In the Lead
From Mt Snow, Vermont on the east coast of the US, the World Cup circus headed north across the border to another small ski resort town, Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec; the French speaking region of Canada.
From Mt Snow, Vermont on the east coast of the US, the World Cup circus headed north across the border to another small ski resort town, Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec; the French speaking region of Canada. The Mont-Ste-Anne course is regularly visited by the World Cup, having held an event there for the last three years, and it will be host to the World Championships in 1998.
I wanted to improve my record there (I have always felt that I have ridden okay there, but not as well as I could) especially considering we will be racing for rainbows the next time we visit. As usual, on arrival we were greeted with balmy humid weather, a slightly varied course and thousands of mosquitoes that drive everybody crazy.
This year the course had only two major climbs: a two minute middle ring climb with a short burst of small chainring effort on a smooth gravel road; and an approximately three minute middle ring grind over tufts of grass and rougher gravel. Both climbs were in the open sun which amplified the difficulty. There were lots of single and double track that ranged from fast and open to unrideable with wet rocks and exposed three roots. All together, it made for a well rounded course that was deceptively hard.
During the week, most of the top riders competed in the ‘Prelude’ mountain bike criterium–seven laps of a four minute circuit in the City Park on the Wednesday before the race weekend. These are always a test of lactate tolerance and bike handling skill, this one being no exception with a short but steep small chainring climb, staircases, a little bit of single track, off-camber grassy descents, and pouring rain, all mixed together. It was a good test of ability as well as a quality high-end training session.
Hubert Pallhuber (DBR) stormed to the front and stayed there, making time every lap on the sketchy downhill. Second place was fought out between Rune Hoydahl (Giant) and Ludovic Dubois (Sun/Nike). Hoydahl eventually took second while Jerome Chiotti (GT) held me off for fourth and I had to settle for the last bit of money in fifth.
Sunday bought a very different story in the way of weather and winners. From the first crawl up the climb in the heat and humidity, I knew that I was in for a bad day. Frischknecht (Ritchey), Pallhuber, Dubois, Martinez (Sunn/Nike), and Chiotti were driving things at the front, while I hovered between sixth and tenth, riding with Lennie Kristiansen (Giant). Rune Hoydahl, who was riding with us in eighth place, stopped to fix his bike, then came back and dropped me to amazingly finish in fourth place. World Cup leader Dupouey was also having an average day, struggling to stay in the top ten. He eventually DNF’d.
Frischknecht, who was storming at the front, also ended up having a bad day when he punctured on the second last lap and joined the DNF list. He stated after the race he was sure that he could have won (Thomas is very modest so this is a very likely story).
The last lap became a survival for me–doing what I could to get as many points as possible. However, charges from Michael Rasmussen (Trek) and Dave Baker (GT) put me from a possible seventh back to ninth. While out in front, Martinez took the win as well as the Leader’s Jersey. His team mate, Dubois took second, Chiotti third (it must be the French bread and language here that does it!), Hoydahl fourth, and Liubi fifth.
While I improved my record at Mont-Ste-Anne in terms of numbers, I still felt as though I had a good race, but not great. Hopefully I will be able to change this for next year! Time will tell.
Yes! Thank You!
Next stop was Vail, Colorado. This place has been good for me in the past. It has the longest climbs of any course, so naturally the longest descents, pretty good fun with heaps of single track, fast open roads, a few drop-offs to keep the crowd happy and even a little bit of sealed road. The course is made up of three loops, almost like three normal laps of most other courses, to make one complete course of about one hour.
To help us adapt to the altitude (8,000 ft) and get some quality training in, we had a weekend off racing which was nice. As nice a place as it is, I do get a bit sick of riding on the same three roads after a while! Come race day though, I was feeling a little fresher than before the previous World Cup and hoping for bigger and better things.
First time up the climb, Rishi Grewal, jerome Chiotti, and Michael Rassmusen had taken off like men possessed. I was happy to settle in with my two team mates Hubi Pallhuber and Pavel Tcherkasov–the Russian living in Italy who keeps the light heartiness, good risotto and wine in our team. As the race progressed it took its toll on Chiotti and Grewal whom we caught while Rasmussen was still out in front. With two laps nearly complete I got a gap in the single track and worked on opening it on the climbs and catching Rasmussen.
With one third of a lap to go I was a minute clear with goose bumps on my back, hoping things were going to continue, and not how they had for Pallhuber just a few races ago.
Going into the last descent before the finish I had 1:30 lead which was enough of a buffer to cruise into the finish and wait to see how the points would turn out. Michael Rassmusen came in second, Chiotti third, Pallhuber fourth, and Pavel fifth. Thank you creator of the universe. I not only had another World Cup win but also the blue Jersey back by a mere five points. Vail had been good to me!
The World Cup is going to come down to the wire at the last two races–Houffalize, Belgium and the finals in Annecy, France in late August and early September.
Right now, I am going to Italy to join the U23 road squad to get as much form as I can for the finals.