Posted by Editor on 06/7/09
Once again, Fort William has proven to be one of the hottest stops on the Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup for the Downhill. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) took his second World Cup win of the season for the men, while Sabrina Jonnier's (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) domination of the women's category continues, as she took her third consecutive victory and led a French sweep of the top five places. Both Jonnier and Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) retained their World Cup leader's jerseys, with the season now half finished.
The good weather remained from the previous night of 4-cross racing, leaving the track fast and loose. Canada's Micayla Gatto was the first to set a sub-six minute time, and her 5:42.72 ride was fast enough to put her into the Nissan Hot Seat for near half the field, before her compatriot Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction/Intense) finally knocked a slim three-hundredths off the lead time. Buchar eventually finished eighth and Gatto ninth.
Buchar lasted on top for three riders, until Myriam Nicole put in the first of what would prove to be a series of very strong French rides, knocking ten seconds off the best time. However, Nicole's time in the lead last exactly one rider before Floriane Pugin (Iron Horse-Kenda) replaced her and Pugin in turn was replaced immediately by Celine Gros (Morzine-Avoriaz 74).
Next up was Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing), the home favourite. Moseley went off to a good start, posting the fastest time at the first intermediate time check, but then crashed lower on the course, falling out of contention.
There were just two riders left, both French - Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Center) and Jonnier. Both were clearly a step above the rest of the field, with Ragot knocking four seconds off of Gros' time, and then Jonnier completely demolishing Ragot's run by over nine seconds, to claim her third consecutive World Cup win.
"It's great to finally win a World Cup in Fort William, one of the best tracks on the circuit - especially after waking up to sunshine! It was also awesome to be part of an all French girl podium."
"I was happy that the new Rocky Mountain Flatline WC is very competitive, and that I made the right choice to run Maxxis High Rollers [tires] front and rear today."
Jonnier's win has extended her over Moseley, with 892 points to the British riders 750. Moseley is also being chased from behind, as Ragot has moved to within 25 points. Buchar continues to sit in 11th place, with Gatto moving up from 18th to 13th. Miranada Miller remains 25th in the rankings
The men's field had multiple candidates for the win - Peat was coming off two consecutive wins, Minnaar was defending champion here and second fastest in qualifying, world champion Gee Atherton (Animal-Commencal) was fastest in qualifying, and Sam Hill (Specialized Factory racing) won the world title on this course in 2007.
Australia's Brook MacDonald (Ancillotti Doganaccia) set the early fast time of 4:52.54, which stood up surprisingly well. It took 29 riders, over a third of the field, before three time world champion Fabien Barel (Subaru MTB Team), in his first race back after a knee injury, finally took the best time below 4:50 .
"I'm super pleased to be back after seven weeks off," commented Barel "I had quite a good run at the top,but then lost time at the bottom in the pedaling section."
Barel's time on the Hot Seat lasted through 15 riders before Chris Kovarik (Chain Reaction/Intense) knocked another second off the lead, followed a few minutes later by Canada's Steve Smith (MS Evil Racing). Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) soon after shaved another few tenths off before Aaron Gwin Holmes (Yeti Fox Shox) made the next major cut in the lead, down to 4:46.72 . Smith eventually took 12th.
The race was coming down to the final ten, and it was becoming apparent that only those riders with the fitness to pedal through the lower section into the finish had a chance to do well. Seconds were made or lost in the final 600 metres.
Junior world champion Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate) briefly took the lead, and Matti Lehikoinen (MS Evil Racing) came close at eight to go, before Hill put in a tremendous ride to drop the lead to 4:40.43, with five riders remaining.
After this is was Peat, who could only slot in four seconds behind Hill, then Sam Blenkinsop (Yeti Fox Shox), who came within a second and a half of Hill, Mick Hannah (GT Bicycles) assured himself of a fourth consecutive podium by finishing just behind Blenkinsop, and then it was the turn of Minnaar.
Looking smooth and graceful, hugging the ground over jumps for extra speed, the South African winner of round one was clearly on a superb run; fastest at the first intermediate timer, four tenths slower then Hill at the second, but hitting 69.498 kilometres per hour through the speed trap near the bottom, well above anyone else, to finish 1.45 seconds ahead of Hill.
"I gave it my all," exclaimed Minnaar. "Sam put up an amazing time, and I really had to put it all out there at the bottom of the course."
However, there was still Atherton to come down, the fastest qualifier and receiving the support of a home crowd. Atherton started well, only one hundredth of a second behind Minnaar at the first time split, but couldn't maintain the pace, slipping to fourth by the finish line.
Peat's lead in the overall standings has slipped to a slim four points over team mate Minnaar at 762, with Atherton in third at 657 and Hannah at 652. The race for the overall title among the men is still very tight. Steve Smith has moved up one spot to tenth in the standings.
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