August 28, 2006 (Rotorua, New Zealand) – Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) and Julien Absalon (Fra) proved they are worthy bearers of the Elite cross-country rainbow jerseys by winning the MTB World Championship races on Sunday. Both riders elevate themselves into legendary status winning worlds for the third consecutive time – only Henrik Djernis (Den) who won from 1992, 1993, 1994 and Alison Sydor (Can) 1994, 1995, 1996 have done this before. Dahle Flesjaa, having also won in 2002, is now the only XC racer to hold four jerseys.
Dominant, would be the only way to describe Dahle Flesjaa’s ride. She attacked and dropped all contenders at the top of the first climb and never looked back. Irina Kalentieva (Rus), Marie-HÃ©lÃ¨ne PrÃ©mont (Can), Margarita Fullana Riera (Esp) and Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) were all racing for silver twenty minutes into the nearly two hour race.
Fullana did her best to stay with Dahle Flesjaa up the first climb but even the flyweight climber could not hang with the Norwegian. At the end of the first lap Dahle Flesjaa using her top descending skills had opened up over a minute gap on Fullana, Kalentieva and PrÃ©mont who formed the first chase group. Sydor was riding well another 45 seconds back in fifth position. Kiara Bisaro (Can) came through the first lap in the high twenties suffering from a bad start “I thought it was kind of quiet, then I looked back and no one was there,” she said after the race.
Dahle Flesjaa made time on Kalentieva on both the climbs and descents on the next lap. PrÃ©mont who was losing time on the descents but gaining back on the climbs eventually lost contact with the Russian. Former champ Fullana was extremely apprehensive on the descent losing nearly two minute on PrÃ©mont in the second lap alone. Then Wloszczowska, a two-time silver medalist, overtook Sydor for fifth position. Bisaro, grinning from ear to ear, was marching steadily forward up to 20th position.
Through Lap 3 Dahle Flesjaa powered ahead as the gaps between riders behind her progressively opened. Bisaro egged on by MC Peter Graves rolled through with an even bigger smile on her face in 19th position. Catherine Pedrel (Can) and Wendy Simms (Can) came through in 27th and 30th positions respectively.
In one minor show of weakness, Dahle lost time on the climb to Kalentieva on the fourth lap but regained it on the descent. The rest of the top five remained in the same order as PrÃ©mont, Fullana and Wloszszowska all trailed as their defecits opening further. Then Mary McConneloug (USA) overtook Sydor to move up to sixth while Anna Szafraniec (Pol), Petra Henzi (Sui) and Kiwi Rosara Joseph all pressed forward.
An ecstatic Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa crossed the line into the arms of her husband Kenneth while hoards of photographers descended on her. The slight, Irina Kalentieva was also extremely pleased with her second place performance. ChÃ¢teau-Richer Quebec’s Marie-Helene PrÃ©mont crossed the line in third as she was greeted by Lesley Tomlinson (Rocky Mountain/Business Objects Team Director) and Michel Leblanc (Canadian coach). Wloszszowska 4th, Fullana 5th, McConneloug 6th, Szafraniec 7th, Henzi 8th, Sydor 9th and Joseph 10th rounded out the top ten.
Four-time elite MTB World Champion Dahle Flesjaa said, “I can’t compare them,” when asked which of her wins is most special to her, adding, “I know I will ready to fight for another championship next year.” Her husband and coach Kenneth Flesjaa said “training builds you up, racing tears you down” when asked why Gunn-Rita limits her races to focus on particular races and does so well.
“Every lap I was feeling better and better,” said Kalentieva on her strong race today. “Yesterday it was raining and I said, it’s my weather,” adding “I was feeling better on the downhills”
As PrÃ©mont faced the French media she said “Je suis content” which sums up her mood after the race – content but not exuberated. She noted that the course was not ideal for her “The climbing was very long,” she said, “I gave everything I had,” when asked if she hoped for a better result.
Alison Sydor delivered another top-ten result, placing ninth. “I actually felt pretty good,” she said about going to the front at the start. She rode a consistent race and was in the top five until the last lap and a half when “I started to cramp whenever I did anything wrong.”
Kiara Bisaro was “very, very happy with my race considering the start.”