Posted by Editoress on 05/16/09
The bad weather disappeared on Saturday for the Downhill Qualifying and 4-Cross Finals in round three of the Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Vallnord, Andorra. For the 4-Cross this proved to be particularly important, since it dried out the track, making it fast and loose in the corners.
Both the men’s and women’s Finals saw upsets, with Fionn Griffiths (Norco World Team) taking the women’s win after all three other riders crashed in the second corner. Until the Final, things were unfolding pretty much as expected, with Griffiths, World Cup leader Anneke Beerten (Suspension Center), round two winner Jill Kintner (Red Bull/Intense) and Jana Horakova (Czech Republic) advancing to the medal round.
After the gate and the first set of jumps in the medal race, Kintner and Horakova came into the first left hand corner pretty much neck and neck, with Kintner on the inside. Horakova went wide and then cut across to squeeze Kintner as they set up for the second corner, a right hander, taking both of them down, with Beerten caught behind. Griffiths had a clear shot through to the finish.
“I’ve been getting terrible gates all day,” commented Griffiths, “so I figured I’d be off the back a bit at the start. I was planning on going inside but I saw the line that Horakova had, and Jill still wasn’t turned yet ... So I knew she was going to drift, and I saw it before it happened, so I just braked and went outside, and just rode past everybody. It was cool.”
Beerten finished second, with Horakova beating Kintner for third. Beerten holds onto her World Cup lead, while Horakova moves into second ahead of Kintner.
The men’s racing saw world champion Rafael Alvarez de Lara Lucas (Specialized) once again become a victim of a crash, this time in the 1/8 final round, while another favourite, Guido Tschugg (Ghost ATG), went out in the quarter finals.
For the Final it was World Cup leader Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox), coming off two consecutive wins, up against Dutch rider Joost Wichman, Australian Luke Madill (GT Bicycles), and Roger Rinderknecht (GT Bicycles), second in the World Cup rankings.
Graves had easily won all of his heats up to the Final, and looked to be in control in the medal race out of the gate. However, he carried too much speed into the first corner, drifting wide and giving Wichman and Rinderknecht the chance to get through in a tight squeeze at the second corner. Rinderknecht also made a mistake near the end, opening the door for Madill to get by and then crashing with Graves. Graves managed to outrun Rinderknecht to the line for third.
“I think [it] was aggressive enough, wasn’t it!” exclaimed a very excited Wichman. “I think it was a clean move, because I didn’t hit him. It was awesome, man! I’m really happy. It was close but a clean move.”
Graves was philosophical about his winning streak being broken: “It was getting pretty loose in the corners. If I can take something positive from the Final, I was still third, and Roger fourth, so my points lead grows a bit. But I kind of feel I threw away a gold opportunity a bit, I just drifted in a straight line coming into that first corner, and didn’t even get close to recovering my line. It was just one of those things. I’m a disappointed with that, but my lead grows, so that’s the main thing.”
In Downhill Qualifying, Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized) eked out a slim leading time over defending Andorra champion (and world champion) Gee Atherton (Animal-Commencal), with World Cup leader Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) third. Canada’s Steve Smith (Evil Bikes) was a very strong seventh, on a course where he recorded his first top-10 last year.
For the women, Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) followed up her win at last week’s World Cup in La Bresse, France by beating World Cup leader Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) by over two seconds. Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Center) was the only rider close to the leading two, in third place. All three Canadian women qualified for the final, with Miranda Miller 18th, Micayla Gatto 20th and Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction/Intense) 21st.
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