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'97 World Championships @ Cahateau d'oex, SUI.

Race Photos:
The Champions
Pezzo Unstoppable
Hubert Pallhuber Leading
Chantal Daucourt Pushing
Djernis Passing Bramati
Margarita Fullana
Fullana Finishing
Christophe Dupouey
Nadia de Negri
Pavel Tcherkassov - Top Russian


Sep. 19, 1997
U-23 Men's Under 23 Cross Country
2:45 Swiss Time (5:45 PST)

Sep 20, 1997
Downhill Finals Men and Women
9:00 - 16:00 Swiss Time (Midnight - 7:00 PST)

Sep 21, 1997
Cross Country Finals Women
10:00 Swiss Time (1:00 PST)
Cross Country Finals Men
1:30 Swiss Time (4:30 PST)

Course Characteristics:
Cross Country:
Course length: 9,900m per lap
Starting lap: 2,000m
Single track: 21.3%
Wide track: 78.7%
Climbing: 43%
Highest point: 1,100m
Flat: 26%
Lowest point: 900m
Expected course time:
behind Paola somewhere


The Champions: Hubert Pallhuber and Paola Pezzo XC Goes to Italia
Pallhuber and Pezzo win the Big One

(Sunday, 9/21 - 6:00 p.m. Geneva Time) If risk were all it took to win the biggest race in mountain biking, Hubert Pallhuber certainly wouldn't be sitting in his Diamondback condo right now wearing a buff new rainbow jersey. If heart, hard work, sacrifice and total dedication win championships, however, Pallhuber is more than appropriate as the sport's new BMOC. Following Italian national teammate Paola Pezzo's example, this affable rider from Anterselva, Italy took it to the field early today and won in style by completely dominating the sport's largest luminaries in the 8th running of the UCI World Championships of mountain biking.

Hubert Pallhuber winning for Italian With the Italian team doing for the XC what France did yesterday in the DH, it's an interesting study in contrasts to look at Pezzo's morning race and then Hubi's race later that afternoon. While both were racing in the Italia national uniforms, that's where the similarities between Pezzo and Pallhuber's races end. That and the fact that Paola is a woman... While Pezzo was a study in cool power and ease with all pundits expecting her to dominate, Pallhuber was the gutty underdog who made good on a promise to himself to win a big one. His exuberance on the podium was a fun-loving reflection of Pezzo's somewhat jaded demeanor as the two posed for the press corp as Italy's one-two punch of a response to the federation, er, team of France's Sunn-Nike. Kissing their gold medals for the photographers, one can only imagine what was going through each of their minds as the cameras went crazy.

For Pezzo, today's race had been an equation of expectations heaped upon a season's worth of fatigue multiplied by her desire to prove without a shred of doubt who the belle donna of cycling is this year. Articulating again and again over the course of the season her single desire to win the World Cup title, Pezzo went so far as to cause speculation that she might miss this week's fun entirely - from burnout, fatigue and other cynical speculation to the nature of her program. Arriving in the village of Chateau d'Oex earlier this week, Pezzo promptly crashed during practice and again had tongues wagging as to her chances of competing and winning this one last race. "I was very tired, but this morning felt very good - my leg was OK. I knew it would be important to go out hard and stay in the lead, so I attacked early."

As has become the custom at start lines all over the world, all doubts were quickly removed as soon as the starter's gun went off and a flood of glittering women sped around the parade lap to undertake their biggest two laps of the season. As Pezzo began her familiar departure off the front from the mortals it was time to sit back and watch the rest of the field battle it out for the smallest corner of Pezzo's increasingly large shadow.

The Champions:Godess Paola Pezzo Besides the golden girl (so-nicknamed for a combination of her flaxen hair, medal collection and choice in cycling wear), several women put on the power to make their presence known here today. Last year's champ Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo/Cannondale) quickly faded from the lead - even with her own new blonde hair - and was in 6th place by the time the field hit their first big loop. Sydor would languish all day, moving around from 3rd to 5th place before finally finishing her day with a great sprint finish against local fave Chantal Daucourt (SUI, Trek-Volkswagen) for 4th place.

Daucourt, who is quite the starlet here in Switzerland with a horde of fans wearing her t-shirt and cheering her at every turn, did her best on a course which she helped design. Riding the first short loops in 2nd place, Daucourt rode the energy of her fans all the way around this 9.9 km track but couldn't harness quite enough energy to maintain her position, gradually slipping to 3rd and finally landing in 5th place after Sydor outsprinted her at the finish. "I had some problems with my pedals today, and couldn't respond to Sydor's attack," she explained. "But overall I'm very happy." Sharing that joy with a large group of cheering fans, Daucourt later came across the infield to the group and celebrated a strong finish to a successful season.

The other top finishers, including Nadia DeNegri and Margarita Fullana, weren't expected to do quite so well as some of the more famous women. But names like Fullana will become more familiar as the Spanish rider finished strongly in Annecy's finals and then in third place today after losing a chain on the last bridge before the finish arena. Toughing it out, she ensured the bronze after running the entire village loop and finally resting with a hard fought podium position. For DeNegri, a solid day spent entirely in the top 5 paid off big as she staved off attacks from the likes of Laurence Leboucher (FRA), Alison Dunlap (USA, GT) and Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, American Eagle) to show that she's always a force to be reckoned with come race day.

By the end of the race Pezzo's dominance was illustrated by the fact that she finished and sat to rest as her chasers were still heading through the same arena on their way out to finish up the 2.5km Village Loop. Grabbing an Italian flag two turns from the finish, Pezzo came across the line all smiles with her trademark genuflection and the satisfaction of proving herself still unbeatable in the big one day events as well as the long season's points series.

After the interviews, a mini podium photo-op and press conference, everyone scrambled back to the start for the next event. The big event.


Lining up for today's race, plenty of the contestants had reason to believe they could take this year's championship. Miguel Martinez and Cadel Evans had already battled it out a couple days ago in the U-23 race and, combined with the injured current champion Jerome Chiotti missing the event, the door was open for one brilliant run from one motivated individual. It may not have been the first name on everyone's list, but the name Pallhuber was about to prove himself the man of the day.

Pallhuber is a 32 year old racer with Diamondback's Italian Freewheeling distributor team, under the dual management of Europe and the U.S. Riding last season to good success, Pallhuber is known as a strong rider who can surprise anyone on any day. Today the hard-working Hubi would not be denied and took the opportunity to ride out from teammate Cadel Evan's own shadow and into the limelight of victory, with friend and teammate Pavel Tcherkassov not far behind.

"I feel good, this time it was my good luck," an effusive Hubi told The Zone right after a quick celebration with Italian and DBR teammates. "When I was in the lead I was never sure I could win, but when I crossed the line I said 'oohh, I can do it! Ahh, now I'm the world champion!!"

The race didn't start out with any certainty for anyone, as the lead was exchanged more times than a holiday fruitcake. The first to tow the line was Christophe Dupouey (FRA, Sunn-Nike) who took his recent Annecy win to the front of the pack and looked strong in the early portion of the race, running fast with Luca Bramati (ITA, Selle Italia) and Pallhuber up front. Unfortunately for this #2 ranked rider, he lost considerable time after flatting and had an amazing run back dashed with another flat - enough damage to take him out of the running and force abandonment.

Hubi took advantage of this opening and decided to, as he describes it, "risk everything" and go off the front, hoping he didn't blow up in the process. Battling it out with a pair of Swiss riders and other sundry characters like homeboy Luca Bramati, Hubi lead all challengers for most of the race and even prevented a coordinated attack from the Swiss.

Beat Wabel (SUI, ProFlex) and three-time WC champ Thomas Frishknecht (SUI, Ritchey) represented their homeland with the red cross national uniform by taking it to the Italians. This was not to last for either of them as Wabel had a long run trading leads and battling it out with Pallhuber before fading on the way up the fourth climb and eventually landing in 10th place. For his part Frishy started in the lead group and then pursued in 3rd and 4th position before being passed by Pavel Tcherkassov and Kirk Molday (CAN, Marin) late in the race to finish 6th.

Tcherkassov, riding for Russia but used to racing in Italy during the regular season, had a late race surge to pass the fading Swiss riders and cross the line in 5th. "I had lost some positions on the downhill and was doing pretty good on the climbs." Close behind was Molday who also began slow and built up steam to finish 4th, commenting "I went out a bit slower, as usual but knew that it was a long race. "I don't like to load myself up with lactic acid by going out early."

As the race progressed with no one able to reel in the motivated Pallhuber, former world champion Henrik Djernis (DEN, American Eagle) began moving up through the top ranks from his 15th position as he realized he had a chance to catch the leaders. "In the 2nd lap I began to move and thought I could make the top 10. Then with about a half lap left I believed that I could medal, and hoped maybe Hubi would blow up." he commented. Passing all the early leaders save Pallhuber, Djernis approached a minute gap to Hubi before the race ended and he settled for a well-deserved silver medal.

Luca Bramati (ITA, Bianchi) didn't make his presence known up front until mid-race when, after a nasty spill, he rode with Dupouey in pursuit of the front runners. Finally making 3rd position in the last lap, Bramati continued to ride in pain and hold his pace to the end. "This was a very difficult course for me, because it was so technical," he commented. "I crashed in the first loop and hurt my collarbone. I didn't know what was wrong, though, but felt very bad. It hurt so bad that I could barely breathe. By the end I figured a bronze medal would be OK for my collection."

And there you have the story of the today's leaders, each with his own race and own results. With Pallhuber crossing the line as the illustration of unabashed joy, today's race ended with 49 fewer people than it started with as 72 riders finished this most grueling course of some 55 km. With Hubi celebrating and the rest of the field licking their wounds it was time for a second quick podium and then off to a full awards ceremony where Pezzo and Pallhuber were crowned World Champions. Which brings us back to where we started, with a look at the contrasting styles of these two amazing riders as Pezzo now wonders how to meet next season's expectations and Pallhuber wonders what exactly today all means.

And so end the World Championships with the UCI flag lowered and the Swiss national anthem played to what has proven a most enthusiastic crowd. With teams and the like already packing for home, everyone can look forward to next year's competition in Mont Sainte-Anne, Canada. Meanwhile we'll see you at the races... next season.

By Ari Cheren, representing for The Mountain Zone.


1. Paola Pezzo (ITA, Gary Fisher) in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 42 seconds.
2. Nadia DeNegri (ITA, Bianchi-Martini) at 3 min. 40 sec. back.
3. Margarita Fullana (ESP) @ 4:12
4. Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo/Cannondale) @ 5:14
5. Chantal Daucourt (SUI, Trek-Volkswagen) @ 5:17
6. Laurence Leboucher (FRA, Peugeot) @ 6:36
7. Alison Dunlap (USA, GT) @ 7:23
8. Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, American Eagle) @ 8:38
9. Silvia Fuerst (SUI, Mt. Dew/Specialized) @ 9:32
10. Alla Epifanova (RUS, Budvar) @ 10:42

1. Hubert "Hubi" Pallhuber (ITA, Diamondback-Tissot) in 2 hours, 42 minutes, 26 seconds.
2. Henrik Djernis (DEN, American Eagle) at 1:04 back
3. Luca Bramati (ITA, Selle Italia) @ 1:36
4. Kirk Molday (CAN, Marin) @ 2:33
5. Pavel Tcherkassov (RUS, Diamondback-Tissot) @ 3:39
6. Thomas Frishknecht (SUI, Ritchey) @ 4:43
7. Roland Green (CAN, Kona) @ 5:57
8. Jan Ostergaard (DEN, Corractec) @ 6:15
9. Dominique Arnould (FRA, ProFlex) @ 6:39
10. Wabel (SUI, ProFlex) @ 6:57