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MTB News and Notes: Here comes Pezzo; Hermida on the move

The only woman to ever win Olympic cross-country gold is looking to keep it that way. Two-time Olympic champion Paolo Pezzo recently met with several key members of the Italian cycling federation and has committed herself to making a run at next year’s cross-country race in Athens, Greece. Pezzo, the winner at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, retired from high-level racing following the 2000 season, then gave birth to her first child — a boy named Kevin — in the fall of 2002. But now the 34-year-old Italian is feeling the lure of racing once again. “I am very happy with this choice,” said

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

The only woman to ever win Olympic cross-country gold is looking to keep it that way. Two-time Olympic champion Paolo Pezzo recently met with several key members of the Italian cycling federation and has committed herself to making a run at next year’s cross-country race in Athens, Greece.

Pezzo, the winner at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, retired from high-level racing following the 2000 season, then gave birth to her first child — a boy named Kevin — in the fall of 2002. But now the 34-year-old Italian is feeling the lure of racing once again.

“I am very happy with this choice,” said Pezzo.

Besides her Olympic titles, Pezzo is a two-time world champion (1993, 1997), and she has 13 World Cup wins, good enough for third on the all-time list.

Pezzo’s win at the Sydney games included a bit of controversy, as the Italian bumped then-race leader Marga Fullana during the late stages of the contest, knocking Fullana down during what was the race-deciding pass. Fullana, who ended up third behind Barbara Blatter, filed a protest, but officials chose to let the results stand.

Hermida signs with Merida
The rich got richer this week with the announcement that the German-based Merida mountain-bike team has inked a deal with cross-country ace Jose Antonio Hermida. This brings to end the Spaniard’s run with the Motorex-Bianchi team, which included his only World Cup win, at the 2001 season opener at Napa Valley, California.

Hermida joins the likes of Gunn-Rita Dahle, Sabine Spitz and Ralph Näf. Dahle won the world title in 2002 then uncorked an unprecedented five-race sweep of the 2003 World Cup season. Spitz, meanwhile, won the world title this year at Lugano, Switzerland, and Näf was fourth at world’s and took the title at the European Championships.

Hermida was third at the European championships this year, fourth in the final World Cup standings and 13th at world’s. He currently sits 10th in the UCI cross-country rankings.

Sauser breaks collarbone
Swiss rider Christoph Sauser checked in with VeloNews on Thursday with some bad news. Turns out the Siemens-Cannondale rider broke his collarbone during a recent training ride.

“I’m having a pretty hard time writing,” he said. “[The accident happened] on one of my favorite trails near my hometown. I could not control my speed on the very wet roots any more, and I hit the ground hard. At least I could walk to a farmer’s house nearby and he gave me a lift home. From there it was not far to hospital. I can’t ride for one month, but I am still ready to go for my Morocco camping holiday in two days for three and a half weeks.”