World champions Marga Fullana and Miguel Martinez started the European World Cup season right where they left off last year. Fullana beat her Specialized teammate and reigning World Cup champion Barbara Blatter by 22 seconds in the qualifying time trial in Sarentino, Italy, while Martinez (Full Dynamix) finished ten seconds up on Roland Green (Trek-Volkswagen). The time trial was held in order to seed the riders for tomorrow’s cross country.
The course in Sarentino has changed for this year, and 10th-placed Thomas Frischknecht (Ritchey-Yahoo!) called it “the toughest World Cup course in Europe, both technically and physically. It is all rideable but very hard. There is a lot of climbing.” The 5-kilometer time trial encompassed all of the most challenging sections of the 6.5 km cross-country course, although it cut off a long stretch of flat along the Talvera river as well as the start loop.
Before the race, Green bemoaned, “I wish they would have us do the whole lap.” Given the small time gap between him and the diminutive climbing machine in the rainbow jersey, had those flat stretches been included in the time trial, the powerful Canadian could have been standing above the Frenchman on the podium.
Except for a 1 km run-in to the finish, the course was either climbing or descending the entire time. After a long, gradual climb traversing back and forth across the picturesque alpine mountain, a gnarly zigzag drop called the “Double-S” drove the heart rates of the oxygen-starved and panting riders even higher. Many did not make it through the large boulder drops in the tight turns. Another couple of drops and high-speed switchbacks after washboard braking bumps kept it exciting until the big rocky drop called “Hölle” where many riders also tumbled.
Martinez, starting 39th from last, took off like a shot and wasted no time in catching his 30-second and 1:30-men. His minute man, former world champion Hubert Pallhuber (Diamond Back), could feel the Frenchman’s breath on his neck throughout the final descent and run-in. Green lost time on the climb to Martinez but, riding a fully-suspended Trek, he seemed to be closing the gap on the descent. Fullana also started early (18th from last), resulting in similar devastation of the riders starting :30, 1:00, 2:30 and 3:00 ahead of her. The lean Spaniard passed those four riders and barely missed passing a fifth – teammate Elsbeth Vink – her 2-minute woman.
Check back to www.VeloNews.com tomorrow for a full story and results from the cross country race.