Round 1 of the 2010 mountain bike world cup was to be held in the UK at newbie venue Dalby Forest. After the long but exciting drive up we arrived on Friday at Pickering to find the town packed for the Sprint Eliminator. 4 up round a tight course through the town. The course went through a church grave yard, down some stairs, a couple of short climbs, a loose decent then through a tunnel and then up to the finish line! Fast racing, crashes, and a win for Manuel Fumic.
On the Saturday was the junior racing, with the junior men doing 4 laps and the women doing 3. The junior men’s race really got the crowds going with Steven James of Great Britain leading the field out for the first lap! Steven stayed with the lead two of Michiel Van der Heijden of Holland and Jens Schuermans of Belgium. This is how that race stayed until lap 3 when Michiel pulled away and rode off for the win with Jens coming in second and Steven James grabbing 3rd. What a start! The junior women’s race was won by Lisa Mitterbauer by a minute and a half from Julie Berteaux.
The elite women’s race kicked off Sundays racing at 10.30 and as expected it was fast. The first lap had all the top riders battling it out for position at the front. After 2 laps the race started to settle down with Willow Koerber (USA), Irina Kalentieva (RUS), Katerina Nash (CEZ) and Georgia Gould (USA) keeping it close together with Julie Bresset, Marie-Helene Premont, and Mary McConneloug following close behind. Anne Last was having a great race too and looking good inside the top ¼ of the field. On the final lap Irina and Willow were around 30 seconds ahead of the chasing group and managed to stay away with Irina Kalentieva gaining a further 11 seconds at the finish line. Willow Koerber cam in 2nd place and Katerina Nash in 3rd. Juile Bresset was 1st in the U23 with Emily Batty (USA) in 2nd and Anne Last (GB) storming home 3rd in the U23 category. Podium number 2 for GB. Congratulations also to Lily Matthews in 51st, Lee Craigie in 68th
So now onto the main event! With the new course running fast, massive crowds and all star line up this was always going to be a great start to the 2010 mountain bike world cup. The start was again flat out with a 2km start loop to split up the 183 strong field before the first singletrack. As they came around the other side of the feed zone they were really hammering, Lucas Fluckiger leading out Naef, Absalon, Schurter, Stander, Vogal, Fumic, Hermida all the big guns! Entering a section of singletrack 3 a breast, everyone was fighting for position, all they way through the field. For the first few laps the group stayed close together with Ralp Naef taking the lead at a blistering pace closely followed by all the big names including Olympic champion Julian Absalon, World champion Nino Schurter and u23 world champion Burry Stander.
A group of seven then formed flying round the first 2 laps of the 6 laps race. Towards the end of the 4th lap Absalon attacked on the climb coming back out of worry gill. Only Schurter and Stander could stay with him and these three pulled away together. Further down the field Oli Beckingsdale was fighting for a top 30 spot and Liam Killen was sitting just outside the top 50. Dave Fletcher was also riding around the top 50 with Liam.
The leading three opened up a gap of about 45 seconds over the chasing riders within half a lap. Attack after attack came from all three with Burry Stander spending a lot of time setting the pace at the front, notably riding a 29r hardtail! Absalon was looking very comfortable sitting at the back of the lead group, waiting for his moment to go. And go he did! On the final lap by the time the riders had reached Worry Gill Stander had lost ground on Absalon and Schurter. The pace was rapid with Absalon driving hard at the front, trying to avoid a sprint finish. The two leaders flew through Dixons Hollow and it looked like the French man had done just enough to create a small gap on Schurter. However the World Champ wasn’t going to let this one go! Schurter cleared the doubles on the 4x track and exited Dixons Hollow right in behind Absalon. As the riders hit the finish straight Absalon was forced to lead out the sprint with Schurter on his wheel. With the loose ground on the finishing straight neither rider wanted to ‘kick’ with the risk of wheel spinning and loosing the sprint. The crowds were huge and going nuts, this is what they came for! Timing was going to be everything! Schurter timed his effort to perfection piping Absalon on the line by about 5cm! What a finish. Stander then came through 14 seconds down in 3rd it’s only a matter of time before the South African is on the top spot. A great win for Nino Schurter who was ecstatic in the finish area, he was very quickly congratulated by his mentor and Scott Swisspower team manager Thomas Frischknecht. Big congratulations to Oil Beckingsale in 37th, Liam Killeen in 50th and Dave Fletcher in 79th, great riding guys!
So there it is! Round 1 of the 2010 mountain bike world cup over! Great course, the weather held up, super fast and exciting racing, two brits on the podium and big crowds out on course! Next stop is the big one, Houffalize!
Nick Coley races for Team Mule Bar Strudel – visit the team blog.
Thanks to Graham Stacey for the excellent photos