Australian Mary Grigson, riding for
her new sponsor Gary Fisher/Saab, won her first-ever world cup mountain bike
race Sunday with a dominant performance in the opening round of the Tissot-UCI
Mountain Bike World Cup.
The first professionals to race on this brand-new
course at Domaine Chandon in California’s famous Napa Valley wine country, the women’s
field rolled off to their start at 10:30 a.m. PST for two parade loops followed by
five full laps. Each lap is 6km (4 mi.) in length, giving the 73 competitors more
than 30km and nearly two hours of racing.
Grigson, whose previous best result came last season
when she finished second at round number two in Sydney, completely dominated the
field by attacking early in the race and dropping a seven-woman group for her solo
win. Grigson finished the day 1:55 ahead of second-place Alison Dunlap (USA,
Team GT) and 2:10 ahead of third place Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale).
Racing began with Grigson inside of a lead group,
as the women spent their two parade loops getting the best possible position for
the narrow singletrack section 1km into the lap. Racers, concerned about this course’s
lack of passing opportunities, made an extra effort to go out hard and early ñ
rather than get stuck in the singletrack section.
Weather was perfect for racing Sunday, as both men
and women contested the elite pro events on one day, rather than the two-day format
of last season. Skies were clear and sunny with warm temperatures and dry, dusty
track conditions. The new course at Domaine Chandon is rocky and rough, with sharp
rocks underneath the dusty surface.
Joining Grigson in the lead group was Dunlap and Sydor,
plus Olympic gold Medallist Paola Pezzo (ITA, Gary Fisher Saab), current
World Champion Marga Fullana (ESP, Subaru-Specialized), ’98 World Champion
Laurence Leboucher (FRA, GT), teammate Chrissy Redden (CAN,
Gary Fisher/Saab) and up-and-coming Barbara Blatter (SUI, Scott USA).
Sydor overtook the lead in lap three, pulling the
group for a lap until Fullana briefly assumed the lead before retiring with a flat
rear tire in the 4th lap. At that point Grigson sensed an opportunity to attack,
and did just that ñ to the surprise of the five remaining chasers.
By the end of lap four, Grigson had a minute’s lead
on the field, and by the fifth and final lap the Australian was 1:25 in the clear.
At this point the American Alison Dunlap (USA, Team GT) counter-attacked
and tried to reel in Grigson, launching off a solo effort which yielded a 35 second
cushion over Sydor, Pezzo, Redden and Blatter.
By the finish Grigson had increased her lead to 1:55,
as Dunlap held off Sydor for 2nd, Pezzo and teammate Redden finished 4th and 5th
and Leboucher passed Blatter for 6th place.
Mary Grigson: "I had an awesome day,
great teammates and a great bike. I had a rough season in Australia which frustrated
me, so I think that frustration paid off here. I worked with Redden, then attacked
on the climb ñ but I didn’t expect to get so much of a lead."
Alison Dunlap: "I’m thrilled with my
result today. It was tough out there, it was hard to see and breathe. It was especially
tough knowing that there was a group behind me. I attacked with two laps to go, and
held off Sydor."
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