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Cyclists Endure Gruelling Conditions at Calgary World Cup

July 05, 2004

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Pacific Sport cyclist Alison Sydor



Report brought to you with the support of Vélirium 2004 and ORYX (training for cyclists)

Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) and Gunn-Rita Dahle (Merida) may have won the races at World Cup #6 on Saturday, but the real battle was behind them, as the Canadian and American riders battled it out for Olympic spots. While the women's team was all but decided (Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) needed a podium ahead of Kiara Bisaro (GearsRacing.com) to have a chance of displacing her), the men's second spot was open, with Seamus McGrath (Haro-Adidas), Roland Green (Trek-VW) and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) all battling it out. In the end, McGrath put in one of the finest rides of his career, under extreme conditions to lock down the Olympic spot and join Ryder Hesjedal (PacSport Mountain bike program and Subaru-Gary Fisher) for Athens.

The 5.5 kilometre course was not technical, and without major climbs. However, there was a lot of singletrack to make passing hard if you weren't at the front and, if the ground got wet, large portions of the clay-based track would turn into slippery and wheel-clogging glue. It had rained most of the night before the race, so the women started their five lap race (plus a 1 kilometre start loop) with a tough decision - start with semi-slick tires for speed, and hope that it dried out quickly, or go for slower mud tires, and hope that you wouldn't get stuck with a big speed disadvantage as the track dried out.

Chrissy Redden opted for fast tires. "Bad tire choice. It didn't dry out as quickly as I thought it would back in the woods, and I was all over the trail in the early laps." Despite that, she ended the start loop in good position - seventh place - as the leaders charged into the first full lap.

Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) was second behind Barb Blatter (Specialized) after the start loop, and moved into the lead on the first climb, but then disaster struck, in the form of German rider Yvonne Kraft (Ghost Racing), who is rapidly becoming her nemesis (Kraft got into a shoving match with Sydor in Madrid at the first World Cup and received a warning).

This time "I backed off slightly before the siingletrack because Gunn-Rita was coming up behind me, and I wanted to get on her wheel. It's just proper etiquette to let the faster rider through. But she (Kraft) squeezed by me at a bad moment and then promptly crashed. I crashed into her and we fell off the trail, all tangled up and went down over the bank. It took a little bit of time to get untangled and I lost about 12 spots. Riders should show some respect for others when they are racing." Sydor would gradually recover to finish 8th.

At the front, it was the Dahle show, as always, with the Norwegian enroute to her tenth straight victory (not consecutive, because she skipped Schladming, Austria). As Dahle cruised away to yet another victory, there was an unexpected face moving up to second - U.S. national champion Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles), who was having the race of her life, and all but assuring herself of the lone U.S. start spot for women at Athens. McConneloug's Olympic rival, Sue Haywood (Trek-VW) was not having as good a day, eventually finishing 15th. She still has an outside chance of overtaking McConneloug, but it will take a superb day for her at the Marathon Worlds (Bad Goisern, Austria), and a very bad day for McConneloug.

Behind, Italian national champion Annabella Stropparo rode steadily in third, while Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) recovered from a slow start to move up to, and eventually finish in fourth place.

"The first two laps I over paced myself, and my legs were hurting too much; I think the altitude was a bit of a problem for me. After that, I was okay and was able to move up a bit. Now it is just good that the pressure is over and we can prepare for Athens."

Bisaro felt the same way, after overtaking Redden in the last two laps, shortly after the Subaru-Gary Fisher rider had to stop and remove a branch from her front wheel.

"Today was mostly about watching Chrissy for me. I had a little trouble with the start - I was so nervous - and she got ahead of me. But I was staying in touch, and I passed her on the hill. I definitely wasn't sharp today, though."

Redden, an Olympian in Sydney, was disappointed but philosophical about not making her second Olympic team. "By the end of the third lap I was doing okay, but it was bad tire choice - I had a semi-slick on the front, and I couldn't even go in a straight line. The last two laps started to dry out and I could do better, but then I got a log in my front wheel; I lost a minute and probably four spots. I just lost it mentally at that point. It's very disappointing, but I had such a difficult season, being sick in Europe. Life goes on."

Courtesy Canadian cyclist www.canadiancyclist.com


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