Fredrik Kessiakoff (Cannondale-Vredestein) won the World Cup cross country final race and took his first-ever World Cup win today in Maribor, Slovenia. Kessiakoff was part of a lead group that formed at the end of the first lap. The group also contained Christoph Sauser (Specialized), José Hermida (Multivan Merida Biking Team) and Manuel Fumic (Fumic.Brothers.International).
The Swedish rider finished fourth in the cross country at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Fort William, Scotland, last weekend, narrowly missing the podium. That near-miss may have provided just the motivation needed to take the win in Slovenia.
An attack on the climb on lap two by Kessiakoff was the key to the win, as he steadily rode away from any challengers on the remaining laps of the seven-lap race. Kessiakoff finished with a comfortable 1'23" margin over Sauser. Fumic ended up third. Hermida looked to be on the way to a podium finish for quite a while, riding in second position for almost the entire race. But due to a cold the Spaniard lacked some of the necessary power in the final lap, so he had to settle for a fourth place at the finish.
"I wanted to win here, which unfortunately did not work out. But I managed to defend my second place in the World Cup's overall ranking and I'm very satisfied with that," said Hermida after the race.
World Champion Julien Absalon (Orbea) had already wrapped up the overall title for the World Cup earlier in the season and was not a factor in Saturday's race.
"It was a tough test. Julien wasn't much in the race because he had achieved his goal already, and he only was there to come to his team-mates' aid. It was a pity that Jean-Christophe (Peraud) couldn't step onto the podium," Orbea Team Manager Ixio Barandiaran remarked. Peraud finished sixth after suffering a minor mishap.
The next big test for top riders is the Pre-Olympic Mountain Bike Championship in Beijing on September 29. World Champion Absalon will also participate in Le Roc d'Azur in Fréjus, France, starting October 12, and besides his usual category, he will take part in a tandem race with his wife.