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More challenging Mont Sainte Anne track wins over racers

Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain - Maxxis) was one of only a few who rode the rocky descent.

Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain - Maxxis) was one of only a few who rode the rocky descent. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)

The long-running Mont Sainte Anne World Cup mountain bike venue in Quebec, Canada, is well-liked by many of the cross country circuit's racers. On Sunday, organizers only improved their reputation by making the course more technically challenging.

"It's the most technical track of the year," said men's winner Julien Absalon (Orbea). "I'm very excited the World Championships will be here next year." Absalon, who is no stranger to winning at Mont Sainte Anne, took his fourth World Cup victory of the season on Sunday.

A man-made, rocky section of course drew spectators and photographers alike.  Racers had the option to ride the rock garden or take a more meandering way around.  It wasn't any easy place to have to make a decision.  Even the lead moto crashed upon the approach to the rock garden during the men's race.  Fortunately, with a more than one-minute advantage, the driver had time to right his machine and get back underway before Absalon came along.

While the men faced slippery conditions on the 5.7km course that added to the technical challenge, the women raced in an outright downpour earlier in the day. The heavens opened up as the women stood on the start line on a cold, chilly summer morning.

"It was a tough race with the conditions and the course," said former world champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon), who finished in second place behind winner Catharine Pendrel (Luna).

Local hero and past winner Marie-Helene Premont (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles), who finished 10th, praised the course. "It's a nice course. I really like it, and I know I can do well here." When asked if she'd be back racing next year at the worlds, she laughed and said, "I might be!". Premont had planned to retired at the end of 2008, but then changed her mind to extend her career into 2009.

Third place finisher Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles) was happy to see the addition of features like a rock garden. "This course really suits me," he said.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.