August 9/99 11:16 am - Bromont Downhill Story
Posted by Editoress on 08/9/99
Bromont Downhill Story
Nicolas Vouilloz took back control of the Diesel/UCI Downhill World Cup for men at round 7 in Bromont, Quebec, while his country woman Anne-Caroline Chausson continued her dominance of the women's field. Both riders won on a course that was considered one of the most dangerous of the year, and in the wettest conditions imaginable.
The course drew both complaints and raves. Third place finisher Eric Carter said: "I thought it was pretty crazy, I was more concerned about coming down safely than anything else." The women in particular had problems, with Marla Streb, the bronze medal winner, pointing out: "the bikes start to get really heavy, and hard for us to handle. Remember, that for us the bikes weigh a third of our body weight." Leigh Donovan was more blunt: "it is awful, I was really scared on this course." On the other hand, Chausson commented "I like it with the rain, it is comparable to Snoqualmie, a good technical run."
Overnight, the rain, which had temporarily gone away for the Swatch Dual, came back with a vengeance, turning the dirt into soupy mud. Paradoxically, this made the rock sections more ridable, by washing the mud off so that tires could grip better.
Giovanna Bonazzi, the former world champion set the early fast time in the women's field, at 6:13.01. However, even she knew that it would not last, and just a few riders later Elke Brutsaert knocked over six and a half seconds off to take the lead. Spectators were then treated to the unusual sight of Chausson racing in the middle of the pack, instead of her customary last spot. The world champion had crashed and flatted during the seeding run, forcing her to ride early in the final.
Her major concern was being held up by the rider in front - Kim Huard of Canada. "I told her (Huard) that I would yell ëhup hup' as I came up behind. She (Huard) was great, and moved right out of my way, not slowing me down at all." Afterwards, Huard stated "it is not my place to stay in the way of the world champion." A classy move by a young rider.
Chausson was having a superb ride, floating through the rocky sections that were giving so many other riders problems. She came rocketing across the line with a time 15 seconds faster than Missy Giove's top qualifying run. Then she had to wait. As rider after rider came down, it was apparent that no one was even coming close to Chausson's 5:25.19. Numerous riders managed to get below the six minute mark, but only barely. Streb, the third last rider down came closer, with a 5:45.44 run. Katja Repo, the next rider in dropped it even closer, to 5:43.90. But if anyone was going to beat Chausson, it would have to be her archrival Giove. Maybe it was the pressure, maybe the shoulder injury that required the American rider to tape herself up. Whatever the case, it was apparent by intermediate time check that Chausson had another win, after Giove crashed in an upper section of the course. Giove would finish in fourth place, 21 seconds behind the World Cup leader.
Steve Peat, last week's winner in Mont Ste Anne, and poised to take the overall series lead if he won, threw down the gauntlet in the men's seeding run with a time of 4:24.85 - 9 seconds faster than Cedric Gracia, and 15 ahead of Vouilloz.
The women had raced in a light drizzle, and so did the first half of the men's field. Michael Ronning was the first rider to go under 5 minutes, with a time of 4:59.07. He lasted for 7 riders before Pau Misser knocked 4 seconds off. Misser's time held up through rider after rider, and when the skies opened in a downpour halfway through the field, it started to look like he might pull off an upset. However, that downpour did the riders following it a favour, by cleaning off the rock sections and making them faster.
Gerwin Peters dropped the leading time to 4:45.94, then Guillaume Koch took it down to 4:42.29, before Eric Carter blew everyone away with a time of 4:37.50. Carter went immediately after the worst of the downpour "which was the next best thing to it being dry. Everything was cleaned off, and much easier to ride." Carter's time started to look untouchable, as many of the top seeded riders crashed or just got bogged down in the mud. It wasn't until Mickael Pascal, fourth from last, came roaring through with an intermediate time 1.5 seconds ahead of Carter, that it began to look like the GT rider might get overtaken. Pascal clipped just over 2 seconds from Carter's run, but barely had a chance to get used to the idea of being in the lead before word came that Vouilloz was on a pace 3.5 seconds faster at the intermediate checkpoint. The world champion continued to cut time, almost losing control in a couple of spots as he raced through the last rocky section of the course and took the final jump before the finish line. Vouilloz had knocked 5 seconds from Pascal's leading run. However, his time was still 4 seconds slower than Peat's morning run...
Cedric Gracia was the next rider down, and his time, while respectable, was behind Carter. Then it was the turn of Steve Peat. There was a groan at the finish line as it was announced that the well-liked Brit was over 10 seconds down at the intermediate check. It was all over, and Nicolas Vouilloz had successfully defended his leader's jersey for another week. Afterwards, a bitterly disappointed Peat explained "I put my front wheel in a hole at the top of the course. That didn't lose me much (time), but I had to put my hand down. After that, the mud on my bars and gloves, I couldn't control the bike." He would crash again further down on his way to finishing in 16th place.
Vouilloz revealed after the race that it was his strategy not to race last. "I didn't want to be first (ranked) on this course, the pressure was too great. I had a couple of mistakes, but I had a good run." Known for his meticulous preparation, Vouilloz said that he had taken even more care than usual for this race. "I studied very, very hard for this race. I did many runs and checked the course thoroughly. Plus, this course was very technical and to my liking."
- One rider remarked "If we took the best of this course, and the best of Mont Ste Anne, we would have a perfect course.".