The UCI XC World Cup schedule’s a bit funny this year. There was a six week gap between the weekend’s Madrid round and the Curacao season opener, and the circus now has Spa Francorchamps in Belgium next weekend and of course our very own Fort William the weekend after.
Spain is rather more accessible than the Caribbean for most of the World Cup field, so it’s not surprising that there were more riders lining up at the start of the fast Casa de Campo park on the outskirts of Madrid. 110 women and 225 men were on the start list, and with no qualifying races this year the whole lot of them were on the line for the main event. In an effort to thin out the field, the UCI has instigated an 80% rule for this season – any riders not completing the first lap within 80% of the first rider’s time are pulled out. Obviously this doesn’t actually make the starts any less fraught, and indeed a crash at the start of the men’s race resulted in a degree of carnage as riders scrambled not to get held up. The bone-dry and very fast course meant that any time lost was hard to make back up.
A group of five riders set the pace in the men’s race – World Champion Julien Absalon, Christoph Sauser, Ralph Näf, Roel Paulissen and Jose Antonio Hermida. The race went all the way to the line, with Absalon just getting the better of Sauser through the final corners. Näf was third and Hermida fourth. Britain’s Liam Killeen managed to close up on the lead group but Paulissen kept him off the final podium spot.
As ever, Gunn-Rita Dahle was the rider to beat in the women’s race. But the power of local support helped Margarita Fullana to stay with her in the opening stages. It wasn’t to last, though – a mistake by Fullana let Dahle open up a gap, leaving Marie-Helene Premont (the only rider to beat Dahle last year) to take up the chase. Her challenge, though, was thwarted by a puncture, and once again Dahle crossed the line first. Irina Kalentieva was third, Maja Wloszczowska fourth and Sabine Spitz fifth.
- Julien Absalon (Bianchi Agos) 2:02:18
- Christoph Sauser (Specialized) 2:02:19
- Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) 2:02:49
- Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan Merida) 2:03:10
- Roel Paulissen (Giant) 2:03:25
- Liam Killeen (Specialized) 2:03:26
- Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) 1:39:11
- Margarita Fullana (Spiuk Illes Balears) 1:41:06
- Irina Kalientieva 1:42:20
- Maja Wloszczowska (Lotto) 1:42:20
- Sabine Spitz (Specialized) 1:42:24
- Julien Absalon (450)
- Bart Brentjens (345)
- Christoph Sauser (340)
- Ralph Näf (290)
- Roel Paulissen (290)
- Liam Killeen (290)
- Gunn-Rita Dahle (500)
- Margarita Fullana (360)
- Sabine Spitz (340)
- Maja Wloszczowska (270)
- Petra Henzi (250)
- Marie-Helene Premont (245)