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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
Add two-time Olympic champion Paolo Pezzo to the growing list of riderswho are setting their sites on the first-ever mountain-biking marathonworld championship. And don’t be surprised if Pezzo follows that with arun at a third Olympic title in the summer of 2004.
According to Gary Fisher’s Dean Gore, while Pezzo will not be “an officialmember of the Subaru-Fisher team” this season, she will be “structuringher own European-based program that will focus on European Grand Fondosand marathon events, with the new UCI sanctioned marathon world championshipsdate highlighted on her calendar.”
This is especially noteworthy, considering Pezzo retired from high-levelracing following the 2000 season, then gave birth to her first child —a boy named Kevin — last fall. But now it appears the 33-year-old Italianis feeling the lure of racing once again.
“With the marathon worlds as the major goal of the summer, Paola willhave the chance to test her resolve and motivation to juggle motherhoodand high level training,” Gore added. “[That will leave] the decision toattempt to win a third straight Olympic gold medal until this fall or winter.”
The world’s marathon race is slated for August 31, the Sunday beforethe rest of the mountain bike world championship events commence in Lugano,Switzerland. The new event will be a point-to-point cross-country racethat covers a minimum distance of 60km, starting from Via Ciani and endingat Cornaredo Stadium. Other notable riders who are targeting the marathonmedal include American Tinker Juarez and Canadian Leslie Tomlinson.
SHONNY ON THE MEND
Luna cross-country pro Shonny Vanlandingham still doesn’t know whethershe’ll be ready come the NORBA season opener at Big Bear, but she doesknow she’d rather not do any more fat boy criteriums. Vanlandingham brokeher collarbone last weekend at the Sea Otter crit when “at least one rider— maybe three or four — went down in front of me.” Vanlandingham said shehad no time to avoid the carnage, and ran into one of the downed riders,which sent her flipping over her bars.
“I landed on my head and shoulder, cracked my helmet and had a gashin my head,” she recalled. “I had to get seven staples to close that upand they were worried about my neck so they took me off the course on agurney.”
As for her recovery timetable, Vanlandingham said she’s due to haveanother set of X-rays this week, but probably wouldn’t know for sure foranother week or so. “I still hoping I can get back for Big Bear,” she saidof the event that starts a month from today on May 15. “That’s the best-casescenario, though.”
Vanlandingham also had planned on hitting the opening swing of the WorldCup series in Europe, but that too is now up in the air. “Right now it’sback to the trainer,” she said. “That’s all I can worry about.”
THE GODS ARE AGAINST THEM
If Vanlandingham’s injury wasn’t bad enough, things got even worsefor Luna when it’s other new-for-2003 signee, Kathy Pruitt, broke her collarboneduring mountain cross practice. The two injuries happened within 45 minutesof each other.
Pruitt was attempting to ride the men’s line, overshot one of the landings,and with her front end pointed down, went straight over the bars, landingsquarely on her collarbone. Like Vanlandingham the hope is that the formerjunior world downhill champion will be back by Big Bear.
NOW TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL
Obviously Vanlandingham wasn’t the biggest fan of Sea Otter’s fat boycriterium, and her teammate Alison Dunlap called it “stupid and dangerous,”but some of the most colorful commentary came from Canadian pro Chris Sheppard,who had this to say in his post-race report, which he e-mails out to friendsand family.
“Whoever thought it would be cool for mountain bikers to ride arounda paved circuit must have been sniffing glue,” Sheppard wrote. “Fifty minutesof being scared shitless is not fun.”
HOLD ON TO THAT DAY JOB
No one expected him to win, but with a reputation as a hard-man, youfigured Specialized pro Filip Meirhaeghe might have lasted a little longerat is this year’s Paris-Roubaix road race. But the former winner of themountain bike version of P-R punctured on the first cobblestone section,then broke his stem and crashed out. Of course he wasn’t alone. Of the190 starters, only 63 finished.
“When I was chasing in the caravan [after the puncture], my stem brokeand I hit the ground hard,” the Belgian told Het Laatste Nieuws,one of his country’s major daily newspapers.
Fortunately for Meirhaeghe, his injuries were limited to bumps and bruises.And with the opening of the mountain bike World Cup still more than a monthaway, the 2002 overall World Cup champion will continue racing on the roadfor Specialized-sponsored Domina Vacanze, hitting the Amstel Gold Race,Flèche Wallonne and Liége-Bastogne-Liége.
FLATS NO MORE?
After years of being one of the only top-level gravity racers to rideflat pedals in competition, Australian Chris Kovarik was seen clipped inat the Sea Otter races. “I tried racing with SPD pedals for the first timein this race,” Kovarik said after his mountain cross win. “It kinda takessome time getting used to the fact your feet are locked-in. I’ve been tryingdifferent equipment, and thought that they might help.”
According to Intense team director Jeff Steber, the Aussie experimentedwith clipless pedals during the offseason and will probably use them atat least some of this year’s races. “He thinks it may help him find someextra power and he pulled some pretty bold passes, so I think we’ll seehim clipped in more,” said Steber.
In other Intense team news, Sabrina Jonnier missed out on the Sea Otteraction because of a broken right wrist and middle finger she suffered duringa training run crash back home in France. “She went to the same doctorNico used to use,” said Steber. “She should be okay for Big Bear. Therehasn’t been any swelling or pain.”
Just one race into the 2003 season and already there’s been a mechanicchange with the RLX Ralph Lauren team. Out is former SoBe-Cannondale wrenchMatt Bottomley, in is Dan Crean, a Denver resident who filled in for theteam at Napa in 2001. Team manger Dave Wiens had no specific reason forthe change other than to say “Matt just didn’t work out.”
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