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Premont on top of World Cup

Quebec rider downs Olympic, World Cup champion

Canada’s grip on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup may be slipping of late with just one athlete cracking the top-30 at the first event of the year at Sp Francochamps, Belgium, but that one athlete happened to Quebec’s Marie-Helene Premont, who just happened to finish first.

Premont finished the course in one hour, 25 minutes and 26 seconds, 43 seconds ahead of Gunn-Rita Dahle of Norway, the most dominant racer of the past few years.

Premont finished second to Dahle in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but last weekend handed the Norwegian racer her first loss in the past two years in four laps of a 6.1 km course.

"I thought that I would start the year slower than I did," Premont said according to the report by Human Kinetics Publishers and Gestev. "I felt good, but you never know how your form is at the beginning of the season. I knew this would be a good course for me – the climbs were tough. On the hills I could tell that I was getting 10 or 12 seconds on Gunn-Rita, so I knew that was where I had to build the gap."

Premont had 20 seconds on Dahle at the halfway point, and continued to build on that with each lap.

Third place went to Irini Kalentieva of Russia, three minutes back of Premont.

Other Canadians included Kiara Bisaro in 24 th , Trish Sinclair in 34 th , and Sandra Walter in 52 nd .

In the men’s race Julien Absalon of France destroyed the competition to place first after six laps in 1:57:53, 1:19 faster than Roel Paulissen of Belgium. Jean-Christophe Peraud of France was third.

The only Canadian in the men’s field was Max Plaxton, who didn’t finish the race.