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Canadian team off to a golden start

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Mountain bikers win relay at world championships

Team Canada set the pace for the UCI Mountain Bike World Champions at Kaprun, Austria, on Wednesday, by successfully defending its title in the team cross-country event.

The team consisted of Roland Green, the 2001 World Champion, three-time world champion Alison Sydor, espoir racer Ryder Hesjedal and junior Max Plaxton.

Hesjedal finished the first lap just seconds behind Julian Absalon of France. Green made up the gap and then some, chasing down the second French rider, espoir Jean Eudes Demaret to go into the third exchange with a good lead.

It wasn’t a pretty run for Green, he later admitted to Canadian Cyclist magazine. "I was in the big ring for the first climb, and I came up on him fast. I went left to pass and he moved left, then I went right and he moved over again. He was holding me up so I had to rough him up Canadian hockey style to get by."

Demaret was then passed by Thomas Frishknect of Switzerland, as well as riders from Great Britain and Italy.

Plaxton took the next lap, losing only just seven seconds to the Swiss rider. The USA moved into fourth, and Great Britain held onto third.

Sydor followed Plaxton with a conservative lap of the course. She did crash in the final kilometre at the bottom of the descent, and once again while high-fiving her team members 10 metres from the finish line.

"All that matters is that you are able to crawl across the finish line with enough time to win," said Sydor.

The relay team was a true B.C. effort with Green and Hesjedal hailing from Victoria, Sydor living in Vancouver and Plaxton is still based in his hometown of Tofino.

According to Sydor, the victory shows the depth of the Canadian team.

"This year we won with half the team different from last year," she said. She raced instead of Chrissy Redden and Plaxton raced instead of Adam Coates.

"Last year, some people were saying, ‘oh, so and so wasn’t there because they couldn’t get a flight (after Sept. 11)’, but this year was a strong, large field. It was a very proud moment for me as a Canadian to repeat our victory from last year."

The World Championships run until Sunday with 4-cross, downhill, trials, and cross-country events. Four Whistler riders are with the Canadian team; Will Routley is racing cross-country in the espoir category, Sylvie Allen and Claire Buchar are on the women’s downhill team, and Brook Baker is on the junior expert women’s downhill team.

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