The UCI World Cup opened this weekend with no surprise winners from its first round, a marathon in Gran Canaria, Spain. Columbian Leonardo Paez won the elite men's race with a time of 3:27:24. He took second just over a minute ahead of Frenchman Thomas Dietsch and 3:25 ahead of Austrian Alban Lakata. The men's podium at this year's marathon World Cup opener was exactly like last year's opener in Naoussa, Greece, but with the second and third places switched. Paez is a proven endurance racer; he convincingly won the Costa Rican La Ruta de los Conquistadors stage race in November.
In the women's race, Finland's Pia Sundstedt won with a time of 3.27.17. She beat German Ivonne Kraft by over five and a half minutes and Frenchwoman Helene Marcouyre by six minutes. Sundstedt regularly visited the steps of the podium last year, and we'll likely see more of her this year.
The presence of several former and current roadies did not go unnoticed. Sundstedt herself is a former roadie, who renewed her love for the sport through mountain bike endurance events after she walked away from a successful road career.
Though still riding as a current pro for Saunier Duval, Gilberto Simoni finished sixth place, 8:35 behind Paez. Adrian Montgomery of Scott USA confirmed to Cyclingnews Simoni's intentions to retire from the road after the Giro d'Italia in May and convert to mountain biking in an attempt to make the 2008 Italian Olympic Mountain Bike Team.
Montgomery believes Simoni stands a good chance of making a successful transition from road to mountain given his phenomenal bike handling skills.
Alexander Moos, former Kelme and Phonak road pro now riding for Team BMC, also completed the circuit, finishing in 26th. Moos is doing a complete slate of mountain bike races this year, and will join his team for select stage races.
Finally, road fans may also have noticed Abraham Olano, who turned up at the start in his old, pink ONCE kit. Olano raced the 90km amateur edition of the race, run at the same time as the elite race. After the race, Olano said, ""It was very hard, but as well as the wonderful experience, I never thought it would be so demanding."