By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
After much deliberation, American Alison Dunlap has decided to take a pass on next week’s world mountain-bike championships in Switzerland, not wanting to risk further injury to the shoulder she separated in a crash at NORBA No. 2 in mid-June.
“Technically it’s healed, but it’s only been nine weeks,” Dunlap explained. “It’s still slow and tentative. The big fear is crashing and re-injuring it. If that happened and I was out for the winter, then there go the Olympics.”
Dunlap admitted that she struggled with the decision, and as late as Wednesday morning was still thinking about making the trip to Europe where she would have raced in this weekend’s Swiss Cup event, before heading to Lugano for the world championships.
“It’s been really hard because I’m a competitor and I love to race my bike,” she said. “But this is the right decision. It feels good; it feels smart.”
Instead Dunlap will turn her focus to the upcoming cyclo-cross season, where she’ll attempt to regain the national title, a crown she owned for five straight years before taking a year off from ’cross last season. Dunlap is also planning on contesting the world cyclo-cross championships in France at the end of January.
“The goal is to get as much racing as possible to make up for what I’ve lost over the last couple months,” Dunlap said. “Cyclo-cross is the perfect way to make up for what I’ve missed.”
The crash that put Dunlap out for the bulk of the mountain-bike season occurred during the cross-country race at Snowshoe, West Virginia on June 14 when the Luna pro went over her handlebars and separated her shoulder. Initially it was called a third degree separation, but when Dunlap got back home to Colorado Springs doctors told her it was actually a fourth degree and that without surgery she wouldn’t be able to race at an elite level again.
“I’m losing out on a lot of UCI points [by not going to world’s],” she conceded. “But if I can come back strong next year and race like I always have then everything will be okay.”
No marathon for Gunn-Rita or Paola
Meanwhile, in other world championship news event organizers announced Thursday that both Gunn-Rita Dahle and Paola Pezzo had withdrawn from this coming weekend’s marathon world championship race.
The two-time Olympic champion Pezzo retired from high-level racing following the 2000 season, then gave birth to her first child — a boy named Kevin — last fall. But in April of this year the Italian said she was thinking seriously about contesting the first-ever world’s marathon race.
But at a press conference this week Pezzo revealed that her fitness wasn’t where she wanted it to be. “I really regret it,” she said. ”But I always said that I would take part in the marathon only if I felt myself to be very competitive.”
Pezzo added that in training she was able to go hard for three hours, but lost strength after that.
As for Dahle, her focus all along has been on repeating as world cross-country champion, and though she considered contesting the marathon, she decided it would be too much of a risk.
“I don’t think I would be able to recover in such a short time,” said Dahle of the week between the marathon and cross-country races.