The Russian champion from the Topeak-Ergon Racing Team surprised everyone with her victory at the HC-race of the Maremma Cup.
The Topeak-Ergon Racing Team and numerous other European pro teams accepted the invitation of Thomas Frischknecht and SRAM to take part in the Maremma Cup in the Tuscany region of Italy.
Kalentieva, Kurschat and Lakata came from all over Europe to the medieval town of Massa Marittima. Kalentieva interrupted her training camp on Mallorca, Alban Lakata came more or less directly from the Sunshine Cup in Cyprus and Kurschat temporarily shelved his preparations for the coming season in his native Palatinate.
The aim of this early season event was principally to allow the riders to familiarise themselves with the new 2011 race bikes and make any make any necessary minor adjustments in cooperation with the race support team from SRAM.
On Friday evening the current marathon world champion Lakata and the German cross-country champion Kurschat competed in sprint race on a 500m long and twisty town centre course in the picturesque and historic city centre of Massa Marittima, and against a backdrop of booming music. The entire event took place under floodlights and was live on Italian TV. The stamina specialists Lakata and Kurschat both didn’t have the liveliness in their legs to be able to make any impression in the sprint finish.
On Saturday most of the riders’ schedule was taken up with photo shootings, interviews and group rides with journalists and sponsoring partners and the single trail paradise around Massa Marittima provided a truly ideal setting for this.
On Sunday the cross country race provided a suitable finale. At 9.20 in the morning the Elite ladies started their event, which was on a course that had a large proportion of single trails and some of these were very slippery and boggy due to the overnight rain. After a little tumble at the start of the race the first rider to go into the lead was the Frenchwoman Cecile Ravanel, while Kalentieva and the current world champion Wloszczowska were in pursuit just 20 seconds down. The Russian got better from lap to lap and at the end of lap 3 she pulled out all the stops to try and close the gap on Ravanel. Between laps 4 and 6 Irina succeeded in putting herself at the front of the race and quickly opened up a gap of 20 seconds on her pursuers and she was able to hold on to this lead until the finish line. This meant that her first event riding her new carbon hardtail was immediately a victory.
Kalentieva was over the moon after the race saying, “I’m really surprised. I’ve just come from my training camp and haven’t done any extra training for cross-country. I didn’t expect that I could win on such a technically demanding course. This win has given me a massive boost in my preparation for all the other highlights that are coming up this season!”