Olympic Medallists Top Podium at MTN National Cup

    Beijing Olympics silver medalist, Maja Wloszczowska of Poland, beat off a strong challenge from the Beijing Games bronze medallist, Russian Irina Kalentieva, to win the Elite women’s cross-country title at Round 4 of the MTN National Mountain Bike Cup Series in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday.

    The race was dominated by international riders, who were using the event to prepare for the first round of the 2009 Nissan UCI World Cup, presented by Shimano, sponsored by DCM Chrome, which takes place at the same venue next week.

    After a steady start for the first half a lap, the front group strung out dramatically on the first long climb with Wloszczowska (Bank BGZ) and Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) moving off the front and building a small lead on the tough 4.6km course, which has been described as a climber’s delight.

    Kalentieva is the 2007 world champion and currently ranked fifth on the UCI rankings, while Wloszczowska, twice runner-up at the world championships (2004, 2005) is currently ranked 19th and firmly on the comeback trail after a disappointing 2007 and first half of 2008.

    Unperturbed by the midday heat, the pair of Eastern Europeans set a fierce pace and marked one another closely on the tight course. But on the penultimate lap the 25-year-old Pole managed to pull clear, eventually claiming the victory in 01 hour 43 minutes and 19 seconds.

    Kalentieva was less than a minute back in 1:44:14 with American Mary McConneloug (Kenda Seven), currently ranked seventh in the world, finishing strongly to claim the final podium spot in 1:45:21.

    Another Pole, Aleksandra Dawidowicz finished sixth overall and secured the Under-23 category victory, while South African champion, Yolande Speedy (IMC Momentum) finished a respectable seventh overall, just over four minutes behind Wloszczowska.

    “It was good to have such a strong international field here. It really is amazing to race against the world’s top riders right here in South Africa,” said Speedy, adding that her legs still felt a little heavy after the Absa Cape Epic, where she and Paul Cordes finished third overall in the Mixed category.

    MTN National Cup, in association with MiWay
    Round 4, Pietermaritzburg
    Leading results
    Pro-Elite women

    1 Maja Wloszczowska POL 1hr43min19sec
    2 Irina Kalentieva RUS 1:44L14
    3 Mary McConneloug USA 1:45:21
    4 Janka Stevkova SVK 1:46:01
    5 Magdalena Sadlecka POL 1:46:36
    6 Aleksandra Dawidowicz POL 1:47:23
    7 Yolande Speedy RSA 1:47:39
    8 Ivonne Kraft GER 2:00:11
    9 Blaza Klemencic SLO 2:02:01
    10 Sara Muhl RSA @ 1 lap

    Elite women
    1 Maja Wloszczowska POL 1hr43min19sec
    2 Irina Kalentieva RUS 1:44L14
    3 Mary McConneloug USA 1:45:21
    4 Janka Stevkova SVK 1:46:01
    5 Magdalena Sadlecka POL 1:46:36

    Under-23 women
    1 Aleksandra Dawidowicz POL 1:47:23
    2 Heletjie van Staden RSA @ 2 laps
    3 Janneke Leask RSA @ 2 laps

    From left, Germany’s Ivonne Kraft, Russia’s Irina Kalentieva, Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska and Slovakia’s Janka Stevkova, line up at the start of Round 4 of the MTN SA Cup women’s cross-country race in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.

    Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska on her way to victory at Round 4 of the MTN SA Cup women’s cross-country race in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.