|British riders enjoyed mixed fortunes at the third round|
of theTissot/UCI Cross Country Mountain Bike World Cup at Houffalize, Belgium, on
Sunday. Caroline Alexander began to put her injury worries behind her with a classy
eighth place in the women,s race, and Liam Killeen took apart a world-class junior
field to record one of the most significant victories by a young British rider in
years. The senior men were less successful and Barrie Clarke may be out for some
time after breaking his wrist.
Elite Women Caroline Alexander has almost certainly booked her place in the British
Olympic team with her 8th place in Belgium. Riders qualify through their best four
rides from the first five World Cups, but priority is given to those achieving top
ten placings. Caroline,s eighth puts her in a strong position because, although she
has less points than Tracy Brunger and Louise Robinson, neither have made the top
ten yet this year. Two riders go to the Olympics, so it looks like a straight fight
between Robinson and Brunger for the final place.
The current standings are:
Tracy Brunger 163 points (best placing 12th)
Louise Robinson 151 points (best placing 18th)
Caroline Alexander 85 points (best placing 8th)
National Team Manager Simon Burney was delighted with Caroline,s form: "Caroline
rode an excellent race. She was understandably very cautious on the technical sections
due to her recent shoulder injury, but she showed good fitness. It was her first
race finish since the ’99 Worlds last September.
Caroline Alexander was happy with the day,s work and the testing she has done in
recent days at the World Class Performance Programme base in Cheshire: ,I knew I
had good power from the tests and training I have done with Peter Keen [GB Performance
Director] and Gary Foord [National Coach] last week using the SRM cranks. However,
I was very cautious on the descents and my bike handling was bad as it was my first
mountain bike race since Worlds. I knew I could get a top 10 and I,m happy to go
to St Wendel next week knowing my form is good.
Junior Men Liam Killeen totally dominated the Junior race at Houffalize to take a
landmark victory. Liam,s Manager, Simon Burney, was impressed with his ride: ,This
was the first win for a British Junior at a World Cup race and that makes it really
significant. This is probably the biggest race outside of Euros and Worlds for a
Junior, and with a lot of the world,s top competitors there, it shows he is on track
for a great performance at the Worlds. Liam headed the race from the start, and had
a 10 second gap after lap 1. He extended this to 30 seconds over a chasing trio on
lap 2. Throughout the last lap he held the gap before extending it in the closing
stages to win by 48seconds. To put the ride in perspective, the National Junior teams
from Germany, Holland, Czech, France, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Belgium were
all riding and the Belgian Junior cyclo-cross champion was a distant 13th. What a
Liam was understandably pleased with his performance: ,I am very happy to win here,
it is a great course and event – a classic. I was nervous before the start and I
was surprised to get the early gap, but when I did, I kept the pressure on to make
them chase me and to make it harder for them.
Elite Men In contrast to Liam,s success, the British Elite men had a day to forget.
Olympic qualification depends on performances in the first five world cup races of
the year, but with three gone and two to come in the next couple of weeks, none of
the riders has yet staked a convincing claim for a place. Nick Craig pulled out with
mechanical problems. Barrie Clarke crashed and broke his wrist whilst holding a top
15 place. The World Class Performance Programme doctor is working with Barrie but
the implications of his injury are not yet clear. Paul Lasenby rode a steady race
for 44th place at 10.55 down. Oli Beckingsale had a nightmare opening lap and could
only move through to 53rd at 12.55 by the finish. Of the others Chris Eatough managed
70th @15.45, Phil Dixon 115th, after two punctures on his opening lap and Ian Wilkinson
was 108th @27.49. To date, Ian Wilkinson,s 28th in Mexico is the best performance
in the world Cup by British Elite Male this year.
National Team Manager Simon Burney had this to say about Olympic qualification: ,Olympic
spots for men are now wide open due to Barrie,s injury and Nick,s failure to finish.
Selection is based on points scored in a rider,s best four results from the first
five World Cup races. There are now only two races to go over the next two weekends.
The current situation is as follows:
Barrie Clarke 80 points
Paul Lasenby 77
Ian Wilkinson 57
Nick Craig 48
Oli Beckingsale 43
Phil Dixon 6