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UCI MTB World Cup XC #5, 4X #4 – Preview

June 24, 2005 (Mont Ste-Anne, Que.) – Canadian World Cup mountain bike action gets underway tomorrow morning at 11 am with the women’s cross-country event in Mont Ste-Anne, Que. The men’s cross-country starts at 2 p.m., followed by 4X qualifications at 5:15 p.m. with the finals beginning at 7 p.m. The downhill is slated for Sunday.

The consensus among riders is that the five-kilometre cross-country course is technical. “It is not easy!” exclaimed Ludovic Dubau (FRA, Devinci-ProRace) during a pre-ride lap. Roel Paulissen (BEL, Giant), who is fifth overall, is happy that the first climb has been shortened from last year, commenting, “it suits me better.”

The loop is classic Canadian: rooty, rocky and rough with lots of tricky singletrack. Most of the course is the same as the one used for last weekend’s National Championships, but organizers threw in an additional climb and descent to make it a bit longer.

Most of the top World Cup riders are here, including Paulissen, Christoph Sauser (SUI, Siemens Mobile-Cannondale) and Marco Bui (ITA, Full Dynamix). Curiously, Julien Absalon (FRA, Bianchi-Agos), who won the first two events of the series and is sitting in second place overall, is not on the list of registrants, but the official start list has not been released yet.

Naturally, there is a large Canadian contingent, including freshly crowned National Champion Geoff Kabush (CAN, Maxxis). Ricky Federau (CAN, Gears Racing), who placed third at the National Championships, is ready to rock again at Mont Ste-Anne. His big dilemma: hardtail or dually? Roland Green (CAN, Kona-Les Gets) will also be on the start line.

Max Plaxton (CAN, Maxxis-MSC), who has spent the season thus far training and racing in Spain, crossed the Atlantic for the event. The 20-year-old won the 2005 Canadian Espoir National Championship title two weeks ago and is recovering after a tough seven-stage Tour de Beauce.

All eyes are on three-time National Champion Marie-Hélène Prémont (QC,Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) for the women’s race, as it’s the 27-year-old’s home turf. Premont’s dream is to win on her home course, which is entirely possible. Accompanied by her usual big smile, she commented that she’s ready for tomorrow.

Premont is currently second overall in the series. She placed second here in 2004 and proved she can be the best when she won the World Cup season opener in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, beating out the virtually unstoppable Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, Multivan-Merida). Dahle, who is leading the series, is in town and will do all she can to keep that from happening.

Canada’s other World Cup regulars, Kiara Bisaro (CAN, Gears Racing), Trish Sinclair (CAN, Scott USA) and Sandra Walter (CAN, AdventureBound.ca) will be good to go, along with Canada Cup leader Mical Dyck (CAN, Terrascape Racing).

Brazilian-Canadian Jaqueline Mourao (BRA, Scott) who took a surprise victory in last weekend’s 101-kilometre World Cup mountain bike marathon event commented she was still trying to recover from her epic ride. She was still stoked from her moment of glory, however. “I felt shy [on the podium],” she said, because she felt she didn’t belong there.

Missing from the start line will be Alison Sydor (CAN, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects). Sydor, who placed second at the National Championships, was excited to head home to Victoria, B.C. “I’ve been on the road pretty much since Sea Otter,” which was at the beginning of April, she said. She won the Test of Metal in Squamish, B.C. last weekend and is planning to race in the road National Championships in Kamloops, B.C. on July 10.

Catharine Pendrel (CAN, The Bike Barn) is feeling strong. She was sixth at the National Championships and finished second, only two minutes behind Sydor, in the 67-kilometre Test of Metal last weekend.

The weather forecast is calling for hot (31 degrees), muggy conditions with a chance of thundershowers in the afternoon.

The four-cross is always a crowd-drawing event and this one should be no exception. The course is buffed, bermed and ready for some high-speed, high-flying fun. The world’s top four-crossers, Michal Prokop (CZE), Brian Lopes (USA, G.T.) and Cedric Gracia (FRA, Siemens Mobile-Cannondale) will battle it out on the slopes of Mont Ste-Anne tomorrow evening. Hugo Donais (CAN, Norco) and Louis-Philippe Leonard (CAN, Norco) will be among six Canadian men starting the event.

Anneke Beerten (NED, Specialized) and Jill Kintner (USA, Yeti) ar ranked one-two in the four-cross standings and they’ll be poised to shake up the women’s field. Michelle Dumaresq (CAN), who placed ninth in the event last year, is the only Canadian entrant.

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