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2002 MTB Worlds - CDM
Kaprun, Austria, 24 August - 1 September, 2002
September 1 - Women's Cross Country
Viking chicks rule in Kaprun, OK?
By Tim Maloney, European editor in Kaprun
Norwegian Viking Gunn-Rita Dahle has won her first ever women's cross country championship, prevailing over Poland's Anna Szafraniec and Germany's Sabine Spitz in atrocious conditions in Kaprun. Dahle crossed the line with a 1'23 advantage over second place, carrying a huge sponsors flag and grinning from one mud filled ear to the other.
Sunday dawned cool, dank and dreary, with a driving rainstorm seemingly settling in for the duration in Kaprun. Before the women's race even started at 0830, Kaprun claimed its first victim as Jimena Florit was a non-starter due to food poisoning contracted the night before. "I tried to warm up, but I felt terrible," a visibly distraught Florit told Cyclingnews a hour before the start. The RLX-Polo Sport rider from Argentina will remain in Europe to contest the World Cup final in Les Gets, but after a terrific season where Florit rode better than ever, her non-start today was a terrible disappointment for the likeable Argentinean.
With the worst weather for the mountain bike XC worlds since the rain-soaked Metabief, France event in 1993, Chief Commissaire Craig Kunde kept the Women's race at 4 laps due and implemented the less technical wet-weather option on the course due to the terrible weather conditions.
Today's terrible weather acted as a major equalizer in the women's race, with Spanish climber Marga Fullana going into action right away on the first climb up Gehorn to try and distance the other riders, and just behind Fullana were chasers led by Alison Sydor, diminutive Russian climber Irina Kalentiva, young Polish rider Anna Szafraniec, World #1 Sabine Spitz and plucky Brit Caroline Alexander.
Fullana's sketchy descending skills and the deluge streaming down mountain caused her to crash on a slippery left-hand hairpin, allowing Spitz to get past into the lead, trailed by Fullana, Kalentiva and Szafraniec.
The early morning rain had turned the course into a mudbath, with the two brook crossings deluge. Despite the rain option, most of the descents were unridable both Sabine Spitz and subsequently Gunn-Rita Dahle crashed out of the lead on the tricky descent. Alison Sydor used her experience and tremendous technical skills honed by years of riding on Vancouver's trails to take the lead halfway through the 2nd lap, with the plucky Szafraniec hanging right in there.
Meanwhile, Marga Fullana and Alison Dunlap both abandoned, Fullana hurt her back from her crash and Dunlap crashed and bent her derailleur. Despite her #13 number plate, the determined Dahle, recent winner of the European MTB championships in Zurich, was out to erase last year's World's bad luck disaster, when the 29 year old Stavanger native flatted while in the lead at Vail and lost the World title to Dunlap.
With two laps remaining and the rain abating, Dahle and Szafraniec had moved to the front of the race, while Sydor was hanging on to third in front of a hard charging Sabine Spitz. Szafraniec looked somewhat stronger on the climbs, but the experienced Norwegian decidedly had the edge on the slippery descents. When Szafraniec slipped on the steepest part of the course with one and a half laps to go, Dahle seized the initiative and dropped the young Pole. Behind the lead duo, Spitz had closed and passed the fading Sydor to ride into the Bronze medal position.
One lap long, lonely muddy later, Dahle took her long-sought first world title, "I felt great today and I really wanted to win," Dahle told Cyclingnews. "I was riding safely when I finally got the lead so nothing would happen."
21 year old Szafraniec, already Jr. World champion in Sweden in 1999 was stunned after her silver medal performance. The Krakow rider, who rides for the Lotto PZU team said "It really hasn't sunk in yet - I can't believe it! When I looked out the window this morning and saw the rain, it reminded me of Are (Sweden) so I was happy."
Ranked World #1, German Sabine Spitz was also pleased with her bronze medal. "It was my objective to get on the podium today so I'm happy about that. Today had to be one of the hardest races I've ever done," the German MTB champ explained to Cyclingnews.
But the day belonged to Dahle, who had tried for so long to win a major title and today in the mud and cold, the Viking woman prevailed in an epic 2:15:00 race.
Photos by Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews.com
Results - 28.8 km
1 Gunn-Rita Dahle (Nor) 2.14.05 (12.89 km/h) 2 Anna Szafraniec (Pol) 1.23 3 Sabine Spitz (Ger) 2.48 4 Alison Sydor (Can) 3.36 5 Petra Henzi (Swi) 8.21 6 Maroussia Rusca (Swi) 8.37 7 Chrissy Redden (Can) 9.57 8 Kiara Bisaro (Can) 10.39 9 Nina Goehl (Ger) 11.25 10 Alla Epifanova (Rus) 11.25 11 Mary Grigson (Aus) 13.31 12 Katrin Schwing (Ger) 13.32 13 Caroline Alexander (GBr) 13.57 14 Helene Marcouyre (Fra) 14.07 15 Petra Schoerkmayer (Aut) 14.26 16 Marie-Helene Premont (Can) 15.11 17 Susan Haywood (USA) 15.16 18 Anna Enocsson (Swe) 16.55 19 Sonja Traxel (Swi) 17.43 20 Bärbel Jungmeier (Aut) 18.05 21 Laurence Leboucher (Fra) 19.30 22 Silvia Rovira Planas (Spa) 19.52 23 Willow Koerber (USA) 20.24 24 Hiroko Nambu (Jpn) 22.23 25 Mary Mcconneloug (USA) 22.29 26 Hildegard Embacher (Aut) 23.13 27 Yvonne Kraft (Ger) 23.28 28 Hanusova Katerina (Cze) 23.30 29 Dellys Franke (Aus) 24.56 30 Regina Marunde (Ger) 25.23 31 Trish Sinclair (Can) 25.37 32 Severine Hansen (Fra) 26.17 33 Mette Andersen (Den) 27.24 34 Eron Chorney (Can) 27.29 35 Mourao Jaqueline (Bra) 29.40 36 Janka Stevkova (Svk) 31.43 37 Janet Puigros Miranda (Spa) 32.05 38 Bernadine Boog-Rauwerda (Ned) 32.19 39 Valentina Pazitova (Rus) 35.44 40 Bejstova Jindriska (Cze) 36.02 41 Daphny Van De Brand (Ned) 37.39 42 Blaza Klemencic (Slo) 38.47 43 Grete Pedmanson (Est) -1 Lap 44 Jenny Copnall (GBr) 45 Jenny Smith (NZl) 46 Corine Dorland (Ned) 47 Tarja Owens (Irl) 48 Lorenza Morfin Macouze (Mex) 49 Viktoria Kruncz (Hun) 50 Laurie Copans (Isr) 51 Saskia Elemans (Ned) 52 Maris Meier (Est) 53 Sandra Walter (Can) 54 Mirjam Dieleman (Ned) 55 Sabina Rezar (Slo) 56 Natalia Boyarskaya (Rus) 57 Adriana Gonzalez Sanchez (Mex) 58 Kateryna Yarova (Ukr) -2 Laps 59 Elina Sophocleous (Cyp) 60 Ekaterina Malomoura (Rus) 61 Nadejda Vlasova (Rus) 62 Hannele Kotze (RSA) 63 Ivana Ruszkowski (Cro) DNF Alison Dunlap (USA) DNF Annabella Stropparo (Ita) DNF Margarita Fullana Riera (Spa) DNF Irina Kalentieva (Rus) DNF Sandra Klose (Ger) DNF Robyn Wong (NZl) DNF Camilla Bertossi (Ita) DNF Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) DNF Marion Thevenet (Fra) DNF Bublova Ilona (Cze) DNF Maria Oestergren (Swe) DNF Maja Wlosczowska (Pol) DNF Magdalena Sadleka (Pol) DNF Havlikova Pavla (Cze) DNS Barbara Blatter (Swi) DNS Jimena Florit (Arg) DNS Sue Thomas (GBr)