Fullana Wins Again
What a rock and roll race! I'm not normally one to gush about an XC race, even a World Cup one, but this women's race was a gas from start to finish. The warm and dry conditions of the previous two days had allowed the course to firm up significantly. Sections of extreme gnarliness that even a day ago had riders running their bikes had become certified, grade-A singletrack.
The pre-lap delivered a brutal climb straight through the heart of the old town to the midsection of the course, and the start of the fun stuff—singletrack. Racers had to pin it up sustained grades of 14 percent, just to get something approaching a favorable position heading into the singletrack. Riders who got caught in traffic on that climb were quickly tossed to the back of the pack.
Alas, such was the case for Lene Byberg of Specialized. Caught in traffic with a bad start, she was off the podium, simple as that. "I felt, how do you say? As if my legs were caught in honey on the climb," the dejected Specialized racer stated. "I just couldn't get into a favorable position." She battled well, though, ending the race in 12th.
The racer to watch today was Canadian Catharine Pendrel, riding for Luna. Margarita "Marga" Fullana had seized the lead on the opening climb and midway through lap one, Fullana and Chengyuan Ren held the first and second spots, but Pendrel was dangling just off their position. By lap two, Pendrel had passed Chengyuan and was hugging Fullana's wheel in perfect striking position. But in lap three, though, the wheels came off a bit.
"I was right on her wheel, and then I let up focus for just a second and she (Fullana) got a gap. I did what I could to close it down, but with such a short race (32 km), there was just no way. Had there been another lap," a confident Pendrel stated, "I feel certain I could have taken her. No worries, there's plenty of racing left in the season."
At the end of the day it was Fullana, Pendrel (+00:14), Ren (00:46), Eva Lechner with a stellar race (+01:58), and Elisabeth Osl (+ 02:17).
Canadian Emily Batty had another stellar race, smoking the U23 field and finishing 13th overall. Unfortunately, the Trek Store rider won't contend for the overall in Madrid, as she plans to return home for a training block and domestic competition.
Others caught in the pack fill on the initial climb were Georgia Gould and Mary McConneloug. Gould was able to battle her way back up to 11th overall, but McConneloug couldn't break top 25 and finished in 28th position.
Heather Irmiger, racing for Fisher Bikes, had a great start and was sitting in 12th position after the first lap. But she was unable to hold off the field and finished in 23rd. Willow Koerber, also of Fisher, finished 22nd (+06:36).