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Sydor, Fruet Rule
Mazatlan, Mexico: April 2, 2000
The 2000 edition of the Tissot-UCI Mountain Bike World Cup boasted a few more firsts this past weekend, with bikers racing and partying like a bunch of college kids in the spring break haven of Mazatlan, Mexico. The course wasn't great and the sun didn't come out until after Sunday's competition, but you couldn't tell by the merry band of mountain bikers dueling in the desert.
Martino Fruet (ITA, Ritchey-Yahoo!) and Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale) made the most of their time south of the border, beating a slightly weakened field on one of the all-time toughest courses. Twelve thousand fans came out from the city to witness mountain biking's debut in Latin America and were treated to two exciting races across the desert.
WOMEN: Sydor Takes it From the Start
Spectators, hosting international racing for the first time, came out in droves to the food stands, sexy spokesmodels, and unrelenting race course. They climbed the trees, cheered for everyone, and generally had a good time as one of the circuit's best-ever crowds. And they weren't the only ones who liked what they saw.
"I thought this course was perfect for me," Sydor said, smiling, after throttling the ladies for nearly two hours. She was chased hard by Alison Dunlap (USA, Team GT) but had a minutes gap by mid race and never slowed down to the point where the gap barely changed for half the race. Chrissy Redden (CAN, Gary Fisher/Saab) also made a great effort and stayed in 3rd position until she was passed by Laurence Leboucher (FRA, GT) for the third medal.
Sydor, the defending World Cup champion, donned the blue Tissot jersey as the overall leader, along with a new star on the men's circuit, Martino Fruet.
MEN:Fruet Rocks Veteran Rune Hoydahl
Only four men led the men's race, highlighted by the stellar performances not only of Fruet but this season's other surprise, Lado Fumic (GER, German National Team). Fumic captured the lead early, after veteran all-star Thomas Frischknecht (SUI, Ritchey) and new honch Bas Van Dooren (NED, Be-One) both flatted out within two laps.
Paul Rowney (AUS, AIS New Balance Giant) also impressed with a top ride, keeping pace with the leaders along with the experienced Frenchman Ludovic Dubau (FRA, Marin) and a late-race appearance by Rob Woods (AUS, GT-Australia).
It was anyone's race until lap five, when Hoydahl took the lead. But once Hoydahl, Fruet, Fumic and Dubau got a gap, things became clearer. Then, with Hoydahl towing Fruet through the end of lap five - after Fruet had methodically worked his way through the field - the Norwegian veteran made a small mistake in the singletrack and opened the door for the Italian's win.
Fruet quickly put 26 seconds on Hoydahl by race's end, and earned his first World Cup win his best finish since a bronze medal at last year's U-23 Worlds. After the race he said with an excited Italian accent, "My team tells me that the most important thing is the mind, the mind – and when the race starts I just go, go, go."
Once the race was over and everyone washed off the layer of brown dust, the cross-country circuit cut loose in the grand tradition of co-organizers Gestev known for their legendary parties at Mont Sainte-Anne. After a party for 250 riders, staff and journalists, everyone piled into "pulmonia" open taxis and headed for the spring break club, Bora-Bora, downtown.
The downhillers may have the deserved reputation for partying like rock-stars, but the XC crew partied like it was 1999 again, dancing on tables and throwing back enough Pacificos and tequila to impress even Shaun Palmer. With the ocean front El Cid host hotel as HQ, and the relaxed Mexican atmosphere as the week's backdrop, it made the new Mazatlan an instant classic. Too bad the course isn't better or this would certainly be a yearly event.
The World Cup now takes its own spring break, resuming the circuit in Europe at the end of April with round three in Houffalize, Belgium. We'll see you at the races!
Ari Cheren, South of the border with shot in hand for MountainZone.com
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