|Press release from USA Cycling|
MONOPOLI, Italy (Feb. 2) - Ann Grande (Des Moines,Wash.) delivered a top-10 performance in women's elite competition Sunday at the 2003 World Cyclo-Cross Championshps in Monopoli, posting the best U.S. result of these World Championships. Gina Hall (Richmond, Calif.) closely followed Grande, finishing 11th. Marc Gullickson (Boulder, Colo.) finished 25th in the men's
elite race, which was the top U.S. men's result Sunday.
The course was muddy and slippery after rain showers Saturday night. But the rain held off on Sunday, giving the racers dry, windy weather for competition. The women's elite race was won by Daphny van den Brand of The Netherlands, showing once again the dominance of Dutch team (three riders from The Netherlands won medals in competition Saturday). Germany's Hanka Kupfernagel won the silver medal, with Laurence Leboucher of France taking bronze. Other U.S. performances included Rachel Lloyd (San Anselmo, Calif.) in 13th place, Carmen D'Aluisio (Watsonville, Calif.) 22nd and Christine Varadros (Sunnyvale, Calif.) 29th.
"Today's result was a disappointment for me - I was hoping for something like 6th or above," said Grande, who works full-time as a physical therapist, in addition to racing her bike. "The course was slippery and muddy after last night's rain. There were a lot of 180-degree turns in the course and the ends of all the turns were slippery, which meant that we had to plan ahead of our turns. As far as the race goes, I got going out of the start pretty well. It was a clean start, without any crashes on the first straight. But in one of the serpentine turns, I got tangled up in the tire of another rider, and that cost me several places. I was also really disappointed in my finish. I believed I had one more lap to go, when in reality the race was over. That was frustrating because my strategy was to get on the tail of the leader in the last lap, but I wasn't gunning it because I believed I had one more lap to go. So that was frustrating."
"We don't race as aggressively as the women here in Europe, and that's what got me. I wasn't as willing to push back," said Grande. "But I learned a lot from this experience. And I was really excited to be on this team, because at one point I didn't think I'd be here because of some back problems that kept me off my bike for a long time. It was also really great to spend time with my teammates and get to know them."
The men from Belgium completely dominated the men's elite race, taking the top-five finishes of the day. Bart Wellens won gold, with Mario de Clerg taking silver and Erwin Vervecken bronze. It was a frustrating day for the U.S. men, with Marc Gullickson finishing 25th and Jonathan Page (Northfield, N.H.) ending the race in 37th. Riders Johannes Huseby (Medford, Mass.), Andy
Jacques Maynes (Berkeley, Calif.) and Jackson Stewart (Los Gatos, Calif.) did not finish the race.
"This race was one of the muddiest I've done," said Gullickson. "The mud here is almost like clay, which makes it really slippery and greasy. Although the sun did come out towards the end of our race, but it was a bit too little, too late, and that also sums up my race! I got caught up in a couple of crashes at the start of the race, which relegated me to a placing somewhere in the 30's after the road stretch at the start. Throughout the race, I worked my way up about 10 places and I felt good, but I was not quite prepared for these conditions. I was hoping for a top-10 finish, but that obviously didn't happen."
"In the U.S. we don't race as much in these mud conditions. Our courses are usually dry and fast," said Gullickson. "The Europeans are used to mud, and they've learned how to be more proficient in going fast in muddy conditions. But the whole trick is to do the best you can in the conditions you have."
Bruce Fina, team manager for the elite men and women, also expressed frustration at the U.S. team results. "All around, these were not the luckiest World Championships we've ever had," said Fina. "We've had some real bad luck in the start all week long, and a good start is so critical to your race. In the men's race today, Jonathan Page locked bikes with another competitor in the first corner after the start, and that bent his handlebars, which made the rest of his race challenging. Then with Adam Craig [Corinth, Maine - Espoir] losing his chain at the start yesterday...we've just had bad starting luck all weekend long!"
"For the women, Ann and Gina Hall had some problems with the finish," said
Fina. "They believed they had one lap to go because the official only rang the last-lap bell for the top three competitors. The others didn't hear the bell. So that was tough, but you have technical difficulties in every race. These World Championships were a learning experience for most of our riders. Except for Ann, Carmen and Mark, everyone else is either riding at the World Championships for the first time, or racing in their category for the first time. And there are a lot of new faces on the European racing scene. In past years, we've taken our team to some World Cup races before the World Championships, to get them used to the competition. But because of the location of these World Championships, we weren't close enough geographically to other World Cups. In the future, we want to have our riders compete regularly in Europe. They must, in order to be really competitive."
The U.S. team will travel back to the U.S. on Monday.