By Luke Webber in Fort William
Marie Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain), overall leader of the World Cup series, has always finished consistently. Podiums at every event have put her amongst the best, if not the most feared. But her victory in the cross country at Fort William in Scotland left everyone with something to think about heading into the second half of the season.
After a fast start on yet another perfect day in Fort William, Premont and Marga Fullana (Massi) both distanced themselves from the chasers. Neither looked likely to be caught but on the downhill it was obvious Premont wanted to get into clearer air. On lap two she got that break but it came to nothing. Fullana was too strong, countering on the brutal climb and making a gap of her own.
Premont was patient though, waiting for the time when Fullana would tire which eventually came on the final lap. With nowhere to hide Premont overtook her competitor on the upper slopes and attacked again on the downhill without fear of repercussion and claim her first victory of the year.
After the race Premont spoke about the closing stages. "I took some risks on the final downhill, I had to," she said. "On lap two I tried to get away but when Marga could follow me she could keep up but not on the final lap. I'm really happy that I have finally won a race. Marga was very strong today I knew it was her kind of course and I had to stay with her if I was to get a result.
"The longer I could stay on her wheel the better, but on lap three she got a gap," said Premont. "I kept trying though and on the last lap I gave it everything I had. I knew I was faster on the downhill but it was not easy. Tomorrow I go back home to train and rest for the worlds where I can hopefully keep my good form going."
In the elite men's cross country, the podium was an all Swiss affair with Florian Vogel (Swisspower Mtb Team) winning in a time of 2.06.27. Nino Schurter (Swisspower Mtb Team) and Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Racing) rounded out the top three after the two Swisspower team-mates worked over the lone Specialized racer.
With the Worlds and Olympics just around the corner Vogel explained why the Swiss riders were so strong, "Right now we are in the selection for the Olympics, too, and that is what is producing so many [good] rides; we all want in and it's so competitive."