World 98

World Championships and World Cup

Leboucher did it !
L’Equipe (21/09/1998)

The top finishers of the men's race were Christophe DuPouey (FRA), Jerome Chiotti (FRA) and Filip Meirhaeghe (BEL), in that order. In the women's race Laurence LeBoucher (FRA), Gunn Dahle (NOR) and Alison Sydor (CAN) took top honors.


The last race of the season and the most exciting, the World Championships is the ultimate race to win on the Pro Mountainbike circuit. Unlike World Cups or NORBAs this event starts during the week before with national teams turning up often a week early for practice and the age group races. The sheer volume of people and participation gives an atmosphere unlike any other race.


RANKING. 1. Laurence Leboucher (FRA), 40 km 2 h 12'40" ; 2. Dahle (NOR), at 1'53" ; 3. Sydor (CAN), at 4'18" ; 4, Stropparo (ITA), at 5'49" ; 5. Dunlap (USA), at 6'11" 1 ; ... 8. Temporelli (FRA), at 10'28" ; 23. Villeneuve (FRA), at 20',

This years venue in Mont. Ste Anne in Quebec above the St. Lawrence Sound, 30 miles from Quebec city was perfect with excellent courses on the famous ski field, lots of accommodation and things to see in the locality.

1998 WC pleure

 The Airborne team - Jamie, Honey and Doug - drove the long haul up from Wisconsin after being in Las Vegas earlier in the week for a trade show. Fairly toasted from all the traveling they put up the new display tent (awesome graphics) and proceeded to woo people with the latest Airborne products including the Titanium road bike prototype

The Pro racing started with Under 23 Cross Country, Dual Slalom and Downhill seeding on Friday. Downhill and Dual finals on Saturday and Cross Country on Sunday. With rain on most days and temperatures dropping throughout our stay there we kept inside a lot to avoid getting sick after such a long season on the road. The days before the race were tied up with practicing the course and tuning equipment with ace mechanic Doug.

The Course

A series of loops around the base area Start/Finish, the course climbed up the ski runs and descended the forested sections. Topping out at only about 400 feet higher than the start there were no huge climbs but the four ascending sections per 5 mile lap were more than enough in aggressive and extremely fast course.


The best way to describe it would be - fun - many berms and technical rooty and rocky sections with lots of sharp turns and a couple of steep shoots. One of those shoots, a section where you traversed in, turned ninety degrees and dropped through some trees down a near vertical drop was the fear crux while a longer very slippery and complex rooty section near the start would have been technically the hardest section. I didn't hear any complaints about the course, it was very well designed and a lot of attention had been put into making it fun for riders and accessible for spectators and the thirteen TV cameras they had covering the course. Also on the mountain were numerous excellent tracks for training, some of the best riding anywhere if you like fast technical rock, mud and tree riding.


    Which raid !


Laurence :

“The organizers had expected 75,000 spectators over the weekend. I can say that there were lots, a really supportive crowd shouting as loud on the hill climbs as the gnarly descents, not all looking for blood, but expecting the most from every competitor. It was still an exciting way to end the year but I'm already looking forward to 1999, a better result and a lot less time on the road.”



After a long year I had the privilege of a start on the grid in 57th place, and after last years result of 51st I was more than keen to beat that mark. Unfortunately I was tired, it's been such a long season and I was running on energy from just participating in the World Champs. Unfortunately for the New Zealand Team we were having a tragic end to our weekend. On Saturday night one of our junior cross-country riders lost his life, the whole men's field paid their respects with a one minute silence on the start line while us New Zealanders wore black armbands in remembrance.


First stage on March the 28th at San Francisco : 5th.

CM2 Podportugal

There was no stopping Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) at the opening round of the 1998 Grundig/UCI mountain bike world cup, at Skyline Park, Napa.

A modified course included more technical singletrack than last year, which suited Sydor just fine. The three-times World Champion led the field to the top of the first climb, then said farewell to her rivals as she dived into the first singletrack section. Reigning World Champion, Paola Pezzo (ITA, Gary Fisher) , could not follow the speeding Canadian through the narrow, bumpy trails. "I prefer it a bit less technical," said Pezzo. By the end of the first lap of four, Sydor had opened a lead of 49 seconds over Pezzo. This had grown to 2:07 by the end of the race. "I used bigger than normal tyres for the descents," explained Sydor, who had stepped up from a 1.9" to a 2.1" tyre width.

Sydor also explained that starting last year she was carrying a painful snowboarding injury that dogged her throughout the season. This year, starting in better health, she felt a lot fitter. The gaps between the top five riders were substantial. Pezzo finished second, and Alison Dunlap (USA, GT) was third, at 4:16.

According to Pezzo, this is not the way it will stay this year. "I did not start training until February 1st, and I have not yet a lot of strength in my legs. My goal this year is the World Championships. With this form I am very happy with second place."

Ranking after 2nd stage :

1. Paola Pezzo (Ita) and Alyson Sydor (Can) 145 points, 3. Dunlap (USA) 126 pts, 4. Laurence Leboucher 120 pts, 6 Temporelli (Fra-Peugeot la Poste) 95 pts.

3rd stage : Desolation (fouling in the mud).

4th stage of World Cup
in St-Wendel (Germany), May the 9th and 10th of 1998.

Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, American Eagle) came into round four of the Grundig-UCI mountain bike world cup knowing she could do well. She's fit, mentally strong and - after a disappointing season of illness and over training - finally ready to prove she was no 'one season wonder.' What Dahle didn't expect, however, was to come from a fifth-place first lap position to pass the world's best women and ride across the finish as the fourth world cup winner in as many rounds of intense competition.

1998 St Wendel

"It's unbelievable - pinch me!" an effusive Dahle beamed as she wiped the sweat off her face and emptied a bottle of water over her head at the finish.

After a fast race of playing catch-up, Dahle surged to the front on the fifth, final lap, picking off race leaders Laurence Leboucher (FRA, Peugeot LaPoste) and Margarita Fullana (ESP, Mt. Dew/Specialized) to claim the victory.

Starting the second lap, Dahle was the fifth rider through, and last week's winner Chantal Daucourt (SUI, Trek Volkswagen) was with Alla Epifanova (RUS, Volvo-Cannondale) just behind.

Daucourt would drop to seventh place before finishing in 6th, while Epifanova was unable to capitalize on her early-race speed and dropped three places in lap 4 to end the day in 10th place.

St Wendel is a mainly open, fast climber's course, but under the trees it also has something for the expert bike handlers. Dahle, the fastest through the singletrack, took time from the leaders each time the going got technical. And she got stronger as the race progressed. "I was fighting in the 3rd lap, but felt good in the 4th," she said. With her plan now complete, today's winner simply poured on the power for the final descent and won a victory that perhaps could have been prevented. "We [Fullana & Leboucher] didn't work together, and that's why Gunn-Rita was able to catch us," surmised Fullana.

For Leboucher, today was not so much about losing first place but proving she is someone to watch out for. "In Budapest, I knew" she smiled. "Many women were walking up hills that I was able to ride up, so I thought I could do well here today." Asked whether she had sensed a fast-moving Dahle hot on her heels, Leboucher said "No, I didn't sense her. But it was a strategic race, and I knew that if I didn't go out hard, it would come down to a sprint finish... which it did."

Meanwhile, number-one ranked Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) was having a struggle of her own, going from third to fifth in the first laps, then finally ending her day in fifth. "The competition's so good now that if you're not 100%, you're not going to win," the leader's jersey holder said. Dunlap ended in 14th, also demonstrating the toll last week's mudfest took on many of the top-ranked women.

Leboucher comes of age

CM5 podplymouth

"I wasn't going to let this one get away," said Laurence Leboucher (FRA, Peugeot La Poste) , jubilant after giving France its first ever female XC world cup winner. "Every race I enter now, I go to win," she added. "With this win I've proven I can do it, and so now it is all a game for me."

Leboucher (26) chose May 16, on the edge of Dartmoor, near Plymouth, England, to show herself as a true pretender to the Grundig/UCI World Cup title.

In spectacular style, she beat a fast-moving field of the world's best at this year's final World Cup XC race outside North America. After chasing Leboucher hard for most of the race, Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, American Eagle) had to settle for a strong second place. She was unable to parlay last week's win into a double, but continued to show a promising return to form after a bad time last year.

Early in the race, Dahle showed her intentions by reeling in Sydor, who had escaped in the start loop. Leboucher and Margarita Fullana (ESP, Mt. Dew/Specialized) rounded out the lead, while Sydor dropped back to 4th. By the end of the first lap of this 38.3km race, it was Leboucher and Fullana in the lead, with Dahle chasing them in a scene reminiscent of St Wendel one week earlier. 40 seconds behind the leading duo came a group with Sydor, Alexander, Mary Grigson (AUS, AIS/Giant) and Alison Dunlap (USA, GT). Up at the front, Leboucher turned the screw on the pace and opened a small gap on Fullana, who was shadowed by Dahle. "I felt good on the first lap," Leboucher later said. "I knew last race that I was fit, so I felt I could go strong today." But she was going to have to fight for it. Behind her, Dahle surged past Fullana and early in the second lap was only seven seconds behind the leader. Fullana rode at 17 seconds back, and Grigson was fourth at 51. Local heroine, Alexander, responded to the cheers of the 7,000 strong crowd, and moved past Sydor into fifth place. Ever the fighter, Sydor hit back in the technical sections and went past first Dunlap and then Alexander. Going up the following climb, she kept the power on and set her sights on Grigson, who was in view ahead. By the half way stage, the race looked like this: Leboucher had a 30-second cushion to Dahle, with Fullana and Sydor now together at one minute. But behind these two, there was a heaving throng of stars, and the minor placings were wide open. At the beginning of the 3rd, final lap, Dahle launched a mighty attack on Leboucher, and closed the gap to 15 seconds, but Leboucher had the measure of the Norwegian, and her unrelenting rhythm was sufficient to keep her at the front. By now, first and second places were clear-cut, but the battle for third was a blaze of place-swapping action. Grigson went past Fullana, and a few seconds behind the Spaniard, Sydor was being closed down by Alexander. And Dunlap was not far behind the Briton.

Sydor Wins Big at Home

CM6 Canmore trophee

Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) rode with all the authority of an experienced veteran in the mountains above her hometown of Calgary to demolish the opposition and strengthen her lead in the Grundig/UCI World Cup series. Chased gamely for four laps of the Canmore, Alberta circuit by Chantal Daucourt (SUI, Trek-Volkswagen) and current world champion Paola Pezzo (ITA, Gary Fisher), Sydor, 31, was reduced to tears at the end of the most heartfelt victory of her career, one she compared to her Olympic silver medal performance in 1996. With her win in this sixth race - the first of two rounds where low scores are dropped, Sydor now leads the series by 21 points and is in firm control of her title pursuit. After a self-described 'really disappointing early spring' hampered by a lingering chest cold, she has made a strong return after the long break since Plymouth's round five. Second place finisher Daucourt is now ranked fourth in the series while Laurence Leboucher (FRA, Peugeot-La Poste) is second in the rankings after finishing fourth today.

Leboucher's Second First

A powerful Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) took to the fast '96 Olympics course at Conyers, Atlanta, riding with a vigour that belied Saturday afternoon's hot, muggy conditions. Her speed was confounded, however, by two time-sapping flat tires and a surging Laurence Leboucher (FRA, Peugeot LaPoste) who passed the world cup points leader to capture her second win of this season. World and Olympic Champion Paola Pezzo (ITA, Gary Fisher) was left to chase for third.

CM7 pod conyers

Saturday's race was essentially a two person contest between a pair of the sport's fastest women. An impressive fourth-place finish for Italy was posted by Nadia DeNegri (ITA, Bianchi-Martini) who emerged from a very hot and tired women's field to complete three laps of this deceptively tough Olympic course in four minutes more than the very quick winning time of one hour, 39 minutes.

The 42-woman field began the race at a cautious pace, aware of the humidity's punishment of body and mind here in the North American south. In consideration of the climatic extremes here, the race had been shortened from three and a half laps, down to three plus a start loop.

CM7 Conyers

The field held together until the first feed zone, and then Sydor asserted herself at the front. Leboucher went with the Canadian, and looked confident on the climbs if a little cautious on the descents. Over the rollercoaster course, Sydor soon opened a modest gap. Leboucher decided to ride on the risky side in an effort to maintain contact with the outstanding technician Sydor. "I felt like she was toying with me in the race - tactically," Leboucher said as she again utilized her ability to climb in the heat - as she had done victoriously in Plymouth two rounds ago.
"I didn't want to go out too hard today because of the heat," Sydor said of her strategy. "I would have liked to build up a bigger lead." Meanwhile, Pezzo and DeNegri rode together 20 seconds back in the first lap and were a full minute off the pace by the second lap.

At this point in the race, Annabella Stropparo (ITA, Volvo-Cannondale) and Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, American Eagle) were next through in fifth and sixth, respectively.

In the last lap Sydor flatted and, by the time she went by for the final loop with a repaired tire, was 50 seconds behind Leboucher - and at this point Pezzo led DeNegri by just over ten seconds. "There were a lot of spectators on the course, so I tried to not say too many bad words," Sydor offered. Leboucher continued to ride hard but, unbeknownst to her, Sydor had flatted a second time just before the finish, her front tire betraying her on a rock section and causing her to crash. This was all the luck Leboucher needed to come across the line a full two minutes, 15 seconds ahead of Sydor; Pezzo, DeNegri and Dahle next across approximately one minute apart.

"Today was really hard," commented Leboucher. "If Alison hadn't flatted I think I would have been second because I was catching up on the climbs, but they were really short and Alison was really pulling away on the downhills - she was taking a lot of chances. Maybe that's why she flatted... maybe she pushed it too hard."

For Sydor, today was a perfect opportunity lost. "I thought for sure I had it in the bag and felt great today. But these are the things you have to deal with - mechanicals happen."

With her 70 points here, Sydor remains atop the standings and continues to wear the blue Grundig leader's jersey. With one round remaining Leboucher is now only 12 points behind, and Pezzo sits in third overall, five points behind Leboucher. None of the top contenders can afford a mistake at the final, once again it is wide open.


World Cup ranking after 7th stage :

1. Alyson Sydor (Canada) 356 points; 2. Leboucher (Fra) 344 pts; 3. Pezzo (Ita) 339 pis; 4. Dahle (Nor) 321 pts;... 13. Temporelli (Fra) 204 pis; 31. Claret (Fra) 99 pts.

Sydor and Dahle Win at Bromont

World Cup title goes to Alison Sydor
Gunn-Rita Dahle wins final event.

Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) completed her season-long quest at the world cup finals in Bromont, finishing the Grundig/UCI series in first place overall. Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, American Eagle) won the eighth round having sat on Sydor's wheel for much of the race before passing for the win in the last lap. With perfect weather and superb track conditions, seven thousand spectators watched the nail-biting finale to a season in which so many women have come into form.

Sydor needed only third or better to win the overall Grundig/UCI world cup title. Dahle had already tasted success earlier this season in Germany and wanted to win another round to prove her return to fitness. Fortunately for these two outstanding athletes, Bromont's round eight provided Sydor what she needed and Dahle what she wanted as - in Sydor's words - "we both won."

Sydor languished last season in the shadow of Paola Pezzo's (ITA, Gary Fisher) bright star and with persistent injuries. She came into '98 looking to exorcise those memories with a dominant world cup series. Arriving back in her home country for the final round of action, the Canadian star knew what she needed to do; finish third or better no matter what.

Laurence Leboucher (FRA, Peugeot LaPoste), number-two in the overall standings, looked to upset the champion while aware of her own shortcomings on technical courses. Third-ranked Pezzo and fourth ranked Dahle - with mathematically slim chances of the overall - were, nonetheless, eager to assert themselves in this last event before the supremely important World Championships. With all eyes on an outstanding field on Saturday at noon, scenarios and expectations all played themselves out under the cool green canopy of Bromont, Quebec.

Sydor went off fast in her usual style today, the spectre of a flat tire entering her mind "about every five seconds." Her plan was simply to stay ahead of Leboucher while riding gently enough over the roots and rocks of this course to prevent a season-ending flat.

Dahle was the consummate tactician, riding purposefully on Sydor's wheel.. If Sydor faltered, flatted or crashed, or finished out of the top ten Dahle could conceivable win the overall title.

Sydor rode hard and fast off the front allowing Dahle to pace herself and wait until the right moment to pass, using her technical advantage to win. "My plan was just to play follow the leaders - and if I was able to - attack in the third lap and go full speed in the last lap," Dahle said. "I was able to, and I succeeded!"

Sydor had little problem obliging Dahle's tactic, using the motivation of head-to-head racing to move away from Leboucher and secure the overall. While she would obviously have preferred another win in her home country - especially after an emotional victory in Canmore - she was riding for the title and looking to capture the crystal Waterford globe trophy by any means necessary.

"I made a decision today to ride for the title and even though I would have liked to win at the finals, I was going to ride tactically" Sydor said. "When Gunn-Rita started to bomb down the descents, I had to make a choice and would have had to take some risks to stay with her. I knew Laurence was safely behind me, and second place points was sufficient for me today."

Dahle was the only rider able to match Sydor's speed, riding right on her wheel for the first three of four laps before tapping into her superior descending skills to finally pass the Canadian. The close of lap three belonged to Dahle who then, in the final lap, added a full minute gap and the ever-important confidence needed for the pending World Championships. "It's important to win the last one of the season, because that's the one they remember," she said.

Leboucher, meanwhile, wilted in third place after the first lap, dropping 20 seconds on the two leading women in lap two and losing a full minute in lap three. While Sydor and Dahle battled up front and upped the pace, Leboucher simply held on to finish third, 2:35 her final deficit.

"It was not possible to win today," Leboucher conceded. "It's not a good race for me, this type of course. It's too technical for me to get first place, but I think third is good, no?"

By Ari Cheren