1999 World Cup Mountain Biking
Plymouth, England
May 15-16, 1999

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British World Cup a Stunner
Cross Country Round Five
Plymouth, England: XC #5

This weekend’s World Cup in England presented a paradox of sorts, incredible racing against a backdrop of an industry challenged. While the politics of cycling is in seeming disarray, with drug scandals and Swatch’s departure causing the sport plenty of anguish, the competition itself has never been better, evidenced this weekend in Britain’s well-attended and bitterly contested Cross Country #5.
Pro Mt. Biker Bas Van Dooren Bas Van Dooren
Spanish flyweight Margarita Fullana (ESP, Mt. Dew-Specialized) and Dutchman Bas Van Dooren (NED, Be One) were shining examples when the XC World Cup entered its season’s second half in southern England. As the U.S. NORBA series opened up half a world away, the elite racers carried on in unprecedented style.

At least 12,000 fans showed up under gray skies each day for England’s world cup round, lining the track that winds around English moors, bombholes and six water crossings per lap. It’s an epic 10.5km course and seems to bring out the best in the field.

"Bas had both the mishap and luck to witness firsthand the power with which Filip Meirhaeghe had gone off the front in last week’s German win...."

Van Dooren Finally Uncorks One

We all saw it coming, ever since the mild-mannered Dutchman stunned his competitors with a second place finish here in Plymouth last year. Then he got another silver in Madrid this season, and yet another in St Wendel last week. It didn’t take a rocket scientist (luckily for us) to figure out that this man was ready for his close-up, and on Sunday he found himself squarely in the limelight.

Bas had both the mishap and luck to witness firsthand the power with which Filip Meirhaeghe (BEL, Mt. Dew – Specialized) had gone off the front in last week’s German win. Van Dooren was second, chasing in vain as Meirhaeghe left the pack looking at itself and eventually losing their grip on the victor.

Pro Mt. Biker Margarita Fullana Margarita Fullana

Not this week. While Meirhaeghe was struggling through the field after flatting in lap one, Bas went off the front "by occasion" and quickly found himself schooling the field for its second week in a row. His attack was early though – the first lap, as he led the race from lap one to its terminal lap five. The field hasn’t seen a performance this dominant in well over a year, and seemed to again be taken by surprise.

It should have been ready. The best of the sport were chasing, with Dominique Arnould (FRA, Giant) inserted in second place for most of the day as a surprise solo pursuer. While he was eventually absorbed and finished 8th, the main pack of was caught on their heels and sent reeling all afternoon.

Cadel Evans (AUS, Volvo-Cannondale) and Miguel Martinez (FRA, Full Dynamix) are in an increasingly heated battle for the leader’s jersey, and diced it out in pursuit, with Christoph Sauser (SUI, Volvo-Cannondale) and world champ Christophe Dupouey (FRA, Sunn) also amongst the chasers. After catching Arnould, the group seemed unwilling or unable to go after Van Dooren so the Volvo-Cannondale rider went it alone in an amazing race for second place.

No, not THAT Volvo-Cannondale rider, it was Sauser who left the others behind with a scorching solo attack on the leader. He wound up with his best-ever world cup finish, leaving Evans behind Martinez, yet still in the leader’s jersey... barely.

Meanwhile, Meirhaeghe completed the season’s most amazing comeback – 100th place to third in a powerful ride that saw the Belgian Bomber in attack mode the entire race after his first-lap flat.

Fullana Wins in a Split Second:

Sprint finishes in mountain biking are like UFOs – rumored to exist, but rarely seen. We can all thank Marga Fullana and Gunn-Rita Dahle for providing proof of their existence when they hammered for the line in Saturday’s 39km women’s event. Showing the kind of determination that is too rarely seen in the women’s field, Spain’s fifth-ranked Fullana and Norway’s second-ranked Dahle gave us all a glimpse of greatness – in the very best of settings.

The race began with a bang as points-leader Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) led the long start loop by nine seconds, Fullana moving quickly up from second to the lead by lap one. Dahle also passed Sydor, and hooked onto Fullana’s wheel like glue – only leading a few times the entire race.

The women passed through the Pipeline area of the course three times per lap, affording the crowd plenty of views of the leaders. For positions one through three, it was always the same...Fullana and Dahle, followed soon thereafter by Sydor in a solo chase. It proved a futile one for the Canadian, as the two leaders became a perpetual motion machine, accelerating away from the 75-woman field.

Fullana led for nearly all the race, gapping Dahle a bit on the climbs before the DBS rider’s superior downhilling skills gave her the advantage on sections like the notorious Pipeline. In the final loop of the final lap, Fullana led the (final) climb but crashed on the descent, allowing Dahle to again catch up. The two soon arrived in the finish arena together, and in the last seconds wound up to a thrilling sprint finish.

Fullana won the sprint, the crowd went wild and Dahle collapsed to the ground – no doubt amazed that she had been bested by the thin Spaniard. Fullana, who won just three weeks ago in Madrid’s round three, was ecstatic to again prove herself one of ‘99s shining new stars, and enters the season’s month of down time with a huge mental advantage for June’s races.

Paola Pezzo (ITA, Gary Fisher Saab), who won last week’s St Wendel race, DNF’d today saying her legs, back and form were "no good" today. Sydor maintains the series lead, but lost 30 points to runner-up Dahle. American Alison Dunlap (USA, GT) finished 7th after knocking on the podium’s door, and remains third in the overall.

— MountainZone.com reporters, revisiting their pilgrim roots in Plymouth.

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