Bad luck stymies Italian mountain biker's World Cup bid
By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Marostica, Italy
Winner of this year's UCI Mountain Bike World Cup XC #3 in Houffalize, Belgium Italian Marco Bui had a training crash last week where he smashed his right ankle and won't participate in the upcoming rounds of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
Barely able to walk when he limped into the Full Dynamix offices in Marostica, Italy, Bui winced when he rolled up his pants to show Cyclingnews his spectacular technicolor bruise on an ankle swollen to twice normal size. Know for being an "osso duro" (hard man) Bui told us that "I crashed hard on a downhill and it didn't seem like (my injury) was too bad, so I kept going for another hour. But when I got off the bike, it was hurting bad!"
Bui first burst on to the international mountain bike scene when he took the World U23 XC championship in Åre, Sweden as race leader Cadel Evans crashed on final lap. Bui had battled Evans all season in the U23 World Cup but had only won Italian national races until his Swedish victory. But Bui's career hasn't been all good luck as the 27 year old who was born in Mestre, near Venice and lives in Trento, Italy has had plenty of ups and downs in his career.
In 2000, Bui was sporting a rainbow jersey, but was feeling overshadowed on his Full Dynamix trade team by Miguel Martinez, who dominated men's cross-country mountain biking. Bui left Full Dynamix in 2001for the Marin squad and took the Italian championship in 2001, but never quite seemed to find his legs there and eventually came back to the Full Dynamix squad in 2003.
Selected for the Athens Olympics to represent Italy, Bui was out front with Absalon and Brentjens, but eventually faded in the brutal late August heat to finish 10th. Bui was 19th at the 2004 MTB World championships in Les Gets, France and finished the 2004 season with a lowly final World Cup ranking of 51st, something that Bui wasn't content with at all. "This winter, I really focused on my preparation and did some good work", explained Bui when Cyclingnews caught up with him last week. At the 2005 World Cup XC# 1 in Spa Francorchamps, Belgium on April 24, Bui's '04 ranking gave him a bad start position, but the Italian managed to stay out of trouble and finished a respectable 21st.
At World Cup XC# 2 in Madrid, a few weeks later, Marco Bui was in the race all day and ended up a solid 5th, and then went back to Italy to clinch the overall win in the Italian national MTB series Liquigas Cup. "I won two of the four races in the series", explained Bui, "so this gave me extra morale for the World Cup."
Bui's World Cup breakthrough finally came in round 3 of the UCI series at Houffalize, Belgium. Houffalize is a monument of mountain biking and Bui prepared specially for it. "I've always like the course and all the fans at Houffalize...it's really special." Bui explained "I in training that there was a compression dip on the course that would make the tubeless tires puncture if you were not careful; it happened to me a couple of times. So when the race started, Sauser and I were out front after the first climb and I let him go first into the (dip). I eased off and he didn't, then he flatted and I was out front all alone. I just cruised along, thinking 'the chasers have to catch me'. It was a really hot day, the first hot day of the year and I stayed at about thirty seconds ahead until the fourth lap. I realized that the other riders weren't catching me so I just went full gas for a lap and got a good lead which I held until the finish. It was really something special to win at Houffalize."
A week later at World Cup XC #4 in Willingen, Germany it was again Bui and Sauser up front, but the Swiss rider didn't puncture and dropped Bui on the penultimate climb of the day to win, with Bui second, 20 seconds back. "The course at Willingen wasn't hard enough for me, but Sauser was really good that day and I was cramping at the end."
Marco Bui's performance was good enough for him to move into third in the overall World Cup standings after Round with 635 points, but Bui's injury will force him to miss the next three rounds in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, Balneario Camboriu, Brazil and America's Angel Fire Resort. "That's really too bad; I thought I had a chance at the World Cup this year but now it's gone," lamented a disappointed Bui. "I'll have to focus on the World Championships (Livigno, Italy September 4th) but it's not the same."
But Bui can also look forward to the World Cup XC #8 finale in Scotland to try and rack up some points to improve his final UCI XC World Cup ranking. "At least I won't finish 51st this year", Bui laughed philosophically as he realized his 2005 World Cup chances had now disappeared.