By Rob Jones, Cyclingnews
Sunday, May 29, 2011 5.00pm
Frenchwoman retains overall lead
Julie Bresset (BH - Suntour - Peisey Vallandry) and Lene Byberg (Specialized) Rob Jones / www,canadiancyclist.com
The women's race at Offenburg in Germany saw Julie Bresset (BH Suntour Peisey Vallandry) take her second consecutive victory against an elite field that was missing only one rider from the top 50. Bresset didn't have quite so easy a time of it as Julien Absalon in the men's race, as defending champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) attacked multiple times before Bresset was finally able to make the winning move.
The women's race was one lap shorter than last year and, combined with the very dry and hard track, it made for a race that was full-on from the starting gun, with no time to rest. Round one World Cup winner Ren Chengyuan (Specialized) was the only top rider missing; she was out of the action after a back injury from a crash in training earlier this week.
Out of the start loop and into the first of five laps, Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago Arreghini Sudtirol) led the field, and a split quickly developed, with 12 riders at the front – Schneitter and her teammate Eva Lechner, Bresset, Pendrel and her teammate Georgia Gould, Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Lene Byberg (Specialized), world champion Maja Wloszczowska (CCC Polkwice), Blaza Klemencic (Felt Oetztal X-Bionic), Esther Suss, Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) and local favourite Sabine Spitz (Central Haibike).
However, the pace proved to be too much for some, and the group began thinning out. Bresset and Pendrel started to pull away on lap two, with Schneitter and Gould the only ones able to hang on initially. Schneitter dropped off on the third lap, while Gould was looking very comfortable with the other two until her chain jammed on the fourth lap, and she lost more than a minute getting it unstuck, eventually finishing 20th.
"I was riding in that group of third through sixth and I dropped my chain," said Gould. "I tried to shift it back on because it was right before a downhill, and I ended up kinking it, and I had to stop. I was all panicked and I couldn't get it unkinked. I lost minutes - it was so crushing. A spectator was really nice and helped tell me how to undo it, which was a big help because I was so frazzled."
Pendrel tried a couple of attacks on Bresset, but couldn't get a gap, so she played a waiting game. Unfortunately for her, when Bresset launched her own attack just before the start of the final lap, the Canadian couldn't respond, and the young French rider went into the final lap with a 25-second lead, which she stretched to 41 seconds by the finish.
"Julie and I just got away," said Pendrel. "I think we were going hard at the same time. I tried to attack her twice on the last lap, but she was always able to close to me and shut me out. She got the good line into the descent. I was hoping to get away there, but she put some time into me there after she got me going into it and then she was gone."
"It would have been nice to win again this year – I felt good, but I was having trouble getting away because Julie had so much zip," said Pendrel. "I feel that I still can improve, so I'll be that much stronger in Mont Sainte Anne [in Canada, the next cross-country World Cup round]."
Remarkably, Bresset is still actually eligible to race in the Under 23 category (she will turn 22 in June), and professes complete surprise at her strength this season. "My race was great. I don't understand what's happening to me – my second victory in two weeks! I took advantage on the downhill and then I went full gas. On the last lap, I continued on my pace to keep and grow the gap."
Behind the two leaders, the chase thinned down to three – Lechner, Premont and Byberg. Byberg was the first to get dropped, and then Lechner gapped Premont on the final climb before the drop into the finish, to claim third. Byberg was racing a new carbon women's Specialized 29er hardtail named the Fate. Bresset now has an impressive 700 points, to Pendrel's 470 in second place, with Byberg tied at 390 with the absent Chengyuan.
This article originally appeared on Cyclingnews. Additional reporting by Sue George.