M O N T R E A L - Q U E B E C - C A N A D A


World Cup #1 - Houffalize

Coverage brought to you with the assistance of Velirium

Houffalize, Belgium, April 19-20, 2008

In a stunning last lap display of power, defending champion Chengyuan Ren of China roared back to the front fron a minute down to win the first World Cup of the season in Houffalize, Belgium. World champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) took the silver medal and Canada's Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) the bronze. Catharine Pendrel (Luna), after a fast opening lap which saw her move up as high as fourth, faded to 14th by the finish, with Kiara Bisaro (Opus) finishing one spot further back, putting three Canadians in the top 15.

The rain and fog that was forecast for today didn't materialize, with sun coming out just before the start of the women's 4.5 lap race and gradually drying up the circuit as the race progressed. However, in the woods there were still lots of dicey mud holes, as the muddy outfits of many riders bore witness to.

Marga Fullana (Massi) had her usual blazing fast start, finishing the opening loop 15 seconds in front of Premont, with a chase group of Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), Kalentieva, Pendrel, Georgia Gould (Luna) and Ren forming a further 15 seconds back.

By the middle of the first full lap of the course, Fullana was being reeled in by Premont, with the chasers stuck at 30-40 seconds. Then disaster for Premont when she flatted in the second lap, too far from the tech zone to get a wheel swap.

"It was a slow leak, but I could not make it to the zone, so I decided to stop and fix it," Premont explained. "That let the others catch me and I rode with them for a few laps after that."

Kalentieva and Premont gradually distanced themselves from Gould, Dahle and Ren in the second and third laps, and were steadily catching Fullana. Kalentieva began the last lap almost on Fullana's wheel, and it looked like the world champion would take the lead.

However, to the surprise of everyone in the finish area, it was Ren who came rolling in first, with a substantial 15 second gap on Kalentieva. The Chinese rider gave her usual shy smile and little wave to the crowd.

Premont, in her first race of the season, was well pleased with third. "It has been a hard winter with a lot of snow, and because it ws my first race I didn't know how I would go. But I knew on the first lap that my legs were good, and that I could have a strong ride, so I am pleased that this is a good start to my season."

Pendrel was also satisfied with her race, despite losing 7 spots on the final lap. "I just died," she said simply. "It was one lap too long for me at this time of the year. But I felt really good, really strong on the first lap, so I was riding at the front group and pushing hard. Maybe that was my downfall, that I didn't pace myself more, but I'm confident after this race that it will come."


1 Ren Chengyuan (Chn)                                       2.11.06
2 Irina Kalentieva (Rus) Topeak Ergon Racing Team 0.35
3 Marie-Helene Premont (Can) Rocky Mountain 1.08
14 Kiara Bisaro (Can) 6.57

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