Race report By Charlie Livermore

Eventually we will have to pay for the incredible luck we?ve had with the weather during this spring campaign here in central Europe. Like in Houffalize last week, summer-like conditions prevailed here today in St. Wendel, the host city for the 4th round of the Tissot-UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
Story has it that in the 13th century, this town was named St. Wendel after a poor shepherd, Herr Wendel, who saved this region from a massive drought when he plunged his staff into the ground and declared that there would be water again. It worked, the man became a Saint and the rest is history. I bet some of the athletes competing here yesterday were praying to St. Wendel for a little relief from the heat!
At least the 20,000 fans didn?t seem to mind the heat as they swarmed all over the super fast 8km course. I know because I was dodging them all day as I raced my rented Kawasaki 125 motorcycle from the top of the first climb to the forest section on the opposite side of the course to give our riders time splits and other key race information. This was one of the first city-park type courses on the Mountain Bike World Cup circuit when we first came here in 1996. Since then it’s been modified a bit but is still considered the fastest course on the circuit and usually produces a very tactical race. Today was no exception!

Start Loop and 5 Laps
Four World Cup races have been held so far this year, and all have produced different winners in both the men’s and women’s fields. Today Barbara Blatter, the Scott USA rider from Switzerland, who showed great promise last year, won the first World Cup Race of her career. The 30-year-old Swiss Miss put the hammer down on the first climb of the first lap and never looked back. By the top of that climb she and Specialized’s Margarita Fullana had a 10 second gap on GT’s Alison Dunlap, Gary Fisher-SAAB’s Paola Pezzo and Sandra Temporelli, the French woman from Look-LA Poste Team. Seven seconds later, the main field led by Volvo-Cannondale’s Alison Sydor was charging hard leaving all kinds of women exploding in its wake. By the time I reached the opposite side of the course, Blatter had a 17-second lead, Fullana was gone (later to return) with some kind of mechanical or flat and the original chase group of three were now joined by Subaru-Specialized’s Elsbeth Vink and little known Janet Puigros, a Spaniard from the Rotor EDR Team.

Blatter continued putting the pressure on and was 55 seconds ahead of the chase group at the top of the first climb of the second lap. Pezzo, Dunlap and Temporelli managed to rid themselves of Vink and Puigros, and Fullana was now 75 seconds down. Alison Sydor also disappeared from the chase, the victim of a double flat in the first wooded section. Meanwhile Mary Grigson the Gary Fisher-SAAB woman from down under who would factor in at the end was about 2.5 minutes down. She was playing Pacman, however, gobbling up riders with every pedal stroke.
Lap 3 saw Pezzo gaining on Blatter, Fullana coming back and Grigson making a serious surge.
At the top of the first climb of lap four, Pezzo caught Blatter. Dunlap and Fullana, who was now only 42 seconds from the leaders, were chasing the two hard. Unfortunately Pezzo crashed and Blatter emerged from the wooded section alone again 48 seconds ahead of Fullana, Dunlap and Pezzo, who regrouped and joined the chase.
In the end it was Barbara’s day. Her 48-second lead at the top of the first climb on the final lap was too much even for Dunlap who closed the gap to 8 seconds at the finish line. Fullana would finish 3rd at 11 seconds back , while Mary Grigson out-sprinted her teammate Paola Pezzo, giving Gary Fisher the last two spots on the podium.


1. Barbara Blatter SUI Scott USA
2. Alison Dunlap USA GT
3. Marga Fullana ESP Subaru-Specialized
4. Mary Grigson AUS Gary Fisher-SAAB
5. Paola Pezzo ITA Gary Fisher-SAAB

Alison Dunlap USA GT

Start Loop and 7 Laps
When it was all said and done, everyone was saying, “that was a hard race!” Indeed it was. No one could really say until the end who would win it. Race fans, I wish you could have seen the entire field of 180 riders charging up the first climb. The speed was incredible! At the front of this train was Giant rider Christophe Dupouey, Be-One’s Bas Van Dooren and Volvo/Cannondale’s Christophe Sauser. Meanwhile charging up the field from start position #106 was Cadel Evans. In his first World Cup Race of the season the two-time defending World Cup Champion was turning some heads early on. At the top of the first climb Cadel was in the top 25!
The first five riders to emerge from the first section of the woods were Christophe Dupouey, Miguel Martinez (Full Dynamix), Christophe Sauser, Bas Van Dooren and Filip Meirhaeghe (Subaru-Specialized) with a gap of about 15 seconds. When they came out of the second part of the woods on their way towards the start-finish, Sauser was gone from the group due to a twist in his chain. It took him about 30 seconds and 20 places to fix it. Now the lead group of four settled in a pace that would see them at the front through lap four.
The main chase group, down only 30 seconds, was keen on keeping the leaders at a manageable distance. Led by the Swiss combo of Beat Wabel (K2), Thomas Hochstrasser of Scott USA and Ritchey’s Thomas Frischknecht with U-23 sensation Jose Antonio Hermida of Scott USA, the Giant duo of Tom Larsen and Dominique Arnould, the U-23 World Champion Marco Bui of Full Dynamic and GT’s Roel Paulissen all in tow.
On the first climb of lap 5 Miguel Martinez made a tactical error. He successfully attacked the lead group (who had been joined by the Swiss duo Hochstrasser and Wabel) and gained 33 seconds on them but he went too early! Had he attacked on the next lap he might have won, but there were still 2 full laps to go and Mr. Dupouey would have none of it. By the time he came out of the woods, Martinez’s gap had dwindled to 10 seconds due to Dupouey’s surge, which closed the gap on Martinez and distanced Dupouey from the leftover chase group of Van Dooren, Hochstrasser and Wabel. Meirhaeghe got sideways trying an aggressive late-braking technique going into a chicane and broke his rear derailleur right in front of me.
On the 6th lap Dupouey attacked Martinez on that first climb and rode the last two laps unchallenged winning by 22 seconds over Bas Van Dooren, who overtook Martinez on the last lap. Martinez held on for 3rd place and the 4th and 5th place spots went to Wabel and Hochstrasser respectively.
Cadel Evans who had to race the qualifier on Saturday to earn a spot on the start line charged to 10th place at one point but was slowed by technical problems and finished 19th. Christophe Sauser, on great form, came back to finish 8th.

1. Christophe Dupouey               FRA Giant
2. Bas Van Dooren NED Be-One
3. Miguel Martinez ITA Full Dynamics
4. Beat Wabel                SUI K2
5. Thomas Hochstrasser                SUI Scott USA

Christophe Dupouey FRA Giant


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