Posted by Editoress on 05/28/06
Fort William World Cup
Reports made possible with the support of Vélirium Mountain Bike Festival
Once the cross-country had been gotten out of the way, it was time for the crowd favourite at the Fort William World Cup: the gravity events. Despite raain and below average temperatures, thousands of fans lined up Saturday night watch the 4-Cross, and stood all day in the mud on the side of a mountain to cheer on riders in the downhill. After the torrential rain of the cross-country, conditions gradually improvedthrough the following 24 hours until, but the time the top riders were finishing their runs, patches of blue sky were to be seen.
There were no surprises in the 4-Cross, with both the men's and women's World Cup leaders adding to their winning streaks at this second round. Michel Prokop (Author) and Jill Kintner (GT) didn't lose a single heat on their way to the final, and both used the same strategy - get a good start and into the first corner, first.
"Qualification was important", explained Prokop. "It gave you a good lane. My goal was to be first after the first corner. It worked very well for me except in my semi, when my gate didn't go so well. but I was able to make it up before the corner."
Brian Lopes (GT/Oakley), who finished second, implicitly agreed when he said "It only went pretty good for me, never super good. I was struggling - my starts were good,but I wasn't super in the corners, and you had to be good through that first corner."
Chris Kovarik (MS-Intense) nudged out Mickael Deldycke for third.
Kintner, in the world champion's rainbow stripes, also stressed the importance of the start. "I was able to get out fast, and get in front for that first corner. It meant you weren't fighting with the others for position, or making mistakes. It was only in the final that I really had a battle - Tara (Llanes) and I were banging elbows, fighting for position, it was a great race."
Llanes was overtaken by Jana Horakova in the second half of the run, with Katrina Miller finishing fourth.
The 2.5 kilometre course at Fort William isn't one of the steeper runs in the World Cup, but it more than makes up for it rough, rooty and muddy conditions. The course really pounds the riders, require both upper body strength and endurance for all the pedalling involved.
British riders gave the partisan crowd something to cheer about, with Tracy Moseley (Kona Les Gets) and Rachel Atherton finishing 1-2 in the women's race. While Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) was hoping to repeat his immensely popular win from last year, he had to settle for fourth; hampered by a broken knuckle. Australian Sam Hill took the win, and the overall lead in the men's World Cup, with crowd favourite Cedric Gracia finishing second.
Moseley qualified fastest by 10 seconds, and then proved that it wasn't a fluke by winning the final by over seven and a half seconds. Compatriot Rachel Atherton, who had qualified fifth, had a big improvement over the two rides, knocking 10 seconds off her time, as did Sabrina Jonnier in third, taking 15 seconds off her qualifying run.
"There was a lot of pressure", admitted Moseley. "As the favourite, with all the fans out there, and given that I have won here twice before, I was feeling a bit nervous. But one thing I did which helped, I think, is that I didn't ride the course as much as some. I walked it, took only a few practice runs and rested. This course takes a lot out of you, so you're better to be rested and strong."
By contrast, Hill wasn't the fastest in qualifying, running second to Greg Minnaar (Team G-Cross Honda) by three-quarters of a second. But in the final Minnaar was less than a second ahead of his qualifying time, good for third, while Hill knocked four seconds off his seeding run time. World champion Fabien Barel (Kona Les Gets) was also expected to do well, after qualifying third, but crashed coming out of a jump halfway down the course, and lost valuable seconds, pushing him back to seventh.
"I really like this course" said Hill, "it's the most physically and mentally challenging course on the World Cup circuit. I'm actually not surprised to win here, because I always feel good on this course."
Minnaar put his relatively minor improvement over qualifying down to not being prepared for the changing conditions at the top of the course. "I was not really aware of how much windier it had gotten at the top of the course, so it blew me around quite a bit and I definitely lost some time there."
- Peat broke a knuckle on his right hand while travelling back from a downhill event in Lisbon two weekends earlier. He was in an altercation with a man who attacked him, and broke his knuckle. "I don't have as much strength in the hand, and I can't pull on the brake lever very well. I have to keep it taped, and it meant that I wasn't able to train as much because it is so painful."
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