1999 World Cup Mountain Biking
Canmore, Alberta, Canada
July 3-4, 1999

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Another Set of World Cup Winners!
Dahle, Frischy Beat the Heat
Canmore: Cross-Country #7

The 1999 mountain bike world cup season continued its unpredictable journey around the world this weekend when yet another pair of winners in Gunn-Rita Dahle and Thomas Frischknecht graced the top of the podium, on yet another type of race track. Where last week it was all about the dust, this weekend’s race in Canmore, Alberta, Canada was all about rain. And mud. And snow.

Frischy and son, Andrei Frischy and son, Andrei
Canmore hosted its second world cup event since last year’s beautiful and sunny celebration of Canada Day and U.S. Independence Day. This year, however, things were different as freakish cold temperatures, rain and snow enveloped the tiny sporting community, nestled against the majestic mountains of the Rockies.

No worries though — this is mountain biking, and the travelling circus busted out the umbrellas and leg warmers for the coldest event in memory. While Dahle crushed Sydor and Co. for her season’s first win, Frischy ran away with the victory on Sunday to become the seventh winner in seven rounds of men’s racing this season... a first in the sport.

Women were the first to take to Canmore’s scenic — yet tough — course. They raced on Saturday, one day after an unexpected snowstorm hit this Olympic facility. No sunny weather for the women, who lined up for their race under umbrellas - ready to do battle with the elements as well as each other.

Pro Mt. Biker Gunn-Rita Dahle Gunn-Rita Dahle
It hasn’t rained during a women’s XC world cup since last season in Budapest, yet even that doesn’t compare to the frigid conditions that hit these pros in lap two, as they finished their race in near-freezing temperatures and a genuine snowfall at the top of the highest climb. Dahle ignored the conditions and, in a first lap statement, went to the front and never left.

She had competition briefly from last week’s top-two women, Volvo-Cannondale teammates Annabella Stropparo and Alison Sydor, who rode in 2nd and 3rd for most of the race. But Dahle proved that last week’s flat tire wasn’t going to deny her this time, creating a lead more than two minutes long by race’s end.

With Dahle off the front, the race became one for podium positions. Caroline Alexander (GBR, American Eagle) continued her late-season form to finish in second after passing the two struggling V-C teammates in the last lap with strong climbing and solid descending past a vocal crowd that numbered 1,300. Both Sydor and Stropparo, meanwhile, wore through their disc brake pads, and were forced to dismount on some descents — but still managed to finish 3rd and 4th, respectively.

Pro Mt. Biker Thomas Frischknecht Thomas Frischknecht
One other Cannondale rider made the podium, as Alla Epifanova (RUS, Volvo/ Cannondale) made her first visit to the top-five since Vail ’97 after a steady ride. All three V-C ladies were freezing after the finish, as Sydor immediately went to first aid and Stropparo and Epifanova shivered in the media tent in front of large portable heaters.

With her win, Dahle is now 100 points behind Sydor as the tour heads for the finals in Houffalize, Belgium. We haven’t done the math properly, but believe that if Dahle wins and Sydor finishes off the podium, an upset could be in the making...

The men’s overall title chase is close as well, with just 20 points separating number-two Miguel Martinez (FRA, Full Dynamix) and number-three Christoph Sauser (SUI, Volvo-Cannondale) — with Bas Van Dooren (NED, Be One) just 101 points back from Sauser. These numbers are important, because they had a lot to do with the men’s race for podium positions. Unfortunately for these men, they were all bested on Sunday by the best, Thomas Frischknecht.

Frischy won his sixteenth world cup of his career, and has now won at least one round since the ’90 season. He is great at picking his time and place, and used Canmore’s wet and muddy conditions to his advantage, running up muddy hills to a well-deserved win.

Realizing he had the legs early in the 32.9 km race, Frischy gapped Evans, Martinez and Sauser by 40 seconds within one lap, the trio of chasers trading positions but never making contact with the swift Swiss man. Frischknecht has formidable cyclo-cross skills, and used them to run both up and down the slick muddy chutes, taking his first win since last season’s mud-fest in Budapest, Hungary.

Evans held off his two chasers to maintain the series lead, while Martinez found his form late in the season to take third. Mig and Sauser both have a shot at the title in next month’s finals in Houffalize, Belgium — but the season is Evans’ to lose at this point.

Other notable rides came from multi-World Champ Henrik Djernis (DEN, American Eagle) who finished 10th as he gets ready for Worlds in two months. Kirk Molday (USA, Trek/Volkswagen) was the top American at 19th, and Filip Meirhaeghe (BEL, Mountain Dew/Specialized) finished 6th after a late-race battle for the podium with Jerome Chiotti (FRA, GT) — who finished 5th.

MountainZone.com correspondents, trading in their fly-fishing poles for snowboards

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