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Koerber and Kalentieva Duke It Out in Dalby Forest

Reigning World Champ Irina Kalentieva outlasts Willow Koerber, who finished third at Worlds, in World Cup #1 in England. Katerina Nash and other riders on American-based teams dominate top-10.

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RESULTS (Listed below men’s results)

Men’s race report

Women on American-based teams showed good legs at the first World Cup cross-country race of the 2010 season, snagging seven top-ten spots at Dalby Forest in England on Sunday.

Reigning World Champ Irina Kalentieva celebrates her win at the first World Cup XC race of the season in England. Courtesy photo
Reigning World Champ Irina Kalentieva celebrates her win at the first World Cup XC race of the season in England. Courtesy photo

While reigning World MTB champ Irina Kalentieva of the German Topeak-Ergon team topped the field, Willow Koerber, second (Subaru-Gary Fisher); Katerina Nash, third (Luna Pro Team); Georgia Gould, fourth (Luna Pro Team); Catharine Pendrel, sixth (Luna Pro Team); Marie-Helene Premont, eighth (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain); Heather Irmiger, ninth (Subaru-Gary Fisher); and Lene Byberg tenth (Specialized Factory Racing) all race on American teams.

Irmiger set the pace early, but it was Koerber, who came in third at last year’s Worlds behind Byberg, and reigning world champion Kalentieva who dominated the proceedings. Their battle stretched the field and kept a big crowd attentive well into the fourth and final lap, with Kalentieva sealing the win in the final run in to the finish.

Kalentieva won the women’s 36km, five-lap race with a time of 1h 54min 57s, 11 seconds ahead of Koerber.

The Race

After the usual frenetic start, Irminger was first towards the end of the start loop. Koerber was close behind her, with Eva Lechna and Kalentieva also well placed in a tight front group.

Keorber, Irminger and Kaleniteva had worked a small gap over the rest of the field, though they stalled and lost time on the short technical climb in front of a growing crowd. Fourth was Nash with Julie Bresset from France in fifth and that was the order as they went over the line at the end of the first full lap.

As the riders flew out onto lap two, Koerber was looking fluid and pushing her two companions as the slalomed through the Adderstone loop singletrack, though she lost her lead to Kalentieva as she took the easy, but longer, line past a technical drop, with Irminger cruising in third. Nash was on her own in fourth, four seconds down, with a further ten second gap back to the rest of the chasers.

The shape of the race suddenly changed half way through the second lap, with the Medusa’s Drop complex and following climb to the top of the course giving Koerber the chance to apply more pressure. Irminger was the first to crack and Kalentieva had also dropped back a few lengths, though she had worked her way back into the American’s company as they approached the end of the lap.

A chasing group of four formed as the race went out onto the third lap, some 20 seconds down, with Lechner, Bressett, Nash and Irminger trying to work together to bring the leaders back.

Lap three saw Koerber pushing hard in the lead, with Kalentieva, appearing to find things tough, just hanging on to her wheel at times. Meanwhile the chasing group had swelled to six riders, with Gould and Switzerland’s Katrin Leumann having joined them.

The crowd was really beginning to get involved as once again Kalentieva chose to ride the Worry Gill drop, with Koerba losing the lead going around the safer, but longer, route and enduring some good-natured booing for her cautious approach. The American had clearly made a tactical decision to use the safer route and accept the couple of seconds a lap it lost her.

However, Kalentieva and Koerber had stretched things out again as they went over the line as they began their penultimate lap and they had a lead of over half a minute over a changed chasing group now comprising Nash, Irminger, Leumann, Bressett and Gould.

The third lap saw something of a lull in the action as Kalentieva and Koerber held the chasers at bay, apparently content to work together and cement their lead. Behind them the pressure was being felt and the chasing group was beginning to fall apart. However, the battle for the lead ramped up again as the riders came to the final kilometer or so of the lap. Kalentieva had pulled out a small gap over Koerber.

Going out onto the final lap, Kalentieva had five seconds lead over Koerber, with a chasing trio of Luna teammates Gould and Pendrel – who made a big move in the second half of the race – and Nash still at about half a minute but increasingly battling for the third podium spot, with the leaders out of reach.

At Worry Gill, the leaders were back together and once again Kalentieva took the shorter route down the drop and took a couple of seconds lead as Koerber went the long way round.

Kalentieva flashed through Worry Gill for the final time, with a handful of seconds to spare over Koerber. The world champion then built her lead steadily up though the Rabbit Run and by the time she came into Dixon’s Hollow for the final time she was assured of the win. Koerber came in 11 seconds later.

Nash claimed third at 28 seconds, out-sprinting Gould who took fourth whilst under-23 rider Julie Bressett rounded out the top five at 53 seconds.

“I feel good. I won the race. It was hard, very hard and I’m very happy. Willow was stronger in the uphills but I felt good in the downhills. With two kilometers to go, I pushed everything I have and won the race,” Kalentieva said.

Koerber was equally pleased with her best World Cup result to date.

“Yes, I’m really happy,” Koerber said. “We had a great race and it came down to the last lap. She’s world champ for a reason. It’s and honor to have been riding out there with her.”

Homepage photo Rob Jones