By Paul Verkuylen in Stromlo Forest, Canberra, Australia
A week after taking a bronze medal and the Beijing Olympics, Irina Kalentieva left the rest of the field trailing in her dust as she rode to her second World Cup victory of the season in Canberra, Australia. Rosara Joseph stormed her final lap to pass Catherine Pendrel for second, with Tereza Hurikova taking fourth place and the under 23 race win in the process. Mary McConneloug took the final podium position in fifth.
The event featured four of the top 10 placed riders from the Beijing Olympics, but unfortunately the gold and silver medal winners, Sabine Spitz and Maja Wloszczowska opted to skip the eighth round of the World Cup in favour of returning home to Germany and Poland respectively.
This left Kalentieva as the hot favourite coming into the event. She did not disappoint. Taking an early lead on the first lap, Kalentieva never looked in trouble leading from start to finish. "I felt good today, it was my [type of] weather and course," Kalentieva explained shortly after crossing the finish line.
Joseph's last lap surge to claim second place, her highest finish in a World Cup event, surprised not only the crowd, but also Joseph herself.
"I was basically not feeling very good all this week," she said to Cyclingnews. "Then this morning I was feeling really tired and on the verge of being sick. So I didn't know what to expect. As I went on I was feeling stronger. I was riding technically very well, and putting the power down when I could."
Catching and passing Pendrel in the dying moments of the final lap, Joseph couldn't afford to savour the moment until after she crossed the line. Pendrel was just six seconds behind her and Hurikova a further 11 seconds down.
In the men's race, after the disappointment of not being selected to represent Switzerland at the Beijing Olympic Games, Ralph Naef showed that he is still one of the best cross country riders around in the only way he knew how – by winning the very first World Cup after the Games in Canberra.
Attacking the lead group of riders in the third lap, Naef quickly took a 30-second advantage. His Multivan Merida team-mate, Jose Hermida, controlled things in the chase group it was going to take a mistake on his behalf to bring him back.
Hermida crossed the line for second, embracing his team-mate after a job well done for the Merida Multivan team. Geoff Kabush continued his strong season with third.
"After the Olympics where I was only the third rider, I wanted to do my best here and show that I am still one of the top riders," Naef explained. I was really nervous on the start, maybe one of the only riders who were, as the others were all quiet now after the Olympics.
"I wanted to push really early and get away, which I did. It was not so easy but I when I knew that Hermida was in the second group, I knew that so long as I didn't make any mistakes I could win this race."
Florian Vogel (Swisspower) and Todd Wells (GT Bicycles) rounded out the top five.