By Rob Jones and Sue George
Spain's José Hermida (Multivan Merida Biking Team) took the season opener and his fourth World Cup cross country victory ahead of Julian Absalon (Orbea), while local favourite Burry Stander (Specialized Factory Racing) was third. Hermida was the obvious strongman in the 32.9 km, seven-lap race, and came out of the blocks with an explosive 16-minute first lap, never easing up his pace.
"Two years without a World Cup win is a long time," said Hermida on the team's website, "but now I'm back in business, and that sure feels good."
During the race, the experienced Hermida, who has stood on a World Cup podium 20 times thus far, repeatedly increased the pace until he saw a chance to get away on his own.
"I could feel my legs were very good, after last week's race on this course," said Hermida. "I think I made a very good plan with my training to prepare for this race, and came here more rested than some of the other riders. For me this is a fantastic result, it is only my fourth World Cup victory in 12 years! I will try now to keep the jersey through the next races."
World Champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Racing) finished fourth while Wolfram Kurschat (Topeak Ergon Racing Team), who won the previous weekend's test event on the same course, finished fifth, his career-best World Cup placing.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the men's cross country World Cup in South Africa.
Aussie 24-hour solo championship comes down to the wire
By Dan McKay in Canberra
With current 24 hours of Adrenaline World Championships runner-up Jason English (BMC) and Katrin Van Der Spiegel (Clarence St Cyclery) present to race a strong field, the 24-hour Australian national solo championships were set for some fireworks this past weekend.
2008 Scott 24-hour winner Jess Douglas (Giant & TCF) and 2008 Australian national championship's third placed Clair Graydon (Mal Adjusted) were among the women to watch. In the men's field, English was the man with the biggest target on his back as the current Australian National Champion and winner of the Scott 24-hour solo (2008). The runner up at last year's Australian championships John Claxton (Giant & Skins), third place finisher Daniel Mackay (Giant) and forth place finisher Mark Fenner (Specialized) also returned to contest this year's event.
A fast and flowing 9.5km track linked up the best of the Majura pines in Canberra. With a rocky and root strewn track, the competitors were collectively holding their breath that the forecasted rain would hold off and track conditions would stay reasonable; however, mother nature had other ideas, and torrential downpours made for some challenging conditions that motivated several racers to withdraw.
English and Mackay battled until the very end. With five hours to go and the sun well over the horizon, Mackay got the gap to leader English down to under three and a half minutes, but both men were digging into their last reserves to maintain the pace. Eventually, the charging Mackay started to fall off, and English regained precious time. In the dying minutes of the race, eyes were on Mackay to see if he could squeeze in a final lap and force English out for one more. As the twenty four hours ticked over, the question of whether one or both riders would survive another lap was left unanswered as neither rider went out again. English took a well-deserved win over McKay with a six-minute gap.
In the women's race start, Jess Douglas (Giant & TCF) jumped perennial favourite Katrin Van Der Spiegel and rode a hot pace to build a small lead. The two traded places as Canberra local Clair Graydon sat a further two and half minutes back in third place.
Douglas had closed the gap to the then-leading Van Der Spiegel to 3:30, although the pressure was clearly starting to show on the pained face of the leader. In the closing hours of the race, a magnificent surge by Douglas saw her catch the fading Van Der Spiegel and take the win.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Australian 24-hour solo national championships.
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