By Rob Jones, Cyclingnews.com
Sunday, May 24, 2009 1.00pm
Local favourite beats Marie-Helene Premont
Margarita Fullana wins the women's cross country Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net
World cup leader Marga Fullana (Massi) extended her lead in the overall standings with a win in the fourth round in Madrid. But the world champion won by only four seconds over the defending world cup champion Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain).
After a second night of heavy rain, the decision was made to shorten the women's race from five laps to four. The wet ground made some of the climbs unridable, and every corner had to be negotiated with care.
A group containing Fullana, Premont, world number-one-ranked Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Lene Byberg (Specialized Factory Team) split away from the field. However, Pendrel ran into shifting problems, as well as having difficulty with the muddy course after a night of rain.
Fullana then made her first testing attack, and only Premont and Byberg could respond. Pendrel dropped back to sit solo in fourth, with a chase group containing round one winner Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost Team), Maja Wloszczowska (CCC Polkowice) and Eva Lechner (Colnago Cap Arreghini) forming behind. The front three began getting reeled in from behind on the second lap, both by Pendrel and the chase of Osl, Lechner, Wloszczowska and the Olympic champion Sabine Spitz
Premont was getting concerned about being caught, and upped the pace, dropping Byberg with less than a lap and a half to go. Byberg would hold on for third, but the race for the win was down to two riders. Fullana made the winning move on the final long climb, launching an attack that Premont could not respond to immediately, and then holding on to win her second consecutive world cup. Behind Byberg, Pendrel was caught by Spitz and Osl, after some mechanical problems, but managed to hold on for the fifth and final podium spot behind Spitz.
"It is a great honour to win in my home country; this was one of my big goals for the season," said Fullana. "Of course, I was very concerned about Marie-Helene, because she is always strong, but I could see that I was better on the climbs, and I knew that I had to attack there in the final lap."
"In the last two laps, the chasers were catching up to us, and neither Fullana or Byberg were working," said Premont, "so I went to the front to set the pace. Then, on the last long climb Marga [Fullana] attacked, and I could not respond fast enough to catch her before the finish."
Fullana's win increased her lead in the World cup standings to 850 points, 190 over second place Osl, with Byberg in third at 565 points. Pendrel moves to fifth at 470 points, and Premont jumps from 16th to ninth in the standings with 408 points.
Georgia Gould was the top American finisher in 14th place.For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.