The men’s race gets underway
Absalon rides away from the field for his second victory in as many weeks
Premont made the early running, but Kalentieva was the eventual winner
All pics: Luke Webber
Two weeks in Europe and two World Cup rounds down for the best XC riders in the world. Offenburg, Germany was the host of the second round of the Nissan/UCI World Cup where high temperatures bought out the crowds. Organizers expected 25,000 spectators but we estimate there were a lot more, making for a superb atmosphere.
The course really facilitated this with superb spectator access. Although at 5km it was short and tough to overtake for riders at the back, the payback came for anyone watching. Huge lines of riders formed on the first and second laps, keeping everyone guessing as to who was going to attack. For the most part it was a lot like the rhythm of a cyclocross race but played out on a longer course.
Thankfully that’s where the ‘cross comparisons ended, with the course combining a real mixture of sections. After a wider grassy section it was all singletrack, starting with flat woodland, a little climb up to a series of open graded switchbacks, much like a UK trail centre. Then there were the drops. Three big sections were earmarked as crowd-pleasers and drew everyone in as the trail weaved up and down the valley. Out back there was some sweet singletrack much like we find in the UK. Just imagine Aston Hill in the dry, blue sky and 25 degrees.
The women’s race favourite, following a storming performance in Houffalize, was Ren Chengyuan. With dusty trails, this week there was nothing to pose a problem, but a crash near the start finished any chance of getting the win and taking an overall lead in the world cup. Third was an amazing chase back but not enough to top Marie Helene Premont and Irina Kalentieva. They broke down a five rider lead group until it was just themselves left. Premont was the last to crack, leaving Kalentieva on her own for the final lap and a half to claim the leader’s jersey.
The men’s event was a totally different story. Unlike last week nobody could respond to Absalon’s attack before halfway – in fact runner-up Christoph Sauser couldn’t even stay with the chase group for two laps. A combination of tired legs and a broken chain for Hermida gifted Absalon his second win in two weeks.
Nobody would bet against him making the hat-trick in Madrid on Sunday.