Round one of the UCI World Cup went off in the Dutch Antilles island of Curacao this weekend. World champion Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida Biking Team) and former world champion Bart Brentjens (Giant-Racing-Team) took the women's and men's races respectively; Dahle ahead of Sabine Spitz (Specialized) and Margarita Fullana Riera (Spiuk Illes Balears) and Brentjens ahead of world champion Julien Absalon (Bianchi Agos) and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Liam Killeen (Specialized).
The Caribbean heat was tough on competitors - soaring temperatures and high humidity forced organizers to actually shorten the men's race by one of the originally-planned seven laps around the 6.8 kilometer course - but an ocean front finish meant that exhausted, heat-stroked racers could finish their ride with a dive into the ultimate swimming pool.
For Dahle, winning means she has been careful with her off-season preparation and has retained the strength which allowed her to dominate women's world cup and world championship competition the past two seasons. It was also a testament to her good luck - first-lap confusion and crashes split the field right off the gun and let Dahle slip away from riders who could have mounted a serious challenge like Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain / Business Objects) and Mary McConneloug (Kenda / Seven), who ended up fourth and fifth respectively.
In the men's race, Brentjens may have possessed a little inside knowledge of the course having helped design it in his role as ambassador to mountain biking for the Netherlands, but world champion Absalon says Brentjens was the stronger racer anyway. "He was really powerful, and I maybe did too much at the beginning when I had to catch him," Absalon said after the finish. "But this is good for me at this time of year, and now I will go back and train for the three World Cups in Europe next month."