Fort William: Absalon wins 4th XC title

Frenchman Absalon wins 4th XC title; Russian Kalentieva wins women's race

Frenchman Julien Absalon (Team Orbea) claimed his fourth consecutive UCI world championship men's XC title by dominating the 119-rider field in Fort William, Scotland. Russian Irina Kalentieva bested the 74-rider field to capture the women's world title.

Absalon won the 48-kilometer race with a final time of 02:17:06. Rounding out the men's podium was a pair of Swiss riders, as Ralf Naef and Florian Vogel won the silver and bronze medals respectively. Kalentieva won the women's 34-kilometer race in 01:44:08. Germany's Sabine Spitz finished 39 seconds back to claim the silver medal and Wang Jingjing of China took home the bronze.

Adam Craig (Giant), currently the top American off-road cyclist internationally, ranked 13th in the world and 18th on the World Cup circuit, finished 4:51 behind Absalon. Jeremiah Bishop (Trek-VW) was the next-fastest American in 33rd, 6:47 off the winning pace. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) placed 39th, 8:18 down, Michael Broderick (Kenda-Seven) finished 12:47 back to place 60th, Carl Decker (Giant) was 69th, 16:54 back, and Barry Wicks (Kona-Les Gets) was the last U.S. competitor to finish, placing 81st at +21:56.

Saturday's results served as a reminder that the European mountain bike pool features a formidable list of contenders less than a year away from the 2008 Olympic Games despite the U.S. being ranked seventh in the world. Amongst the top-20 finishers on Saturday were four Swiss riders, four Spanish, three German and two each from Belgium and France. Craig was the top non-European finisher while Canadian Seamus McGrath was the next-best in 31st place.

Assigned the 12th start position by the UCI based on his world ranking, Craig dropped to 31st after the first of six eight-kilometer laps, but quickly rebounded to the 16th position two laps later after posting the sixth-fastest lap time of the day. Throughout the remainder of the race though, Craig slipped a couple of spots per lap to cross the line in 22nd overall.

Women's race
Georgia Gould (Luna) led an American team that placed five riders in the top 25 - more than any other country - as Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven) finished 12th, 6:54 off the pace of Kalentieva, Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) placed 15th, 7:39 back and Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Gary Fisher) crossed the line 8:59 down to place 21st. In her first world championships at the elite level, Lea Davison (Trek-VW) was 25th, 9:41 back. The only American to finish out of the top 25 did so just barely as Kelli Emmett (Giant) rode a solid race to place 26th overall at +9:50, making up 10 spots from her assigned start position of 36th.

Gould, ranked fourth in the world as the top American mountain biker, gave the U.S. its fifth consecutive top-ten finish at the world championships in just her second career appearance. At her debut in New Zealand last year, Gould finished 20th.

Ranked second in the world behind China a year out from the 2008 Games, a deep U.S. women's team was ultimately kept off the podium at the world championships for the sixth consecutive year. Since Alison Dunlap captured the world title in 2001, the top results have been a pair of sixth-place efforts courtesy of Sue Haywood in 2003 and McConneloug in 2006. Still, the U.S. remains one of the strongest nations in women's off-road cycling with McConneloug (7) and Koerber (12) joining Gould near the top of the international rankings.

With three Americans - Gould, McConneloug and Koerber - starting in the front row, a furious start quickly sorted out the contenders in an event where start position and early-race performance heavily affect the outcome.

"The start was pretty crazy," Gould explained. "The whole first climb there were multiple crashes and yelling. kind of got behind some people and let a gap open up but we all caught back up on the downhill."

At the end of the first loop, Gould, Koerber and McConneloug were amongst the lead group, sitting in sixth, 10th and 11th respectively before dropping off the pace of the leaders during the second lap. At the race's midway mark, Kalentieva, Spitz and Wang had clearly established themselves as the leaders as the trio opened up a one-minute gap on the next-closest challengers.

"I was trying to go hard the whole time," Gould said. "I was descending really well, but just not climbing as fast as some of the others. The top three girls just got away on the second climb."

At the end of the third lap, it looked as though the U.S. would place two riders in the top ten for the first time in six years as Gould and Koerber sat in ninth and 10th, but Koerber was ultimately passed by five riders, including McConneloug, during the last lap.

American Cross Country athletes will next travel to the UCI World Cup finals next weekend in Maribor, Slovenia before five riders - Gould, Korber, Craig, Horgan-Kobelski and Wells - make a trip to China for the official Olympic Test event in Beijing.

2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships
Fort William, Scotland, Sept. 4-9

Day Five Results:

Elite Men's Cross Country
1. Julien Absalon (FRA) 2:17:06
2. Ralf Naef (SUI) +0:25
3. Florian Vogel (SUI) +0:54
22. Adam Craig (Bend, Ore.) +4:51
33. Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va.) +6:47
35. Oliver Beckingsdale (GBR) +7:26
39. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo.) +8:18
42. Ian Wilkinson (GBR) +8:43
44. Liam Killeen (GBR) +9:01
55. Paul Oldham (GBR) +11:45
46. Todd Wells (Durango, Colo.) +9:25
60. Michael Broderick (Chilmark, Mass.) +12:47
61. Nicholas Craig (GBR) +12:59
69. Carl Decker (Bend, Ore.) +16:54
81. Barry Wicks (Corvallis, Ore.) +21:56

Elite Women's Cross Country
1. Irina Kalentieva (RUS) 1:44:08
2. Sabine Spitz (GER) +0:39
3. Wang Jinjjing (CHN) +1:42
9. Georgia Gould (Ketchum, Idaho) +5:03
12. Mary McConneloug (Chilmark, Mass.) +6:54
15. Willow Koerber (Asheville, N.C.) +7:39
21. Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo.) +8:59
25. Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt.) +9:41
26. Kelli Emmett (Colorado Springs, Colo.) +9:50
47. COPNALL Jenny Copnall (GBR) +15:25
56. Ruth McGavigan (GBR) +20:21
62. Elizabeth Scalia (GBR) -1 Lap

© BikeRadar & USA Cycling 2007

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