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2003 MTB World championships - CM
Lugano, Switzerland, August 30 - September 7, 2003
September 7 - Elite Men's Cross Country - Preview
After chasing Ryder Hesjedal (Canada) for most of the day, it was three time bronze medallist and two time silver medallist, Filip Meirhaeghe (Belgium) who took the win today and finally realize his dream of becoming World Champion. Meirhaeghe was very happy with his win. "It's a dream come true," he said. "Last year I was so close, only 19 seconds behind Roland (Green), and on the start line today I thought it was going to happen again, so I am really happy now.
On the course that has been described over and over as ultra technical, the men completed 8 laps for a total of 49.3km. Ryder Hesjedal (Canada) put the hammer down early to set the pace for the race, with Roland Green (Canada) and Ralph Naef (Switzerland) hot on his wheels. As the race progressed, Green fell off the pace and the Begians started to make up the 50" they had lost on Hesjedal as did the two Swiss riders, Naef and Christoph Sauser, who rounded off the top 5 on the course.
For most of the race the front five riders remained the same and it was with almost two laps to go that Meirhaeghe bridged the gap to Hesjedal and the pair rode together for what was to be a very exciting finish. Meirhaeghe's pace proved too strong for Hesjedal in the last lap and he gradually edged away to eventually finish 46" in front. A very muddy and exhausted looking Hesjedal rolled across the line the take second place in his first attempt in the senior ranks and Paulissen took third place to make it Gold and Bronze for Belgium.
Naef came in to take fourth place, however his teammate Sauser wasn't so fortunate, flatting in the seventh lap and having to settle for 14th place in the end. Designer of the course, Thomas Frichknecht seemed to be suffering early in the race, perhaps feeling the effect of the marathon last weekend, however came back to take a respectable 11th place and defending champion Roland Green also showed the effect of having been out of racing for most of this season, coming in 19th.
Merihaeghe admitted later, to being nervous that Hesjedal had such a strong lead early in the race. "I didn't actually realize that Ryder was up there at first because I could only see four riders in front of me and I he wasn't one of them. All of a sudden I saw him and he had 55 seconds on me so I became a bit worried because a minute lead on this course is a lot. Later though I started to catch up and it was only then that I started to believe in my chances." In fact even after he had caught Hesjedal, Meirhaeghe didn't relax. "In the second last lap I took too many risks because I was getting tired and nervous, and I started to make mistakes, so in the last lap I took it a little easier because I wouldn't have been able to cope if I lost due to a flat tyre."
Of his choice to use a duel suspension bike, Meirhaeghe had no doubts. "I'm sure it was the right decision, in fact I only came here with this bike, I didn't even bring a hard tail with me. I have been riding the Epic all year now and we have been working on the weight and I am absolutely sure that the weight is not a disadvantage. I think it was easier to recover from the up hills with the duel suspension."
Hesjedal was happy with his race despite being so close to the win. "This is my third silver medal, but this is by far the most significant because it's the elite category and it's only my first attempt. I felt good all day today but when I heard over the radio that Meirhaeghe was catching me I decided to back off a bit and let him catch me. I wanted to let him catch me and then attack to take his spirits a bit, but he stayed right with me and then I knew that he would be very strong for the finish."
The men's cross country race wrapped up the 2003 World Championships in Lugano where a crowd of 25,000 people turned up to view the action on the last day. Many riders will now head to the final World Cup in Kaprun, Austria which will be held next weekend. Some will be there to redeem themselves from bad luck this weekend, especially riders such as Christoph Sauser whose puncture cost him a high placing today.
Images by Kristy Scrymgeour
Images by Valerio Marani
1 Filip Meirhaeghe (Belgium) 2.25.02 (20.4 km/h) 2 Ryder Hesjedal (Canada) 0.46 3 Roel Paulissen (Belgium) 1.52 4 Ralph Naef (Switzerland) 2.41 5 Bas Peters (Netherlands) 2.51 6 Cedric Ravanel (France) 3.02 7 Kashi Leuchs (New Zealand) 4.34 8 Lado Fumic (Germany) 6.04 9 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 6.25 10 Martino Fruet (Italy) 6.44 11 Thomas Frischknecht (Switzerland) 6.44 12 Julien Absalon (France) 7.26 13 José Antonio Hermida (Spain) 7.31 14 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 8.32 15 Sergiy Rysenko (Ukraine) 8.38 16 Chris Sheppard (Canada) 8.41 17 Stefan Sahm (Germany) 9.10 18 Johann Pallhuber (Italy) 9.19 19 Roland Green (Canada) 10.01 20 Daniel Soler (Switzerland) 10.07 21 Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) 10.41 22 Jeremiah Bishop (USA) 10.49 23 Matthias Mende (Germany) 10.59 24 Nick Craig (Great Britain) 11.19 25 Maarten Tjallingii (Netherlands) 12.46 26 Israel Nunez Baticon (Spain) 12.53 27 Yohann Vachette (France) 12.59 28 Geoff Kabush (Canada) 13.10 29 Peter Riis Andersen (Denmark) 13.20 30 Marc Golz (Germany) 13.36 31 Peter Wedge (Canada) 13.58 32 Silvio Bundi (Switzerland) 14.07 33 Carsten Bresser (Germany) 14.15 34 Oliver Beckingsale (Great Britain) 14.49 35 Milan Spesny (Czech Republic) 15.19 36 Radim Korinek (Czech Republic) 15.52 37 Miko Pirazzoli (Italy) 1 lap 38 Pavel Elsnik (Czech Republic) 39 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Sweden) 40 Dario Acquaroli (Italy) 41 Jimmy Tielens (Belgium) 42 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) 43 Christian Poulsen (Denmark) 44 Klaus Nielsen (Denmark) 45 Josh Fleming (Australia) 2 laps 46 Erwin Bakker (Netherlands) 47 Yader Zoli (Italy) 48 Valentin Girard (Switzerland) 49 Miguel Martinez (France) 50 Zak Toogood (Great Britain) 51 Klaus Vesterlund (Denmark) 52 Robin Seymour (Ireland) 53 Tudor Oprea Ovidiu (Roumania) 54 Sandro Spaeth (Switzerland) 55 Ziranda Madrigal (Mexico) 56 Marti Gispert Labarta (Spain) 57 Andreas Hestler (Canada) 58 Carl Decker (USA) 59 Massimo De Bertolis (Italy) 60 Sid Taberlay (Australia) 61 Vitaliy Tsurkan (Ukraine) 62 Roman Rametsteiner (Austria) 63 Lubos Kondis (Slovakia) 64 Salvador Barriga (Mexico) 65 Mannie Heymans (Namibia) 66 Sigvard Kukk (Estonia) 3 laps 67 Perren Delacour (Australia) 68 Mathieu Toulouse (Canada) 69 Jimi Mortenson (USA) 70 Michael Broderick (USA) 71 Yevgeniy Yakovlev (Kazakhstan) 72 Stuart Houltham (New Zealand) 73 Raita Suzuki (Japan) 74 Milan Barenyi (Slovakia) 75 Cristobal Silva (Chile) 76 Francisco Corvalan (Chile) 77 Thijs Al (Netherlands) 78 Tim Vincent (New Zealand) 4 laps 79 Carl Swenson (USA) 80 Gregor Miklic (Slovenia) 81 Lenart Noc (Slovenia) 82 Chris Jongewaard (Australia) 83 Hrvoje Popovic (Croatia) 84 Doron Amitz (Israel) 85 Konstantinos Symelidis (Greece) 86 Akihito Udagawa (Japan) 87 Robert Vrecer (Slovenia) 88 Szilard Buruczki (Hungary) 5 laps 89 Emmanouil Kotoulas (Greece) 90 Don Travers (Ireland) 91 Kevin Evans (South Africa) 92 Stuart Bowers (Great Britain) 93 Mitja Tancik (Slovenia) 94 Victor Trokhin (Russia) 95 Ben Swanepoel (South Africa) DNF Seamus Mcgrath (Canada) DNF Christoph Soukup (Austria) DNF Alexandros Klonos (Cyprus) DNF José Antonio Marquez (Spain) DNF Antonio Ortiz (Spain) DNF Marco Bui (Italy) DNF Michal Bogdziewicz (Poland) DNF Marek Galinski (Poland) DNF Marcin Karczynski (Poland) DNF Evgeni Nikiforov (Russia) DNF Philipp Tavell (Sweden) DNS Patrick Trevisan (Belgium) DNS Phil Dixon (Great Britain)