The first round of the Cross-country Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano, held in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, served notice that riders are entering the season in top form, with the elite men averaging over 20 kilometre per hour for their 31.8 kilometre race.
The Chinese star Ren Chengyuan returned to the women's field after a nearly two season absence, and let everyone know she was back with a vengeance, sprinting up from near the back of the field to take the victory, and don the leader's jersey.Â Last year's Under 23 champion, Julie Bresset (BH-Suntour-Peisey Vallandry) clearly has made the move to the elite ranks with a silver medal performance, while Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) of Russia just beat 2010 World Cup champion Catharine Pendrel of Canada for third place.
Ren was surprised with her victory, commenting "I did not expect to win.Â I started far back, and the start was very fast.Â It was hard to pass at the beginning, but then it began to open up and I could move forward."
The elite men's race saw the top three finishers in the 2010 World Cup standings finish in exactly that order, with Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) beating rival Julien Absalon (Orbea) of France by a meager 16 seconds, with Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) of the Czech Republic in third.
"Again, it was a great fight between Julien and me," commented Schurter.Â "We are so close, but I was a little faster in the technical section and was able to get a gap, which I could hold to the finish line.Â It is always special to win against Julien."
Pietermaritzburg introduced separate World Cup competitions for the Under 23 categories for the first time, with Elisabeth Sveum (Merida Smart Safety) of Norway winning the women's race and Gerhard Kerschbaumer (TX Active Bianchi) taking the men's title.