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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
With the 90-meter Nordic ski jump used at the 1988 Winter Olympics serving as a backdrop, Czech rider Michal Prokop and Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier cruised to convincing four-cross wins at round No. 5 of the UCI World Cup series at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park on Friday. It was the second straight World Cup win for Prokop and third straight for Jonnier, pushing both riders over the top in the race for the series crown. Both now have insurmountable leads with one race to go.
Despite qualifying third behind Eric Carter and Roger Rinderknecht, Prokop (Author) had little trouble in his run to the finals, putting together an impressive string of top-to-bottom victories reminiscent of his world championship win last year in Switzerland.
“I had a good gate all night,” said the soft-spoken Prokop, who is also one of the world’s top BMX racers. “The first straight was very important. It was a very fast course.”
Swiss rider Rinderknecht took the second spot, barely edging Carter (Mongoose-Hyundai) at the line, with Aussie Wade Bootes (Trek-Volkswagen) trailing in for fourth.
Afterwards, Carter, who was sporting a homemade stars-and-stripes jersey, said he thought he’d gotten by Rinderknecht. “I think they missed that one, but whatever,” he said.
As for the white t-shirt that Carter had colored up with blue and red markers, then pinned a team logo onto it, the SoCal native said it was a result of the UCI threatening riders with fines if they were not wearing their national championship jerseys. Carter won both the World Cup and NORBA series titles a year ago, with the later earning him the U.S. national title.
Besides confirming the continuing dominance of Prokop, the evening race also marked the return of American Brian Lopes. The GT-Hyundai rider had yet to compete this year after breaking his leg in a freak ATV accident. On this night he finished fifth, winning the small final.
“I felt pretty good actually,” said Lopes, who is also planning on racing in Sunday’s downhill. “The leg is fine. Now it’s just about getting back in the groove and getting some fitness back. The top guys had the snap on me tonight, and on this course it was almost impossible to make a pass once you got behind.”
In the women’s race, it was all Jonnier (Intense), who won her third straight World Cup race. Americans Jill Kintner (Yeti) and Tara Llanes (Giant-Pearl Izumi) took second and third, with France’s Celine Gros (Morzine-Avoriaz) rounding out the podium.
“My focus is always more on downhill,” said Jonnier, who also sits atop the women’s World Cup DH standings. “I race the four-cross with nothing to lose and maybe that helps me.”
Racing in Calgary continues Saturday morning with the cross-country. The women kick things off at 11 a.m. Mountain time, followed by the men at 2 p.m. Check back to VeloNews.com for full reports, results and photos.
UCI MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLD CUP; CALGARY, ALBERTA, JULY 2-4; FOUR-CROSS NO. 5; MEN: 1. Michal Prokop (Cz), Author; 2. Roger Rinderknecht (Swi); 3. Eric Carter (USA), Mongoose-Hyundai; 4. Wade Bootes (Aus), Trek-Volkswagen; 5. Brian Lopes (USA), GT-Hyundai; 6. Brian Schmith (USA), Mongoose-Hyundai; 7. Bas De Bever (Nl), Be One; 8. Nathan Rennie (Aus), Santa Cruz Syndicate
WOMEN: 1. Sabrina Jonnier (F), Intense; 2. Jill Kintner (USA), Yeti; 3. Tara Llanes (USA), Giant-Pearl Izumi; 4. Celine Gros (F), Morzine-Avoriaz; 5. Katrina Miller (Aus), Jamis; 6. Anneke Beerten (Nl); 7. Vanessa Quin (NZ); 8. Marla Streb (USA), Luna