Friday, July 31, 2009 11.00pm
First World Cup win for Byberg in women's race
Canadian champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-RockyMountain) finally made that step to the top of the podium on home soil in round six of the cross-country series of the Mountain Bike World Cup.
Kabush won in the most grueling conditions of the season in Bromont, Canada.
Julien Absalon (Orbea) continues to lead the men despite finishing a distant 17th after suffering mechanical problems.
"To win here, in my own country, it still hasn't sunk in," said Kabush. "I knew I was riding well, after finishing third a week earlier, and this course really suited me, so I was confident that I could go head to head with Julien.
"This win is the biggest of my career, because with Julien so strong, for anyone to win a World Cup is very hard."
The race began under worse conditions than the women with officials reducing the distance by one lap to six. The rain and 50-plus women racers earlier in the day had churned up the mud, making the climb an even harder grind than usual. The mud also began to impact equipment, with most riders experiencing brake failure at some point in the race as brake pads wore away in the gritty mud..
Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) got off to his usual fast start, and was joined quickly by Absalon, with Kabush steadily making his way up towards the front. Näf dropped back from Absalon on lap two, to be passed by Kabush.
Kabush joined the Olympic champion near the top of the climb, just before Absalon broke his chain. The break put him out of contention as he lost nearly 40 places before rejoining the race.
Kabush was alone at the front. Näf was in a chase group behind with Kabush's teammate Jose Hermida, Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower). Kabush continued to ride further away from the chasers to finish over 90 seconds in front of Hermida.
Näf held finished in third ahead of Vogel and Lukas Flückiger (Trek World Team). Both Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Team) and Adam Craig (Giant) moved up in the latter half of the race to finish ninth and tenth.
Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher) was on the racing very well, but a flat dropped him out of contention.
Brakes were a problem for many riders. "In the final lap and a half I started to lose my brakes completely, and trying to ride through the technical parts became very, very dangerous. I had to slow down a lot, and I think otherwise I could have stayed in second," said Näf.
Hermida, the winner of round one in South Africa, said he also suffered from brake problems. "I was lucky that my brakes stopped working early in the race rather than late, because I stopped then in the technical area and was able to catch people later in the race when their brakes failed," he said.
"I didn't have any of the mechanical problems the other riders were having, so I really have to think my team and the mechanics. I went with the hardtail and the mud tires, and I was able to ride everything with no problems," said Kabush.
Stander has nearly locked up the Under-23 title with his seventh place in Bromont (it would take consecutive wins in the final two races by second placed Alexis Vuillermoz and Stander to get no points).
Absalon's lead in the series standings dropped a few points after his 17th place, however, he is still an almost uncatchable 412 points in front of Hermida. Stander is 20 points behind Hermida.
Kabush moved up the standings from 24th before Mont Ste Anne, to 14th before Bromont and now seventh. In the final two rounds there is likely to be a three-way battle for third between Hermida, Näf and Stander, who are separated by 50 points. And the same for fifth between Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon), Schurter and Kabush, who are only 40 points apart.
Lene Byberg (Specialized) wins the Bromont World Cup
Lene Byberg (Specialized Factory Racing) took her first World Cup victory after a dominant ride in difficult conditions, taking over the lead in the women's overall standings from World Champion Marga Fullana (Massi).
“For the last lap, all I could think was to be careful and not to crash, so that I could take this most unbelievable victory of my career," said Byberg.
Rain that had been threatening all morning began shortly before the start of lap two in the five-lap race. It made the rocks and roots slippery and treacherous. The race had already begun to sort itself out by that point, with Byberg bridging up to the early leaders Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon), Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher).
Koerber lost contact and the Kalentieva, Pendrel, Byberg trio gradually pulled away from the rest of the field. Pendrel dropped off in the next in lap three and then Kalentieva a lap later, leaving the Norwegian Byberg on her own.
"It wasn't really an attack," said Byberg. "I was riding very strongly, and felt good in the conditions, especially on the climb. I saw that I had a little gap, and then it started getting bigger and bigger."
"I maybe went too hard earlier in the race, trying to break things up. I didn't have it when the serious effort came later in the race," said Pendrel.
Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-RockyMountain) had been expected to challenge the leaders in conditions that suit her, but she was not a contender and finished 13th. Premont appeared tired on the climb by the second lap and had some of the breathing difficulties that knocked her out of the Olympics last summer.
"It was very hard for me out there today," Premont admitted. "I felt dizzy a bit, and I couldn't breathe, so I had to stop at the side of the track for a while before I was able to go again. It was not a good day for me."
Kalentieva and Pendrel followed Byberg in for second and third. Round one winner Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost) took fourth and American Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven-No Tubes) made a late-race surge for fifth.
Byberg holds a 25-point lead over Osl and Kalentieva in the overall standings. Former leader Fullana dropping to fourth and Pendrel in fifth. Any one of these five could take the final title depending upon what happens in the last two rounds.
Canada's Emily Batty (Toronto Trek Store) finished 15th and took her third Under-23 World Cup victory of the season. She moved into second in the standings behind Caroline Mani (Team Bikepark.ch), who finished four spots behind Batty. In the four World Cups she has entered, Batty has three firsts and a second for the Under-23 category, and has finished in the top-15 overall in all four events.
For full results and more pictures, see www.cyclingnews.com.