2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup

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Marga Fullana
Motor Through the Mud
World Cup Cross-Country #8
Lausanne, Switzerland: September 2-3, 2000

Four people were big winners in the eighth and final round of racing in Lausanne, Switzerland, this weekend, when Marga Fullana (ESP, Subaru-Specialized) and Filip Meirhaeghe (BEL, Subaru-Specialized) gave their American team a double win — and Barbara Blatter (SUI, Scott USA) joined Miguel Martinez (FRA, Full Dynamix) as the season's overall champions.

Battling the final round of racing in slick mud and driving rains, the season finale was anything but comfortable — but somehow produced an exciting pair of races nonetheless on its fast and easy course. While rains poured down and turned the tree-lined course into a mess of mud and grime, thousands of spectators still lined the majority of the track and kept Europe at the forefront of international cross-country racing.

It's been a long season for the World Cup, since it began back in April on a hot day in Napa, California. And now, five months later and a continent away, the story ends for the season — just as the Olympic fever sets in among the world's best XC racers.

All four of the day's big winners are going to the Olympics; some used this race as a test for their fitness while others just did what they had to in order to finish the season strongly.

Women's Mud Wrestling
Marga Fullana (ESP, Subaru-Specialized) wasn't so sure she was in top shape at this point in the season, after finishing third in a recent Swiss Cup and facing her most hated type of course this weekend; muddy and flat.

Barbara Blatter (SUI, Scott USA) didn't even want to race on the course, preferring to save her fitness for Sydney and hoping to avoid running through the mud. She planned on riding two laps, then dropping out of the race.

But Blatter changed her mind, as she found herself in the lead with Fullana within the first lap, the two riding closely together and putting one, then two minutes on another pair of riders, Hedda Zu Puttlitz (GER, Be-One) and Elsbeth Vink (NED, Subaru-Specialized).

Fullana shadowed Blatter for three of the four laps, then attacked just as Blatter's legs were giving out. Blatter went backward four positions — from leading the race to finishing fifth.

Marga punched it at the same time, building a lead in the mud and proving both to herself and anyone else watching that she can ride any conditions, any time. While she built up a gap, her teammate Elsbeth Vink (NED, Subaru-Specialized) began to chase her — and came within 46 seconds of succeeding.

Vink hasn't raced in the World Cup since breaking four ribs and puncturing a lung back in Sarentino's round five this season, but got back into form to challenge her teammate for the win. She attacked Zu Puttilitz in the last lap and quickly moved forward, while Sabine Spitz (GER, Merida) moved up from 6th position to 4th.

Blatter hung on for 5th and the World Cup title, as her nearest chaser Alison Dunlap (USA, Team GT) wasn't racing this weekend as she prepares for the Olympics. The other Alison — Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) — had problems with her rear brake and finished a disappointing 15th — with no hope of taking the World Cup title and finishing third overall.

Men Get Dirty
There are several men who are going fast right now in the elite level, and many of them were right up front in the men's race. One of them recently won the European Championships, and also a World Cup back in round three. That was Filip Meirhaeghe (BEL, Subaru-Specialized), and he came into Sunday's race ready to take on anyone — he's at the peak of speed and mental strength right now.

He wasn't alone in his aspirations for the victory, as Thomas Frischknecht (SUI, Ritchey) figured he could get a win in these muddy conditions, as he's the best mud rider in the sport. Frischy went out hard with Filip, and by the mid-way point of the race when heavy rains began to fall, he overtook the lead.

These two men were joined from the start by a third, Roel Paulissen (BEL, Team GT) who recently won the Belgian national title. Roel likes to ride in the mud, and has been getting stronger with each race this season as he makes preparations to join fellow Belgian Meirhaeghe at the Olympics.

These three built up a two-minute gap on another pair of top racers, world cup leader and current World Champion Miguel Martinez (FRA, Full Dynamix), and 1999 World Champ Michael Rasmussen (DEN, Haro/Lee Dungarees). They rode together in 4th and 5th positions, as Martinez just cruised to ensure the World Cup title while his two closest chasers for the overall — Bas Van Dooren (NED, Be-One) and Christophe Dupouey (FRA, Team Giant) — rode well out of danger in mid-field.

Frischknecht traded the lead with Meirhaeghe several times, even after the Belgian Bomber attacked in the second lap. But in lap three of the five-lap race, Meirhaeghe attacked again, and this time it held. He neutralized Frischy's advantage in the mud as heavy rains turned the muck into a more manageable consistency, and rode off the front, and both left Paulissen two minutes back.

In the end it was all Meirhaeghe, who for the first time won two World Cups in a single season, and did it against Frischknecht, the man with destiny on his side. Until this season, Frischy had won at least one World Cup every single season, often in the mud. But he finished 19 seconds away from doing it again, disappointed to break his streak.

Paulissen held on for 3rd, while Martinez finished 4th and did indeed win the overall title. Thomas Dietsch (FRA, Bianchi) worked his way up from 10th to 5th, rounding out the podium. His previous-best finish was 33rd, and he's only raced in three World Cups this season.

And now all there is to worry about this season is the Olympics, as that's all that the cross-country riders talk about. There will be 30 women and 50 men racing, all of them top World Cup racers and approximately ten of them with the ability to win later this month. And with that in mind, we bid you farewell from the 2000 Tissot-UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. See you next season!

Ari Cheren, standing up to his knees in mud — yet somehow still standing after 16 rounds of World Cup racing, for MountainZone.com

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