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By Wendy Booher
OFFENBURG, GERMANY — Canada’s Roland Green was the last North American in 2002 to win a world title in mountain biking and, with the World Mountain Bike Championships taking place this year at Mont-Sainte Anne in Quebec, Canada hopes to earn another — but preferably two — world title.
Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) won last year’s World Cup race at Mont Ste Anne and then a week later, her fellow countryman, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis/Rocky Mountain) won the World Cup event at Bromont, an hour east of Montreal. Kabush is no stranger to World Cup podiums, but it was the first time he stood on the very top step.
“Last year at Bromont was definitely a confirmation for me that I can set my goal for the top of the podium,” Kabush said. “I have had lots of World Cup podiums so I knew I could compete but it also helps when certain circumstances play to my favor. Physically I knew I had good form after a third in Mont Ste Anne and when the conditions turned nasty, I got pretty excited. I know what my strengths are and the more technical a track becomes, the better for me.”
It was a rewarding win for Kabush, as few riders earn a World Cup win in their home country.
“Hopefully I can repeat something special this fall at Worlds,” he said.
With the success of North American women on the World Cup, the season so far has no doubt proven inspiring for the men, who have likely grown weary of a certain Julien Absalon (Orbea) who has sailed gallantly to victory over and over again at World Cup races the past several years. During round one at Dalby Forest in Great Britain, Swiss rider Nino Schurter (Scott/Swisspower) claimed victory while Spain’s José Antonio Hermida (Multivan-Merida) returned for round two to score another win at Houffalize, which he also won in 2007. Hermida’s victory in Houffalize earned him the overall leader’s jersey as well.
Kabush, who has so far suffered some less-than-hoped for results due to sickness and some technical problems, has been racing in Belgium and Germany the last couple weeks to get his game back in advance of this weekend’s race.
“On Sunday in Offenburg I am hoping to be able to ride with the lead group and then see what happens from there. I have to have a little luck starting third of fourth row, but I am looking to definitely ride into the top ten. Offenburg is well suited to my abilities so I hope to be a little sharper than at the first couple of World Cups.”
The European racers, who have risen to dominance within the last decade, have given the North American racers something to chase after in recent years. Pendrel and Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) have repeatedly shaken the foundation put up by racers like Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle, Spain’s Margarita Fullana, and Russia’s Irina Kalentieva. But for the North American men, who struggle against massive fields of up to 200 racers and cultures that simply place greater value on mountain bike racing, their perseverance needs to be ten times that of some of their fellow racers.
“There is also something very powerful about the collective energy of a group of people (specifically the North American women) who are rising to the occasion time after time,” Koerber said. “When one person does it, you believe you can too. All energy is contagious and I think we are just on a roll of really being positive.”
Racing in Offenburg for the elite women starts at 10:45 am (CET), followed by the men at 2:30 pm.