Kovarik and Moseley storm to victory in South Africa

Kurschat and Wloszczowska win MTN Cup cross-country

Aussie Chris Kovarik and Great Britain's Tracy Moseley put in storming runs on the World Cup downhill course in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, to top the podium in the fourth round of the MTN National MTB Cup.

The pair have set the pace for this weekend's (11-12 April) first Nissan UCI World Cup round of 2009, which is being held on the same course.

In the cross-country, it was German Wolfram Kurschat who won a surprise victory, while Olympic silver medallist Maja Wloszczowska of Poland took the women's win.

Men's downhill

After qualifying first in 4:00.42, Chris Kovarik (ChainReactionCycles.com/Intense) went on to take the win with a second run time of 3:56.09, ahead of local hero Andrew Neethling (Trek World Racing) on 3:58.54.

Great Britain’s Marc Beaumont (GT Racing) was third in 3:59.36 and the last of the riders to beat the four-minute mark.

Kovarik’s second run was more than four seconds quicker than his first, which ironically, he put down to using his brakes more.

He said: “On my first run I slid out a few times on corners which I felt cost me some time. So on the second run I braked more into the corners and it made for a smoother and faster run.”

It was Kovarik's first race on his new Intense Evo. He said: "The bike was working awesome today and I couldn't have been happier.

Australia’s chris kovarik was one of only three riders to break four minutes for the 2.8km downhill course: australia’s chris kovarik was one of only three riders to break four minutes for the 2.8km downhill course
Australia’s chris kovarik was one of only three riders to break four minutes for the 2.8km downhill course: australia’s chris kovarik was one of only three riders to break four minutes for the 2.8km downhill course

Australia’s Chris Kovarik completed the 2.8km course in 3:56.09 to take the win

"This was a pedally track and I needed to see where my fitness was at considering my last race was in November last year. This was a good gauge and proved the winter training has paid off."

He added: “I’m really happy to have won today. It’s been ages since I last did a race so to win on the first competitive outing of the new season is quite a boost for my confidence."

Two-time world champion Fabien Barel of France missed Sunday’s race following a crash in practice on Friday that dislocated his knee and may see him miss next week’s World Cup.

World Cup champion Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who lives in Pietermaritzburg, opted to spend the weekend in Cape Town to ease the pre-race pressure on him ahead of next week’s World Cup opener.

South africa’s andrew neethling on his way to second place in the men’s downhill: south africa’s andrew neethling on his way to second place in the men’s downhill
South africa’s andrew neethling on his way to second place in the men’s downhill: south africa’s andrew neethling on his way to second place in the men’s downhill

South Africa’s Andrew Neethling on his way to second place in the men’s downhill race

Women's downhill

In the women’s race, Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) had two almost identical runs. Her second was just nine-hundredths of a second quicker than the first and gave her a winning time of 4:34.50.

She was six seconds ahead of Canadian Claire Buchar (ChainReactionCycles.com/Intense) with Frenchwoman Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Centre) rounding out the top three positions.

“We had three of the top six riders in the world here today, so it’s a good result for me,” said Moseley. “It’s good to get a race like this ahead of the World Cup because you never go as fast in practice as you do in a race so it’s good to be able to see where I can still improve.”

Great Britain’s Tracy Moseley won the women’s race

Men's cross-country

Wolfram Kurschat stunned the favourites to secure a dominant victory in the cross-country race on Saturday. After a poor start, the 34-year-old German (Topeak Ergon), who is ranked 35th in the world, began to move through the field, riding from 11th place after the first of seven laps and catching the lead group, comprising Burry Stander (Mr Price Specialized), Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel (both Scott Swisspower), on lap four.

Stander, the under-23 World Cup champion, Schurter, the under-23 world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, and Vogel, the world’s third-ranked rider, were setting a rapid pace ahead of the large field, which included riders from 20 countries.

But Kurschat, an agile climber, was in his element on the numerous steep ascents, passing the trio just before the start of lap five. Spaniard Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) also enjoyed a strong second half, replacing a tiring Vogel in the chase trio on the penultimate lap.

Wolfram Kurschat won the cross-country race

Kurschat continued to increase his lead, eventually finishing in 1:54:45. Hermida’s strong late pace saw first Schurter and then Stander drop off on the final lap before he secured the runner-up place in 1:56:17. Stander finished half a minute later to secure the final podium place and claim top prize for the under-23 category.

Schurter and Vogel rounded out the top five places while their Swiss compatriot and current world champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized) finished 10th, after suffering two punctures.

“It was a very good race and a fantastic leg-loosener for the World Cup next week,” said Stander. “My plan was to ride hard for the first three laps and then go steady for the rest of the way. It worked out fine, but I did feel my legs are still a bit heavy after last week’s Cape Epic. By next week they should be fine though.

“Kurschat was a surprise for all of us. He’s a good rider, but normally inconsistent. Hopefully this week was his good week!”

World champion Christophe Sauser punctured twice

Women's cross-country

Beijing Olympics silver medallist Maja Wloszczowska of Poland beat off a strong challenge from Olympics bronze medallist Irina Kalentieva of Russia to win the elite women’s cross-country title.

After a steady start for the first half a lap, the front group were strung out dramatically on the first long climb, with Wloszczowska (Bank BGZ) and Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) moving off the front and building a small lead on the tough 4.6km course.

Kalentieva is the 2007 world champion and currently ranked fifth on the UCI rankings, while Wloszczowska, twice runner-up at the World Championships (2004, 2005), is ranked 19th and firmly on the comeback trail after a disappointing 2007 and first half of 2008.

Maja Wloszczowska leads Irina Kalentieva

The Eastern European pair set a fierce pace and marked one another closely on the tight course. But on the penultimate lap the 25-year-old Pole managed to pull clear, eventually claiming the victory in 1:43:19.

Kalentieva was less than a minute back in 1:44:14, with American Mary McConneloug (Kenda Seven) finishing strongly to claim the final podium spot in 1:45:21.

Another Pole, Aleksandra Dawidowicz, finished sixth overall and secured the under-23 category victory, while South African champion Yolande Speedy (IMC Momentum) finished seventh overall, just over four minutes behind Wloszczowska.

“It was good to have such a strong international field here. It really is amazing to race against the world’s top riders right here in South Africa,” said Speedy, adding that her legs still felt a little heavy after the Absa Cape Epic, where she and Paul Cordes finished third overall in the mixed category.

South african champion, yolande speedy, finished a respectable seventh overall in the women’s cross-country race: south african champion, yolande speedy, finished a respectable seventh overall in the women’s cross-country race
South african champion, yolande speedy, finished a respectable seventh overall in the women’s cross-country race: south african champion, yolande speedy, finished a respectable seventh overall in the women’s cross-country race

South African champion Yolande Speedy finished seventh overall in the women’s race

Results

MTN National Cup, in association with MiWay: Round four, Pietermaritzburg

Pro-elite men's downhill
1 Chris Kovarik (Aus) 0:03:56.09
2 Andrew Neethling (RSA) 0:03:58.54
3 Marc Beaumont (GBr) 0:03:59.36
4 Justin Leov (NZl) 0:04:00.17
5 Fabien Cousinie (Fra) 0:04:01.13
6 Filip Polc (Slo) 0:04:01.48
7 Florient Payet (Fra) 0:04:01.67
8 Duncan Riffle (USA) 0:04:02.12
9 Julien Camellini (Fra) 0:04:02.68
10 Damien Spagnolo (Fra) 0:04:05.05
 
Pro-elite women's downhill
1 Tracy Moseley (GBr) 0:04:34.50
2 Claire Buchar (Can) 0:04:40.00
3 Emmeline Ragot (Fra) 0:04:43.36
4 Fionn Griffiths (GBr) 0:04:51.95
5 Joanna Petterson (RSA) 0:05:02.33
 
Junior men's downhill
1 Kevin Aiello (USA) 0:04:06.44
2 Timothy Bentley (RSA) 0:04:11.82
3 Laurie Dinham (Aus) 0:04:12.59
 
Youth men's downhill
1 Tiaan Odendaal (RSA) 0:04:27.76
2 Sven Pottow (RSA) 0:04:50.86
3 Alisdair Fey (RSA) 0:04:56.79
 
Sub-junior men's downhill
1 Alan Hatherly (RSA) 0:04:48.21
2 Luke Evans (RSA) 0:05:42.24
3 Christopher Rigby (RSA) 0:05:52.00
 
Sub-veteran men's downhill
1 Mark Hopkins (RSA) 0:04:50.72
2 Dan Forsyth (RSA) 0:05:00.18
3 Tyrone van Rooyen (RSA) 0:05:05.39
 
Sport downill
1 Patrick Morewood (RSA) 0:04:40.09
2 Duane Searle (RSA) 0:05:01.97
3 Cobus Truter (RSA) 0:05:08.52
 
Pro-elite men's cross-country
1 Wolfram Kurschat (Ger) 1:54:45
2 Jose Hermida (Esp) 1:56:17
3 Burry Stander (RSA) 1:56:47
4 Nino Schurter (Sui) 1:58:55
5 Florian Vogel (Sui) 2:00:55
6 Jochen Kaess (Ger) 2:01:03
7 Kristian Hynek (Cze) 2:02:18
8 Rudi van Houts (Ned) 2:03:14
9 Matous Ulman (Czk) 2:03:55
10 Christoph Sauser (Sui) 2:04:22
 
Elite men's cross-country
1 Wolfram Kurschat (Ger) 1:54:45
2 Jose Hermida (Esp) 1:56:17
3 Nino Schurter (Sui) 1:58:55
4 Florian Vogel (Sui) 2:00:55
5 Jochen Kaess (Ger) 2:01:03
 
Under-23 men's cross-country
1 Burry Stander (RSA) 1:56:47
2 Connor McConvey (Irl) 2:08:46
3 Matthys Beukes (RSA) 2:10:29
 
Pro-elite women's cross-country
1 Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) 1:43:19
2 Irina Kalentieva (Rus) 1:44:14
3 Mary McConneloug (USA) 1:45:21
4 Janka Stevkova (Svk) 1:46:01
5 Magdalena Sadlecka (Pol) 1:46:36
6 Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Pol) 1:47:23
7 Yolande Speedy (RSA) 1:47:39
8 Ivonne Kraft (Ger) 2:00:11
9 Blaza Klemencic (Slo) 2:02:01
10 Sara Muhl (RSA)
 
Elite women's cross-country
1 Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) 1:43:19
2 Irina Kalentieva (Rus) 1:44:14
3 Mary McConneloug (USA) 1:45:21
4 Janka Stevkova (Svk) 1:46:01
5 Magdalena Sadlecka (Pol) 1:46:36
 
Under-23 women's cross-country
1 Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Pol) 1:47:23
2 Heletjie van Staden (RSA)
3 Janneke Leask (RSA)
This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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