April 6, 2006 – The 2006 World Cup cross-country season opened April 2nd on the Caribbean island of Curacao, and beneath a blazing blue sky and waving palm trees former Olympic champion, Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands rode to first place victory. Four years after his last WC win in Madrid, the 37 year old Brentjens beat world champion Julien Absalon after a challenging race. Liam Killeen, winner of the Commonwealth Games, finished in 3rd place.
Brentjens received brand new Shimano XTR wheels and pedals the night before the race and had yet to try them. Bill Scullion of Shimano stated earlier today “(Brentjens) had so much faith in Shimano quality that he never doubted their performance abilities at this (World Cup) level, and so decided to use them (and) he won! That in itself says volumes about our product”.
Brentjens, speaking of his victory remarked, “From the beginning I helped the International Cycling Union (UCI) with (this event) in Curacao.” In fact, Brentjens actually designed the circuit for his winning race. “Therefore,” he said, “this race was an important goal for me”. The 6.8 kilometre circuit took the riders along a winding figure-8 route. The loose surface and volcanic outcroppings added extra difficulties, forcing the riders to concentrate closely, or risk going off course and either crashing or flatting. Heat played a major factor in adding to the difficulty of the race and the men’s race was actually reduced from 7 laps to 6. Many riders spoke of experiencing goosebumps (an early indication of overheating), and most were trying to drink at least a bottle per lap.
Despite these demanding conditions, Marie Helene Premont, Commonwealth Gold medalist and another Shimano sponsored cyclist also made the podium in Curacao, placing fourth.