The three medal winners from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games women’s mountain bike event will line-up for a rematch on Saturday; only this time it’s on African soil at the first round of the 2009 Nissan UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, sponsored by DCM Chrome in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Germany’s Sabine Spitz (Central Ghost Team), Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska (CCC Polkowice) and Russia’s Irina Kalentieva were the first three riders across the finish respectively in Beijing last August and, with a course that’s been described as very similar to the one used for the 2008 Olympics, are likely to lead the podium charge in Saturday’s race.
With only a couple of exceptions, the start list is a veritable who’s who of the sport’s top names and includes Spain’s wearer of the world champion’s rainbow jersey, Margarita Fullana. The three-time world champion, who races for Team Massi, celebrated her 37th birthday on Thursday and will be eager to make an early-season statement against her younger rivals on the relatively short 4.7km circuit.
According to Kalentieva, who finished second behind Wloszczowska in last Saturday’s test event, the course includes a high percentage of steep climbs, which suits power-climbers like Spitz.
“The climbs are steep or short or both, which suits riders with more power. I don’t have so much power because I am light but I will do my best. There are also some steep descents, which require concentration. One slip and you can lose many seconds.”
The start field of 50 riders from 18 countries also contains American champion and World No. 7 Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven), Norway’s World No. 11, Lene Byberg (Specialized), Austria’s World No. 8 Elizabeth Osl (Central Ghost Team), and Switzerland’s World No. 10 Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago Cap Arreghini).
South African champion, Yolande Speedy IMC Momentum’s is enjoying a return to form and was encouraged by her seventh place, less than five minutes behind winner Wloszczowska at last weekend’s test event.
Wloszczowska’s test event victory in the midday heat showed she is in superb form, especially having ridden away from Kalentieva, the 2007 world champion in the final stages. It puts pressure on the Pole for Saturday, but judging by her feisty nature, that’s likely to be to her benefit.
The women will complete five laps of the course with the leaders likely to finish in less than 1 hour and 50 minutes.
The event schedule has been adjusted and the start of the Elite women’s race will be one hour earlier at 10h30. Online ticket sales have closed but tickets are available at the entrance from R30 per person. For more information, visit www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za
RACING SCHEDULE (excluding official practice sessions)
Friday 10 April
13h30–14h45: Downhill Qualifying Round
16h45–17h30: 4X Qualifying Round
Saturday 11 April
08h30: Cross-country Junior Men
08h32: Cross-country Junior Women
10h30: Cross-country Elite Women
13h00: Cross-country Elite Men
16h15: 4X Finals
Sunday 12 April
13h15: Downhill Women’s Finals
14h00: Downhill Men’s Finals
Olympic silver medalist, Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska, is one of the favourites for a podium finish in the Elite women’s cross-country race at the opening round of the 2009 Nissan UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, sponsored by DCM Chrome in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday.
Most of the world’s top female cross-country racers, including all three medalists at the Beijing Olympic Games, will be in action at the opening round of the 2009 Nissan UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, sponsored by DCM Chrome in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday.