By Steve Medcroft
One week after World Championships, the UCI Mountain bike World Cup came to a close in Fort William, Scotland. It was both an anti-climactic (most series titles had already been clinched on points weeks earlier) and an exciting weekend (featuring the first-ever Norwegian Four Cross win and a double British downhill victory).
Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) had long-since sewn up the women’s Cross Country series - just as she had sewn up every possible championship she could get her hands on this year – and left yet another battle for second (in the race and in the series) between Sabine Spitz (Specialized) and Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain Business Objects).
But Premont dropped out of the race (suffering food poisoning from a bad batch of seafood eaten the night before) after Spitz set a blistering early pace. Only eventual winner Dahle could keep up with Spitz. Dahle says she struggled mentally to focus on the race. "I was in as bad a way as the others,” she said afterwards. “We were all worn out after Livigno. I spent the week in between focusing on resting and recovering, and then I said to myself 'This is the last day, you have to go hard'. Once I was riding I had a good day, I felt like I was flying."
Christoph Sauser (Siemens Cannondale) started the men’s race with a lock on the overall title but received a much tougher test from his competitors than his female counterpart. World champion Julien Absalon (Bianchi Agos), Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Freddie Kessiakoff (Siemens Cannondale) and Ralph Naef (Multivan Merida), were all looking for the individual win.
Kessiakoff was the early aggressor but Sauser and Naef managed to get off the front alone before the last lap. Naef attacked on the last downhill to hold off Sauser for his first World Cup victory. “This is the biggest (win) of my life," he said after the race.
Two British racers won the finals men’s and women’s downhill. The first win went to Tracy Moseley who qualified with the fastest time on Saturday and was slotted last down the hill in Sunday’s finals. Austrian rider Angelika Hohenwarter set an early benchmark of 5:46.10, but then Emma Guy (Great Britain) then Kathy Pruitt (Luna Chix) shipped away at the clock. Then Junior World Champion Rachel Atherton (Great Britain) came through over a second and a half faster than the best time so far. Second-best qualifier and world Cup points winner Sabrina Jonnier (France) couldn’t beat Atherton’s time so all that was left was Moseley’s run. Despite crashing, Moseley broke the five minute barrier for the win.
Steve Peat (Orange) took the second Fort William World Cup win for Great Britain in the men’s race. In front of a crowd of an estimated ten-thousand fans, Peat ran the 2.46 kilometer course in 4:11:44 pushing World Cup Championship winner Greg Minnaar (G-Cross Honda) and Nathan Rennie (Australia) into second and third respectively.
The four Cross competition was settled on what riders called a tight and short course. With gate position essential and shoulder-to-shoulder turns, recently crowned World Champion Jill Kintner (USA) was the alpha rider in eight-rider women’s field and won the event to take the World Cup title.
In men’s Four Cross, American Brian Lopes (GT Hyundai) had already wrapped up the series title and summed up the general mood of the weekend by saying "It was a little bit anticlimactic after winning last week (at World Championships) and having the title decided, but I still wanted to do good here." But Lopes lost in the final when a mid-corner clash with Guido Tschugg (Ger) left an opening for Leiv Nordmark (Norway) to take the first ever Norwegian Four-Cross victory.
Final World Cup champions:
Full race reults, reports and photos:
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