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June 10/00 12:21 pm - Elite Downhill Story


Posted by Editor on 06/10/00
 

The French can be beaten.Elite Men's and Womens World Championship Downhill - Sierra Nevada Spain

And if it is to be done, it looks like the Americans are the ones to do it. Myles Rockwell capped an incredible comeback from broken legs three years ago in a motorcycle accident to take the men's world title just a few minutes ago, while Anne-Caroline Chausson probably owes her victory to bobble in one of the final corners by Marla Streb.
The course allowed spectators down at the finish to follow the riders progress as they descended, and to pick out who was on a good run. After the snow and wetness of the early morning, the course had pretty much dried up by the time the elite women began their runs. Helen Mortimer of Great Britain was the early leader, with a time of 4:27.84. Her time stood up for 14 riders, until American Elke Brutsaert took more than 5 seconds off, recording 4:22.33. No rider could come close until Chausson was on course, and she showed why she is the dominant female downhiller on the planet, by knocking more than 4 seconds off Brutsaert's time - 4:18.13. Of the final four riders: Missy Giove had a poor run, as did Leigh Donovan. Katja Repo came close, only 1.13 seconds back, but it was the fastest qualifier who looked to have the best chance - Streb. Streb's intermediate time was slower than Chausson, but the American was faster through the lower section, and came over the final jump ahead of Chausson. There was a fast left, then two rights and a straight pedal to the finish. "I almost went off (the course) in the last lefthander and had to hit the brakes. I was just carrying too much speed." That little mistake cost her, and allowed Chausson to once again win the right to be crowned champion of the world.
Chausson called the course "hard everywhere. You have to be careful at the top, in the rocks, but at the bottom, where there is so much pedalling - that is the hardest. The altitude did not bother me at the top, but by the bottom it was very hard."
Streb was asked what it would take to beat Chausson. "just a tiny bit of time. The times are getting so close to her now, that someone will do it."
The Canadian women did not have as good a day as they would have liked - the altitude and the speed of the course were beyond what they are used to. "I was really out of control out there, all over the place", said Tera Meade, who finished 19 th. Lorraine Blancher was the other Canadian racer, finishing 22 nd.

The mens race began with some unexpected names among the first seeds - David Cullinan (USA), Kirt Voreis (USA) and Cedric Gracia (FRA). All had suffered mechanicals and started in the first 16. Gracia, as might be expected took the early fast time and sat in the Hot Seat throne of the current leader, waiting for someone to better his time. It turned out to be a long wait, a very long wait. In fact, it turned out to be a record-breaking wait of nearly 1 hour and 20 minutes. His time of 3:58.93 appeared to be unbreakable, especially as riders coming down after reported that the wind was picking up in the middle part of the course and slowing them down. Gracia seemed to be almost happy to finally turn over his throne to Dutch rider Gerwin Peters, who finally knocked 2.4 seconds off the leading time.
Peters began to look like the winner, especially after Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA), the 5-time world champion flatted in the upper part of the course and finished over 5 seconds back. However, Mickael Pascal (FRA), the very next rider after Vouilloz, kept French hopes alive by taking the lead, with a time of 3:55.69. He, in turn, barely had a chance to get into the hot seat before Rockwell roared in, knocking over half a second off the leading time. Rockwell knew he had a good time, and could barely contain himself as he waited for the final two riders - Bas de Bever and Steve Peat. De Bever wasn't even in the picture, but Peat was on track to have a very good result. It wasn't until the final few metres that Rockwell was sure he had the rainbow jersey, and then he exploded with joy, running up and down slapping hands with the fans crowding the barricades at the finishing area.
"I wasn't real smooth", he said "I just had to hang it out. This is a good track for me, a real motocross track.".
Andrew Shandro was the top Canadian, finishing 35 th. "It was so windy on the upper part - at one time I felt like I wasn't going anywhere." Eric Cseff took 52 nd spot (4:14.24), Dave Watson 59 th (4:15.29) and Trevor Porter in 75 th (4:24.46).
Race Notes:
- Gracia and Chausson were using a special rubberized fabric that Chausson whipped up into suits for them. "I don't know how much difference it made, but it probably stopped the jersey flapping in the wind" said Gracia.
- Charlie Livermore said that the Volvo-Cannondale mechanics had a hard time dialing in the suspension for this course. "You need lots of travel up top (of the course) where it is rocky, but then it needs to be stiff for pedalling down lower. We didn't finally get something the riders were happy with until yesterday. " He also said contract negotiations with title sponsor Volvo were going well. "It should be finalized by July sometime, but there will definitely be a team next year."
- Chausson retains her world number one ranking (1440 points), followed by Missy Giove (1208), Katja Repo (1133), Leigh Donovan (1105) and Marla Streb (1076). Lorraine Blancher remains 24 th overall (466) and Tera meade moves up two spots to 28 th (411).

 


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