1999 World Cup Mountain Biking
Madrid, Spain
April 24-25, 1999

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Viva Marga!
Fullana Wins Country's First
El Escorial, Spain: XC #3

There's no question that Spanish people know how to live life. They sleep until 10 a.m., eat lunch at 2 p.m. and take a two-hour siesta. They eat dinner at 11 p.m. and don't go to discos until 3 a.m. And there's no question that the Spanish love bike races.

Pro Mt. Biker, Marga Fullana Marga Makes Espania

The Sierra Nevada downhill race is the world's only mountain bike race that features cheerleaders. At El Escorial, the Spanish made a day of it, bringing wine, cheese and bells and whistles that reinforced the notion that the Spanish know how to have a good time.

The fans' excitement was infectious. Riders raved about their passion and verve, and even calm, cool, collected Cadel Evans got into the act, screaming "Gracias Spanish!" after winning the men's race. Fans cheered on hometown favorite Marga Fullana, chanting "Marga! Marga!" after she brought home Spain's first World Cup cross-country victory.

"Sydor flatted on the final descent, crossing the finish line on her rim while Dahle was nursing a broken rib high on the left side of her chest..."

Back on Spanish soil for the first time since 1995, the World Cup's best cross-country racers had a tough time on the technical, rocky course that reminded many how mountain biking used to be.

Under the shadow of El Escorial, Spain's largest monastery, Cadel Evans was giving thanks. After two frustrating rounds of mountain bike racing, the defending World Cup champion was back atop the winner's heap. In Napa and then Sydney, he was relegated to second place. For most, second is a career-making race, but, for Evans, second is a bitter place to be.

"You never know what can happen in a mountain bike race. Once I took over first, I didn't slow down. I didn't think about winning the race until I crossed the line. Too many times I've seen what can happen," said Evans, who covered the 56-km course in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 5 seconds.

"Once I got the lead, I held my rhythm and just kept going." Evans said. "Even when it started to rain, I just kept going. I didn't slow down."

What didn't happen to Evans happened to many of the others in the field. A rocky, steep technical spelled doom for many riders, including Thomas Frischknecht, Rune Hoydahl and world champion Christophe Dupouey. Fifty-five riders DNF'd, including Jerome Chiotti, Dupouey, Gregory Vollet and Tinker Juarez.

Pro Mt. Biker, Jerome Chiotti Chiotti Stuck in Spain
"It was not a good race for me. I crashed twice and broke off my brake lever and I couldn't even ride the downhills," said Hoydahl. "I was riding strong in about fifth position and it's a shame to have such a tough result." Frischknecht moved into second-place before taking a spill and destroying his rear brake. Others faded as Evans poured it on. Miguel Martinez said a sore back kept him from racing at full strength and the Full Dynamix rider was third at 4:03 back. Sunn's Dubau and Mapei's Dario Cioni rounded out the top-5. Trek-Volkswagen Kirk Molday was the top American at 18th at 11:05 back.

Be-One's Bas Van Dooren got his bad luck out of the way early, crashing in the first lap and then moved up from 8th to finish second at at 3:31 back. Van Dooren, who skipped Sydney to be fresh for a trio of European dates, said once a light rain began to fall, he slowed his pace.

"I didn't want to take any unnecessary chances, I saw how far ahead Evans was," said Van Dooren. "I didn't want to do anything too dangerous for no reason." For Evans, he's back in the leader's jersey going into two more European dates.

Marga Fullana has been close before. At the 1997 Worlds, a broken chain spoiled her chances. Last year, at St. Wendel, poor descending skills kept her out of the winner's circle.

In front of a raucous home crowd, she put all the pieces together today, winning her nation's first cross-country title. Fullana pulled away from some of mountain biking's biggest names, leaving Volvo-Cannondale's Alison Sydor, Diamondback's' Gunn-Rita Dahle and Gary Fischer's Paola Pezzo to choke on her dust. Fullana attacked on a steep, narrow climbing section midway through the second of four laps, and never looked back to win in 1 hour, 54.39 minutes.

"I just kept riding. I didn't think about winning. I only thought about getting to the finish line," Fullana said in tears as she crossed the line. "This is like a dream."

Fullana's dream turned into a nightmare for the rest of the field. Although Sydor and Dahle appeared to be closing in for the kill, Fullana held the lead through the final lap and won in an emotional race for the 27-year-old former road racer.

While the 5,000-strong partisan crowd was chanting, "Marga! Marga!", Sydor and Dahle were licking their wounds. Sydor flatted on the final descent, crossing the finish line on her rim while Dahle was nursing a broken rib high on the left side of her chest. Dahle, third at 35" back, broke the bone in a bizarre fall on the first lap when she hit a depression in the trail and torpedoed hard to the ground.

"I never quit a race," said Dahle, who refused to skip the podium presentation before heading to the doctor for X-rays. "I knew I hurt it bad, but now I can tell it's broken. I can feel it moving." GT's Alison Dunlap was the top American in fifth at 3:47 back. Ruthie Matthes (Trek-Volkswagen) was 12th at 7:44 back and Golden Brainard (Catera) was 24th at 15:50.

Johan Kinder, workin' it Spanish style for MountainZone.com

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