Posted by Editoress on 09/20/09
The 2009 Mountain Bike World Cup concluded on Sunday in Schladming, Austria, with the Downhill, where the best gravity riders in the world had one final chance this season to claim victory. Both of the World Cup leaders going into the race - Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Sam Hill (Monster Energy-Specialized) - held onto their jerseys, with Hill winning the final round and Jonnier having to settle for fourth on the day behind Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing).
Jonnier had already won the women's title, with six wins in the first seven races, but she was still hoping to close out the season with a seventh victory. Unfortunately for her, Moseley, who won the opening round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, back in April was on fire after a relatively poor qualifying run on Friday.
"I've never done well here before," commented Moseley. "I always struggle with the length and the steepness, and it was like that all week in training, so I was thinking that the best I would be able to manage was top-3. So, this was a real surprise for me. The course had dried up a lot from earlier in the week, but the top sections were still greasy, and there were huge holes in the track from practice; this was the roughest, toughest Schladming I've ever done."
Moseley took the lead from Canadian champion Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction/Intense) with a time of 4:54.73 . Neither the world champion, Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Centre), nor Jonnier could come within five seconds of Moseley's time. The fastest qualifier, Floriane Pugin (Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker) came closest, 0.84 seconds back, followed by the French national champion, Cecile Gros (Morzine-Avoriaz 74). The lone Canadian entry, Buchar, finished eighth on the day, and moved up to ninth in the final overall standings.
Moseley's win was enough to move her into second overall behind Jonnier, bumping Ragot down to third in the final standings.
Jonnier's knowledge that she had already won the World Cup title certainly helped with her mental state. "I was definitely more relaxed, knowing that it was all decided, but I still wanted to win today. Unfortunately, I just couldn't put it together. I had too many mistakes, a lot of little mistakes."
While the women's title had already been decided, the men's was completely open. Hill was leading, but by the slimmest of margins: only 16 points in front of Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), with new world champion Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) is also still in the race, 69 points back of Hill, as was Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal) at 141 points.
Hill's lead was padded when he picked up 50 valuable points by winning qualifying, when Minnaar crashed, but the race between the two basically came down to the Final: if Minnaar won and Hill didn't finish second, the South African would take the title.
"I was all right until 20 minutes before the start of my race," revealed Hill. "Greg had done a good run, so I started to get a bit nervous. I was pretty shaky, and all I could think about was the overall, and that I had to get down fast to beat Greg. I think it's been a good strong battle all year. I had some bad luck at some races, and so did others, so it is definitely pretty special to come out on top here."
Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate) set the first sub-4:10 time, but barely had a chance to climb into the Hot Seat before his team mate Minnaar came down two riders later to obliterate his time with a 4:04.71 . This time began to look pretty solid, as names such as Mick Hannah (GT Bicycles), Justin Leov (Yeti Fox Shox), Peat and Atherton all came up short.
"I felt that I had it in me to do well," said Minnaar, "but I had a bad start, made some mistakes and lost my rhythm. I kept making small mistakes through the top until I was able to regroup halfway down. I was surprised that my time held up so long. It's kind of hard to lose the title when I had the most wins for the season."
However, Minnaar's hopes received a blow when Sam Blenkinsop (Yeti Fox Shox) knocked nearly a second and a half off his time.
Blenkinsop took the Hot Seat and held it through the remaining riders until it was Hill's turn. The Australian came through the first split over two seconds up on Blenkinsop, and continued on to finish 2.33 seconds in front, taking his second World Cup win of the season and confirming him as the World Cup winner for 2009. Minnaar stayed in second, as did Peat in third. The top Canadian was Steve Smith (Evil Bikes), who crashed in his run, finishing 45th, but retaining his 11th place in the overall final standings.
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