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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
I didn’t have a lot to say about anything this week, so I decided to run with the short-attention-span special.
No Snowmass to replace Telluride
Regarding the fate of the cancelled Telluride World Cup, all the talk at Big Bear was that a Colorado-based promoter was in talks with the UCI and that there was a good chance the event would end up at Snowmass, a ski area near Aspen. Well, we got a call Wednesday morning from the promoter, CycleCyndicate’s Eric Jean, and he said that it just wasn’t going to work out.
“We couldn’t make it happen financially,” Jean told me. “We needed about $225,000, and we’d only been able to raise about $125,000.”
On a positive note, Jean said that he’s reasonably certain that Snowmass will make a run at hosting a World Cup or NORBA NCS race next year. As for the chances of the Telluride event ending up somewhere else this year, Jean said he got the impression that the UCI was out of options.
U.S. Olympic starts imperiled
At long last, the UCI has finally released a set of updated nation rankings, and as expected the U.S. men are not a lock to get more than one starting spot for the Olympics. As it stands now, the Yanks are 12th with Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark rounding out the all-important top 15. If the Americans can hold onto that spot, they’ll get to send two riders to Athens in 2004 – but fall below Denmark and it’s just one. Meanwhile the top five, who will get three riders each, includes Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Canada and Switzerland. Germany is in the sixth spot.
On the women’s side, the U.S. has a battle on its hands if it wants to send three riders like it did in 2000. Right now, the Americans are fourth behind Germany, Canada and Switzerland. Only the top three nations get three riders in the 30-woman field.
The rankings are determined on the basis of the three best riders from each nation ranked among the first 100 men or first 60 women in the UCI mountain-bike individual ranking.
Hesjedal calls his shot
Anyone who watched the finish of the men’s cross country in Big Bear closely noticed Ryder Hesjedal doing a little number-signing as he crossed the finish line. Despite his proximity to the legendary gang epicenter in Los Angeles, Hesjedal was not cryptically shouting out to his homeys. He flashed the numbers 2, 0, 0, 4, as in 2004, the year of the next Summer Olympics. I suppose if he wins that cross-country race – which is certainly possible – we can all look back on Big Bear ‘03 like some kind of Babe Ruth-called-shot kind of thing.
Wanted: a Hot Seat, cheap
If you happened to be at the downhill finals, you may have noticed that unlike in years past, the rider at the bottom of the hill with the current fastest time had nowhere to sit. Yes, there was no Hot Seat. Now I know that in the past the Hot Seat was somehow tied into one of the NCS sponsors, and, there aren’t many of those this year. But I gotta believe somewhere in Big Bear there was an old couch that could have worked. Heck, I bet Big Bear is one of the nation’s leaders in clapped-out-couches-per capita.
Roadie-turned-dirtie due to win one
There was a ton of new faces making noise over the weekend, but for my money the rider to watch is T-Mobile’s Kim Anderson. Despite still being substantially committed to road racing, Anderson finished third in the cross country and sixth in the short track. And the STXC result could have been far better if Anderson didn’t spend the first half of the race clawing her way back from a terrible start position. Look for Anderson at the rest of the NORBA races, and I say she wins at least one before the season ends.
Horgan-Kobelski and Wells tear it up
They’ve been our whipping boys of choice for a couple years now, so gotta be fair and give props to Americans Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Todd Wells, who both had solid weekends in SoCal. Wells made the cross-country podium for the first time in his career, and was third in the short track. Horgan-Kobelski was fourth in the cross country and second in the short track. The big test will come this weekend, though, when the two Colorado residents get to mix it up with the World Cuppers. Don’t expect more podium placings, as both will be too far back in the start grid. But a top 15 for either isn’t out of the question.
JHK skips the booty call
It certainly had the potential for problems, but running the men’s and women’s cross-country races concurrently actually came off quite well. The races finished about 10 minutes apart and no one seemed to be complaining about having to share the course. The best line came from Horgan-Kobelski, who among others passed his girlfriend, Ritchey-K2 pro Heather Irmiger, who finished 18th.
“I thought about slapping her in the ass, but then I thought about what would happen if that scared her and we both crashed,” he said. “How do you explain that one?” Good call….
Sick Mick goes slick
Couldn’t help but notice that Haro’s Mick Hannah completed his downhill run with nothing but a skinsuit, helmet, gloves – and no other protection of any kind. Guess if you can pull it off – which he did – then more power to ya. But it also seems like a steep risk to take. Go down with that little on, and the docs will probably have to carve up your backside for skin grafts just to make you whole again.
Words of wisdom from Palms
Among other things, Eric Carter credited some advice he got from the venerable Shaun Palmer when explaining his surprise downhill win. “He kept telling me to just let go,” Carter recalled, “and stop being such a p—-.”
World Cup picks
Pick time for World Cup cross country at St. Wendel, Germany, this weekend. Taking a big risk on the women’s side and calling Marga Fullana. The spindly Spaniard has basically been unbeatable the last few years, so until that changes, got to stick with her. The men are a lot tougher, but I’ll take a shot with Christoph Sauser. He was strong early last year winning round 2 at Houffalize.