ChampionshipsTábor, Czech Republic, Febbruary 3-4, 2001
Women
1. Hanka Kupfernagel (G), 11.495km in 29:04 (24.214kph)
2. Corine Dorland (Nl), at 0:35
3.Daphny van den Brand (Nl), at 0:41
4. Ann Grande (USA), at 0:45
5. Laurence LeBoucher (F), at 0:47
6. Louise Robinson (GB), at 1:02
7. Nicole Cooke (GB), at 1:06
8. Debby Mansveld (Nl), at 1:08
9. Rachel Lloyd (USA), at 1:18
10. Reza Horme-Ravenstijn (Nl), at 2:05.

(40 starters, 34 finishers)